San Jose to La Fortuna in a Cop Car
Updated: May 7, 2021
~A blessing in disguise~
On our second day in Costa Rica, as we were packing to leave our hostel in San Jose and go to La Fortuna, I said to Edu “you hold onto our valuables. I’m more prone to be an easy target.”
Low and behold, en route to La Fortuna, during a 10 minute bus stop in the town of San Carlos, my backpack goes missing from the bus. At first I thought Edu was messing with me as I saw the straps of another bag hanging down from the above cabin. Then I heard the girl across from us ask, “was it a white bag?” I nervously exclaimed yes! She then said a man came and took the bag to the back of the bus. On the inside, I was panicking, but on the outside I tried to remain calm. Edu asked her who. She then got up from her seat to walk with Edu to the back of the bus and show him the man. I watched them look for the man, my heart accelerating with every step he took. They turned and looked at me to indicate that man was no longer on the bus. This is when both of our faces filled with panic. I knew my passport and other important documents were not in that bag, so the optimist in me was wondering what am I really losing. I knew that my MacBook, make up, jackets, and other personal items were in that bag, but it didn’t feel irreplaceable at the time. Edu then stepped off the bus from the back and proceeded to make his way around, that’s when I heard from the front of the bus, “is someone missing a bag?” I turned to my left and saw a picture of my backpack on a gentleman’s phone. I yelled, that’s my bag, that’s my bag!!
The gentleman immediately started speaking to me in Spanish. That’s when I started to worry and panic. I didn’t understand a single word he was saying. Luckily, a woman two rows down translated for me. While they were speaking, Edu reached the front of the bus. The man and woman were mid conversation, and not really paying much attention to what I was saying. I repeatedly said, "my boyfriends there, he speaks Spanish, please talk to him, tell him!" as I was still in a state of dismay. Finally, the girl heard and she told the man.
Edu spoke to the man. This is when we found out that he was an undercover cop and him and his team found my bag and the culprit. They had seen the man get on the bus with one backpack, but leave the bus with two. They immediately stopped him and went from bus to bus in order to find the owners of the bag, (us). We were then told by him that in order to claim our bag, we needed to remove ourselves from the bus and go with them. This “cop” was in a blue t-shirt, cargo shorts, and running shoes. Not exactly an uniform that screams “law enforcement,” so naturally, we were hesitant. We were in a foreign country and weren’t sure if this cop was legit. But then he flashed us his badge, meanwhile the bus driver encouraged us to go with him. They let us know that afterwards, they would give us a ride to our hostel. This made us feel better and well…
We had no choice.
I wanted my bag back so we went ahead with the officer.
We left the bus and walked with the undercover officer, Roberto (not his real name for anonymity purposes) toward the end of the bus terminal. There I finally saw my bag...along with the culprit in handcuffs. I immediately checked my bag, all my belongings were safe and sound. I felt so grateful. THANK GOD.
Roberto proceeded to tell the next steps to Edu. As I don’t speak any Spanish, Edu had to communicate on my behalf and translate to me what was going to happen. This was also nerve-racking for him, as he wasn’t as confident in his ability to speak Spanish. I however, have never been more grateful that he could speak the local language. Thank you bae!
We then had to wait around for the local police to arrive. Turned out Roberto was a part of the Department of Intelligence so he didn’t have the jurisdiction to file a report which we needed to do with the local police in order to claim my bag.
The police arrived after 10-15 minutes. We then headed toward the police station which was about 5 minutes away. Being that we were foreigners we were required to also wait for the tourism police to arrive. At this point, the adrenaline began to wear off and we were no longer as nervous, as worried, or as panicked, we just felt so grateful that all my belongings were found.
Once the tourism police arrived, again, Edu had to speak to everyone. He filed the police report which included opening up my bag, showing each item, and claiming the value of each item which took about half an hour. (That day, his Spanish became much better and his confidence grew!)
After all that was done, we had to head down to court. Here Edu again had to do everything while I sat in the waiting room. This included sitting next to the culprit and yet again, going through my bag and claiming the value of each item. (This time he said the value was a bit more, as he came to find out in the waiting room that a woman’s entire makeup kit costs way more than $40!) Edu then had to confirm that we wanted to press charges against the perp.
Once everything was done, we were walked out of the court by Roberto (who was there throughout the entire process) who told us that Ticos (A Costa Rican person) just want people to come to their country, have a good time and take back even better memories, we live by the motto “Pura Vida”, and the perp is not a Tico, so please don’t leave with that impression of us. He even arranged for a police escort to our hostel which was an hour away.
A big THANK YOU to Roberto, his team, the police of San Carlos, and the tourism police. We were utterly impressed with the way they found my belongings so quickly and then found us right after! They made it very easy for us to file the report, go to court and then make it to our hostel in La Fortuna.
When we arrived at the hostel, we ran into a girl who was on the bus with us when it all happened. Turns out we only got to the hostel 2 hours after them, but in an air conditioned car! I did unfortunately get hit by cow manure as soon as I rolled my window down. Guess it just wasn’t my day!
Sure this happened on day 2 of our round the world trip, and startled us a bit, but we saw it as a blessing in disguise. A valuable lesson for the year of traveling to come.
Fun fact: I learned a new word that day “maletas” meaning baggage/suitcase in Spanish.