Bay man robbed on travels

01:43, Jan 31 2009
MUGGED: Ben King at the top of Rucu Pichincha in Ecuador - the last photo taken on his camera before it was forcibly stolen from him.

A Golden Bay couple says the armed robbery of their son in South America is a cautionary tale for travellers to the region.

Bruce and Jessica King were contacted by 25-year-old Ben last week to say he had been mugged by a masked, machete-wielding man while returning from the summit of Rucu Pichincha, near Quito in Ecuador, with two other travellers.

Mr King said it was "pretty intense" news to receive, and they wanted to share the story as a warning to other travellers.

"We assumed it could have come to grief."

In an email sent to his parents - which Ben wanted to share with the Nelson Mail - he said the mugging was the "worst experience of his life".

He said the attack happened last Friday when he was walking down the mountainous track from the 4707m summit.


"I come around the corner only to be face to face with the man in a balaclava with the machete raised," he said.

Ben ran back to his companions - an Englishman and a Ecuadoran - but the robber followed and drew a gun.

He then demanded all the group's belongings.

Ben said they had "no option" but to do what the gunman said.

Ben was able to conceal his money wallet with his passport inside, but had to hand over his bag, watch and camera - fortunately without the memory card inside.

The gunman then watched the trampers as they retreated down the hill.

Ben said he and the others in the group spent four hours escaping, often running in difficult terrain. They were dehydrated and suffering the effects of altitude.

Mr King said his son, who keeps in regular contact with family and friends and writes a travel website, had reported the robbery to police in Quito but they did not seem interested.

"He hasn't recovered anything. It is probably still in the mountains and he is not going up to get it."

Mr King said it was the second time Ben had been the victim of theft - half his belongings were missing from his bags when they arrived in Caracas, Venezuela.

His experience highlighted the need for travellers to be aware of their surroundings and remain inconspicuous with belongings, said Mr King.

"On lonely mountain trails anyone is a target."

Ben was due to travel to the Galapagos Islands today before returning home to Golden Bay next month.

The Nelson Mail