Sun. Early morning. Countryside. Am staggering. Falling onto gravel road. Staggering. Falling. Dreaming.
That second moment of consciousness:
Not dreaming. Really f*cked-up !!! F*ck, where am I ??? I’m lost … Ahh, sh*t, f*ck, man! I’VE BEEN ROBBED !!!
YEAH, yesterday was surreal; unnerving.
And today I remain in Irkutsk, in Siberia, analyzing what little I remember.
I recall going to a street kiosk to eat Shish Kebab (grilled meat on a skewer). There I had a beer while awaiting my meal, intending to return to the hostel for a quiet movie night.
It was around 10pm, still light in Summer. Busy streets. At another table a group of 4 student guys and 3 girls talked to me, and offers of vodka …
FLASH to trees and fields, walking – stumbling. “Where the f*ck am I ???%!!!” My boots – how did they get so wet?
How far have I walked?
Am I dreaming?
Scratched hands. Bruises from falling, I realize …
I have no memory of waking up. The first recall is staggering somewhere amid the Siberian countryside. Feeling weak, feeble and unable to walk.
Above my eye, a little banged up.
Checking my internal money-belt – yeah, cash gone.
Feeling bombed. Not that hangover joy. Euphoric – yes, yet a swirling dizziness. Dull, blanket headache (no searing pain). No vomit; I guess I didn’t drink too much.
Was I drugged ???
Later, a doctor confirmed this back at the hostel. He said there’s this drug for lowering blood pressure – when mixed with vodka, it knocks you out within 20 minutes. And it wipes the memory. I was showing these signs as he checked my pulse, suggesting that I drink a lot of coffee – to get back on the planet.
I stagger, stumble, fall. Try hitching. But no one stops. There are too few cars.
Say to myself: “Keep-going”.
Somehow, somehow, I’ve walked in the right direction – towards an asphalt road and then the odd house. Then over a hill, into concrete block suburbs, and what must have be the outer limits of the city.
Dizzy. Strangely-elated, a stoned-smirk.
I must have looked like a madmen. Zoned-out and lost, like never before in my life.
I frighten the few people I see. Some shout at me, others hurry away when I ask the way to the city.
I walk on.
At a bus stop, a young guy asks me – “What happened?” – Yes, someone speaks English!
Kindly, he pays 100 rubles ($3) for a taxi to take me to the city center. But when I get to the ATM – for more cash to pay the fare, the driver abandons me.
Having walked around Irkutsk a day earlier, I somehow manage to find my way back to the hostel.
The female manager is horrified by my story.
I then crash out.
Later the hostel owner came, along with a doctor, who said this is the kind of thing police know, and do. That two police cadets had been caught robbing a taxi driver the other day.
I’d had a flashback. Big building with wide corridors and uniforms. But I can’t be sure if this was a dream from when I slept before the doctor checked me over. Was I taken from the streets by cops? Searched in a station and dumped out of town? Only cash and ATM receipts gone.
Losses of $372 US dollars and $300 in rubles stolen. My most expensive travel loss, ever.
But, nothing else.
No organs extracted. No indications of rape.
No, I was *only* drugged, abducted and robbed.
Furthermore, they didn’t find my extra hidden stash – another $600. Surely, street thieves would’ve taken everything – including passport and credit cards?
Travel Tip: To minimize losses, when I go out drinking my money belt remains in a locked backpack in my room. And, I only take $30 for an evening (this buys plenty of alcohol in the Developing World). But last night on a quick errand for food, I lost sight of caution.
And so I “woke up”, stumbling in a frenzy realizing that I’d been drugged and robbed and dumped in the countryside of God-knows-f*ckin’-where!
But the damage could have been worse …
TRAVEL SCAMS: Avoiding drugged drinks + being robbed while traveling
When drinking with strangers, even the seemingly innocent, always follow your gut instinct. Heed the warning. It’s always right.
I turned against that feeling and my assumption of how they drugged me is this: When I went for a pee, one of the guys came with me as we pissed into the bushes behind the food cart (no toilet available). Then we returned – say about 10 meters away but out of sight – to a new round of vodka lined up and ready to go.
Stupidly, I overrode my intuition at this next crucial moment.
For split-second, I saw a tiny, bubble or three – very-slight fizz from the bottom of my glass. Yet, dismissed it as nothing and tossed it back. That warning must have been the remnants of a dissolving pill.
Had I been aware of drug drinks scams at the time, there would be no story.
Since this experience (back in 2005), I always finish my drink before I go to the WC. And also, I never accept an opened bottle or fresh drink without seeing the entire process.
[ A NOT-SO CRAZY IDEA: If you return from the WC and there’s a fresh drink in front you and people insist beginning the next round and you are feeling happy, not paranoid – otherwise leave, then switch your drink with the person next to you – dismissing your actions with a crazy laugh as you take a large gulp. ]