After spending two amazing weeks in Barbados, it was our last night and we planned to make it one to remember. We wore the nicest clothes we’d brought with us, meaning that I was wearing a dress (so no pockets obviously), and therefore I carried my things in a small across-the-shoulder bag (iPhone 4, camera and the equivalent of £100 cash just in case of emergencies). My friend wore a playsuit so had her phone and cash in her pockets.
There were two awesome-sounding events on that night, so we thought “why not go to both?!” Our plan was to head to Bacchanal Thursdays (a weekly soca party that would apparently be a very ‘real, local experience’ in Bridgetown) and then head to the Zulu Thank You Party in St. Lawrence Gap after. (Zulu is the name of the group we were with on carnival day, so everyone who had a costume with them could go to the thank you party for free).
Normally we would pre-drink, but we decided to go to Bacchanal Thursdays for 10pm and meet my local friend Ryan there, get some drinks and hang out for a bit, and then get a taxi to the Zulu party at about 12:30 or 1am. We were really excited and in a great mood.
To get to Bridgetown, we took a minibus from the main road near our house, and got off at about 10pm in the town centre. For me, 10pm isn’t very late, and I would assume that every capital city would still have some kind of life in it at that time, but Bridgetown definitely seemed quiet which I found a bit strange.
Anyway, there were still a couple of people here and there, and we were literally in the nicest, most well-lit part of town – next to the harbour where all the nice boats dock. There are bars and restaurants by the harbour, and one side is Independence Square and then there’s a boardwalk running along the other side. We walked through Independence Square and could hear the soca music coming from the other side of the water, and we were singing along as we stepped onto Chamberlain Bridge to cross to the other side.
Just before we stepped on, I noticed that there were two boys almost half way across standing on one side with their back to us. I didn’t think anything of it at the time… It looked like two teenagers just having a chat.
Once we’d stepped onto the bridge, a middle-aged man popped up from the stairs down the side of the bridge and said “hello beautiful ladies”. It kind of made me jump a bit because I hadn’t seen him down there, but we were used to comments like that so just ignored him and kept walking along the bridge.
I’m now convinced that he was part of the set-up and that his role was to say that when he saw some potential victims so that the other guys could get ready to pounce… but anyway…
We continued walking along the bridge and passed the two guys who had their back to us, so we were now half way across the bridge. My brain has unfortunately deleted the next few seconds from my memory, but I have a very blurry image in my head of something happening (maybe they shouted something or maybe they tried to grab us) and me and my friend looking at each other in a panicked way and running in opposite directions.
We definitely must have run because the next thing I properly remember is being 3/4 of the way along the bridge, facing back the way I came, with a gun a few centimetres from my face. I didn’t see at the time, but my friend had run back towards the start of the bridge and was there with the other boy.
I have a really clear memory/image of staring up at this shiny, silver gun and into the face of the boy, who had a dark blue bandana covering everything except his eyes. I don’t remember whether he was holding me or saying anything, except I remember him saying “don’t _____ ” (I think it was something like don’t panic or don’t move or don’t shout). I took off my bag, gave it to him and ran off the bridge shaking.
When I looked back, my friend was at the other end of the bridge but between me and here were the two guys, so I couldn’t exactly go and rescue her and I just had to wait. Thankfully she started shouting “HELP” so they ran off in another direction and she appeared by my side within a few seconds.
We held hands tighter than ever before and ran to the nearest lit up area, and I automatically spoke to the first woman I saw, telling her what had happened. She could obviously see what we were in quite a bit of shock and took us inside the casino on that street where the security let us sit inside the cashier office while they called the police.
We weren’t crying but I was breathing really quickly and shaking a lot, and I find it quite funny that the first thing I said was “This is so sad… I was always the person to stand up and defend developing countries, saying they’re not dangerous etc., and now this has happened so I can’t really say that any more” (rather than saying something about how I’d lost my phone or something like that).
Anyway the police came and drove us around to look for the suspects. Obviously it was unlikely that we’d see them because they were wearing bandanas, but it was part of the procedure they had to follow. After driving around the parts of Bridgetown we’d seen before, they drove us a bit further out into the hood/ghetto, which was like another world. I know that everywhere has bad parts, but it was bigger than I would have expected, and the vibe there didn’t seem nice at all. After seeing that area, it made a bit more sense to me why two young guys would rob people at gunpoint at 10pm in the middle of a lit-up bridge.
We didn’t find the suspects and arrived at the police station where we had to each go with a separate detective in a separate room to sort out the statements and things like that. Up to this point, the police system seemed a lot more efficient than what I’d experienced in Panama, but once the statement process started, I wasn’t so sure.
In Panama I had to hand-write the statement on a piece of paper and sign it, and that was all. In Barbados, they wanted it typed up (fair enough), but they wanted it to be in a very specific and formal type of English (e.g. using words like “aforementioned”) so they didn’t let me write it myself (even though I’m pretty sure a statement should be in the words of the witness?)…
The detective would ask something (e.g. “where were you originally headed that night?”) and would then use my answer to create a sentence in his own words with the information I gave him. This may not sound tedious, but trust me… The amount of spelling mistakes he made and then had to go back and correct… and the amount of times he decided he could re-phrase it in a better way… and the amount of times he scrolled back up after realising he’d missed out something important (e.g. the colour of the clothes I was wearing)… made this process take about two hours.
We did some other things such as trying to track my phone from their computer using iCloud etc., so in the end we didn’t leave there until about 2am by which time boredom had taken over from shock (for me anyway). The policemen dropped us home and said they’d be in touch via email about the development of the case. Unsurprisingly, they haven’t been in contact and it’s been 6 weeks since I’ve been back now.
We couldn’t sleep much that night because we kept talking about what happened and trying to fill in the parts that were missing from the picture we had in our heads of it, and we felt really angry that we’d missed out on what would have been an amazing last night in Barbados all because of those two boys. However, we were also grateful that they didn’t want anything other than material things and we were ‘happy’ that it happened on our last night, otherwise we would have been scared for the rest of the holiday.
Since I’ve been back, I’ve definitely been more freaked out when walking around London at night. I mean, I was never 100% comfortable with it anyway, but I find that I’m more suspicious of the people I see hanging around at night now, and I sometimes find myself planning which way to run if the weird-looking man walking towards me tried to do anything.
To be honest, I was kind of aware that something like this was going to happen to be at some point seeing as I always insist on travelling to places that people tell me not to travel to, and on doing things the “local” way. As I said, I’m happy I didn’t get hurt. In the future when I’m travelling, I’ll do my best to make local, trustworthy male friends and travel with them to parties etc.
Another thing I’ve learnt is that it might be a good idea to carry some emergency money in your bra/shoe or something in case you get robbed and need money to use a pay-phone to get help or to get a taxi home etc.
Also I’ve realised that you can’t compare your own city to the city you’re visiting. It was silly of me to assume that Bridgetown would still be lively at 10pm just because London is. Even if questions like that may sound stupid, take advantage of your hostel receptionist, couchsurfing host or whatever local contact you have, and ask them those kinds of questions.
Anyway, I still have so much love for Barbados and I think it’s home to loads of great people. Just because this one thing happened to us doesn’t mean Barbados is a bad place, and it doesn’t even mean Bridgetown is a bad place… just make sure you don’t stay out there after the shops start closing, unless you’ve got some nice Bajan boys to look after you.