WINNIPEG — What was supposed to be a week-long anniversary celebration dissolved into a vacation from hell when a Manitoba couple and other tourists were robbed at gunpoint in Mexico.
For several terrifying minutes, Paul and Tia Carey didn’t know if they would survive the ordeal, which occurred during a horseback riding tour near Puerto Vallarta, a Pacific Ocean resort city, on Feb. 23.
Two men, one armed with a “machine gun” and the other a large knife, held two dozen tourists — including young kids — for 30 minutes, stealing cash, digital cameras and jewelry, Paul Carey said.
“We didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said Monday. “I’m proud and happy to be Canadian. I’ll be staying on this soil for a little while because I’m safe here.”
Unscathed and back at their Petersfield-area home north of Winnipeg, the Careys are questioning the safety of tourists in Mexico and warning others who plan to venture there.
“The message we have for them is to be aware and be careful,” Paul Carey said.
The couple suggests people leave expensive belongings at home, hide signs of affluence and carry small amounts of cash.
The Careys are frequent visitors to Mexico and had no previous problems, but say they have no plans to return.
Paul Carey said the group was returning to a ranch from a waterfall when it was intercepted in a secluded area by the armed men, who ordered a guide on to the ground and shouted mostly in Spanish.
“One kept yelling, ‘No move, no problem,’ ” he said.
The robbery occurred on a narrow path on the edge of a cliff. The group’s horses were spooked and the Careys feared they would plunge to the rocky bottom.
Paul Carey said the men were upset because he didn’t have anything to give them.
That’s when one pulled out a knife and smacked his horse with a bag containing the stolen belongings, he said.
Eventually the group was freed. The tourists were ordered off their horses, which were set loose, and told to walk back to the waterfall and wait an hour before making the 75-minute walk back to the ranch through the jungle, rocky terrain and rushing streams, the Careys said.
At the ranch, no one seemed concerned and refunds were refused, they said.
Police officers weren’t taking the matter seriously, the couple said.
Paul Carey said ranch staff told him several robberies have occurred.
A second group was waiting to depart but the couple’s group warned of the robbery.
“They refused to go,” Tia Carey said.
The hold-up seemed well planned, said Paul Carey, who fears it may have been an inside job, given the tales of corruption and poverty in Mexico.
The owner of Rancho Capomo Ecological Excursions couldn’t be reached for comment.