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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas...you've been robbed

Depending on how far back you've been reading my blog, some of you know I purchased a Peugeot not long after moving here so I could have a car to bop about exploring, but also to help me with all the logistics of remodelling my house.

Not long after, I decided I would rather have a 4x4 SUV so I could haul industrial stuff, toss my dog in the back to go for a ride, or simply venture off onto alluring pothole-riddled roads that wind way up into the hills. 

I really like my 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee that I still own back in the States.  So, why not stick with what you know, right?   In the States, that Jeep is worth maybe $2,500.  But here in EC, they still command $10,000 even with 200,000 kms on them!!!  YIPES!!

There seemed to be far more Jeeps available up in Quito than here in Cuenca.   So, I did a lot of research online and narrowed down the list of vehicles I wanted to examine more closely, printed the info sheets along with photos, address, and contact info.   I contacted a driver in Quito who was recommended by others and made arrangements with him to drive me around Quito for $10 an hour.  This was far more efficient since he knew his way around and I wouldn't have to hail a taxi after each stop.  In mid-September, I flew to Quito with the intent of staying for 3-4 days, examining a dozen to 20 vehicles, test drives, then ultimately buying a Jeep and driving it back to Cuenca.

We looked at a lot of Jeep Grand Cherokees but, for my budget, they were high in miles, needed work or some functions didn't work properly (ie; A/C), and many of them were V-8's which was a bit overkill and gas guzzlers.

I amended my focus to Chevy Grand Vitaras since 1 out 3 (exagerating...but not by much) cars on the road in EC are GV's.   I had actually found one in Cuenca before the trip that I liked, but it needed a few things done to it.  I tried to negotiate with the salesperson to offset the costs of what clearly needed to be repaired.  Nothing doing.   He wouldn't budge an inch on price.  He would only replace 1 speark plug.   So, I was outa there and ultimately wrote a letter to the owner about the sales persons' arrogance and why they lost my business.

Back to Quito.   After looking at, and driving several....my driver and I narrowed it down to the finalist, a 2003 Grand Vitara, V-6, Automatic.  It was over my budget and it, too, needed some repairs.    In Ecuador, it is very common for people to roll back the odometer, even the digital ones.   In the province of Pichincha (where Quito is located) there is a government website you can use to enter the license plate # and see the mileage that was recorded the last few times the car was registered.   The current odometer reading was 102,000 kms.   Funny....over a year ago when the car was last registered, it was recorded at 130,000 kms!!!    We pointed this out to the sales manager and he responded 'not my problem'.   YES, it is.   The price was based on 102,000 kms when in reality the car probably had 140,000 - 150,000 kms.   He didn't care.   And, there were the needed repairs.  He didn't care.   He would only come down $500.  That's it.

I was tired, I didn't want to return to Cuenca empty-handed, it wasn't TOO far over my budget, and I liked it....so, I bought it.    I hated satisfying that bastard.

The very first night, the GV was broken into!!!   The passenger window was smashed out with a brick which also marred up some of my interior plastic.  They took my new camera which I completely forgot I had left in the glove compartment.  They also took the faceplate from my stereo which was JUST replaced by the dealer earlier that day because the previous one didn't work!   ARRGHHH!!!

The (effing) police said I should not have parked there....I should park AT HOME!!   I said my home is in CUENCA!!!   Apparently, the area I was in was considered rather dangerous late at night.  The hotel I stayed in had told me to park immediately in front of the hotel, but when I had returned at 10:30 that night there was no space, so I parked on the corner across the street....a mere 75-100 feet away!!!   It was as if the police and the hotel were blaming me for the break-in...it was all my fault because I didn't park in Cuenca or directly in front of the hotel.   GEEEEZ!!!!!  I was pissed off.

When I should've been enjoying my drive home to Cuenca, I instead went to a glass repair place.  Luckily, it only cost me $40 to replace the glass.

BUT....on my way home to Cuenca, I noticed the window was having a tough time going all the way up.  Sometimes it would just stop.   Back in Cuenca, I went to a glass shop where they informed me the shop in Quito installed the wrong glass for my car.   It was more straight, whereas my window frame had more curvature...thus, the cause of the window binding and slowing down/stopping.   Another $40 for another window.   Then, $30 for a 'new' (used...probably previously stolen) stereo faceplate so my stereo would work.

That other repair that I knew was needed ended up costing me almost $600.  It was more complicated than I had originally perceived.

Fast Forward....Christmas Day...of all days.

Last night, when I came home, I didn't park the GV in my garage.  I left it on the alley-like street directly in front of my house....which I've done before.  

Today, I went to the car to go pick up friends visiting from Guatemala, to drive out to the countryside and show them around.   I gasped as I saw the drivers door ajar.  Did I not fully close my door last night?  Then, I saw it was unlocked.  HUH?    I opened the door and everything seemed normal.  I looked around for broken glass.  None.   Everything was there.   Things that could've been easily stolen, weren't.  Then I noticed the engine hood was popped.   I opened it up and discovered a big empty space where the air filter box would normally be.  It had been removed.  Bolts lay in the engine compartment and on the ground.   Everything else seemed to be intact...even the battery was there. It seems as though someone wanted THAT specific part and nothing else. 

I examined the interior again.   Underneath the glove compartment a cover had been pulled down and several large bundles of wires had been severed.   Even though other electrical functions still worked, the car wouldn't start.    I guess it's tow-truck time in la manana.  (Update: Mon 12/26....the dealer informed me it was the GV's computer that was severed and taken from underneath the dash!!!   I can just see the $$$$ signs now.)

Weird thing is, because of all the celebration noise last night, I moved to the guest bedroom in the back of the house where it was quieter.  Had I remained in my rooom, my dog would've surely heard them and growled like she always does whenever someone is in the alley.  Butttttt.......




  1. You have not been very lucky....poor Dano! Merry Christmas from Lynnwood, Washington....Mollie

  2. I have enjoyed reading your blog and it has had a significant impact on my decision to visit Ecuador and Cuenca for two weeks in Jan. My plan is to visit then return for three months and then move to Ecuador before the end of 2012. Your recent car episode concerns me, How has your attitude been affected? Brantmax

  3. Hi Brantmax....this is the only method I have to reply to you, so hopefully you'll see this. My attitude? Well, my attitude might be far different once I get the repair bill...but...for now, I have to look at it from the standpoint this can happen ANYwhere. The are areas on the US where certain models of cars are popular for being stolen. Not a whole lot different. The key is to be smart. I should've parked the car in the garage. I should've had insurance which would've covered the robbery (sans deductible). Lessons learned. You can be in a small town in timbuktu, poukeepsie, or dingdongville, and crime occurs.

  4. Hi Dano,

    I've been following your blog too. I'm in the U.S., returning to Ecuador in 2012. I blog at http://bob-barber-ecuador-photos.blogspot.com/.

    I've never owned a car in Ecuador, for this very reason. My wife owned a car when we first got married, but we always parked it behind a gate.

    You're right, this could happen anywhere, but you're allowed to get mad! This really sucks. I hope you don't have any more misfortunes like this ever! (Or at least for a long time.)

    Bob Barber

  5. Hi Dano,

    The computer-thing stolen is very common in Ecuador, it sucks, but it is true. You should consider buying a car alarm, and don't let your car outside your garage overnight.

    Sorry to hear that, but unfortunately those things just happens... Other than that I Hope you are enjoying Cuenca that, in general, is very safe.

    Best Wishes !

  6. Hi Dano,
    As we are moving to Ecuador next month (will be visiting Quito and Cuenca before deciding), we find your blogs extremely interesting, useful and in good taste. How much did you end up paying for your Grand Vitara? Thank you for sharing. Mitri


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About Me

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Palma, Mallorca, Spain
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Spain, in the city of Palma on the island of Mallorca in the middle of the Mediterranean sea!! I moved from the USA to Cuenca, Ecuador, South America and lived there for 7 years before moving here to Spain in early 2018. To read about my adventures in Ecuador, check out my other blog "Ahhh Cuenca!!". I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live in Europe....across the pond.

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