I have never taken very many taxis in my life and have never left anything in one. I’d certainly never had to chase one before!
Well, consider THAT crossed my bucket list now.
Our taxi run-in in Peru proved to be one of our most desperate experiences on our trip so far. But, looking on the positive side, it showed us that there are still friendly people around the world.
The LOST Bag
It was 3 or 4 in the morning and our overnight bus just got in to Cusco. We were half asleep as we crammed into a taxi shared with a few other travelers. When we got to the hostel they had picked out 15 minutes later, we all piled out, and tried to pay the driver for a $2 taxi ride with the equivalent of $20 dollar bills. They make a point of not carrying much cash in case they’re robbed, I guess. He finally got change from a little store and was on his way.
I was still waking up as we walked into the hostel when I noticed my backpack felt a little light! I looked wide-eyed at Alyssa and she only had her big backpack. Oh no! We had forgotten a little day-bag backpack in the taxi! It was small and black, and must have gotten stuffed into a corner where we didn’t see it as we were unloading!
We quickly racked our brains to try to remember what was in it – a laptop and phone charger, an HTC smartphone, a jacket, and a few other little electronics. At least there wasn’t a passport or a money stash in it, but it was still worth a few hundred dollars.
The Taxi Chase in Peru
The other travelers we were with said, “Eh, don’t worry about it. You can buy another laptop charger.” Well maybe so, but we figured we’d better try to find it. So, we said adios to their bad ideas and took a taxi back to the bus terminal to find this taxi.
We realized we knew almost nothing about it or the driver since it was pitch black. Second Drat! We tried to remember the details of the taxi. It was a blue or green-ish gray color. It was more like a sedan than a tiny car or a SUV. It was a pretty new model.
The dark sky was just starting to show signs of life as we pulled up to the bus terminal once again. We started walking around the terminal looking for the car that we half-remembered.
After making a few passes down the taxi row and telling all the drivers that I wasn’t interested in a ride from them, they changed their attitude and started asking if I was looking for something or someone. At first I was hesitant to open up to them because I felt very vulnerable and thought they might scheme something against me. But, I pushed that aside and mentioned in my exasperated Spanish that I was looking for a specific taxi because I thought I might have left something in it, but wasn’t quite sure.
They seemed interested in helping and asked me what the driver’s ID card hanging around his neck said and what number was on the side of the taxi. I knew none of those, so they must have thought I was pretty green at taking taxis. I explained that it was at 4am when we took the taxi, and I only remembered a few details.
It turns out that the only taxis that can enter this bus terminal have to belong to a special taxi group, have nice cars, and be more honest – so they charge more. Since it was a smaller group of taxis than the entire city, the drivers knew each other and their cars pretty well. They knew a few drivers with a car similar to our description and brought me to them, but they were obviously not the people we were looking for.
Needle in a Haystack
By now a few buses were arriving and the terminal was filling up. There were so many people running around and taxi drivers yelling, it was pretty hectic and we were losing hope. After all, how could we expect to find the exact same taxi in this city with a population of a half million people and thousands of taxis?
I decided to walk down the line of taxis one more time and Alyssa was going to stay near the entrance and keep an eye on new taxis arriving. I saw a blue sedan parked around the back and got a little excited. But, I felt the hood and the engine was cold, meaning it hadn’t been driven this morning. Bummer.
As I was heading back, there was some commotion and all the taxi drivers were waving at me to hurry up.
They had found our taxi driver!
He had been looking for new passengers in the terminal and someone mentioned we were looking for this certain taxi driver, so he came out to see if he knew us, and he did! His car was parked in the parking lot, and was a bright blue with mud all over it – no wonder we didn’t recognize it as a taxi!
He had come back here right after dropping us off and hadn’t found anyone else to take in his taxi yet, so he didn’t even know our bag was in his trunk, whew! We were so relieved!
We thanked all our taxi friends and he took us back into town. We thanked him as well as we could in Spanish and paid him triple his rate for being honest with us.
Lessons From the Taxi Drivers
We took a few lessons away from this experience that have really helped us since.
Don’t be afraid to talk to people because they want to help out more than you realize. People are on your side more than you’d think, even though some people may try to take advantage of the situation.
Put your big backpack in the trunk of the taxi if there isn’t enough room inside, but always keep your valuables and your small easy-to-lose bags with you at all times.
Lastly, don’t trust people tooooo much when you’re panicking, because there are still a few bad apples out there. Stay on your guard and always hold onto your bags.
Leave a comment if you’ve had some crazy taxi experiences!