December lst, 1999 THIS TERRIBLE SHOT OF A HOOPOE COST US OVER $6,000!
Checked into the Hotel Residencia Patilla in El Saler, a small town on the southern edge of Valencia, Spain, on the Mediterranean coast and spent a couple of days exploring the pine woods and La Albufera Wildlife Reserve and dining on delicious paella at a warm and welcoming little restaurant there. We were still searching for the elusive Hoopoe, a little clown of drab orange bird with plumage like black and white striped ‘pants’, a long pointed bill and a peaked crown. So, we were excited to see one fly into the woods and to find a pull-out at the roadside right there. Robert walked into the woods with his camera while Virginia first ducked behind a big bush to pee, then emerged, surprised to see that another car had parked nearby but relieved to see there was no one in sight of her. We followed the Hoopoe down the pathway as the little devil managed to stay just far enough ahead of us in the dim light to make any good photo impossible. The other car was gone when we returned and we drove some distance before realizing that one of the back windows had a big hole in it! WE HAD BEEN ROBBED! Gone were Canon cameras and lenses, a purse containing checks, rings and watches, and a large package of travel clothing we picked up from the cleaners. Damn! Fortunately, we always carried our passports, some cash, travelers’ checks and credit cards in two wallets around our necks. Reporting the theft to the police was a Three Stooges escapade including first finding the ‘right kind’ of police (the first two were the ‘wrong kind’); then following a third officer in his car to the “central station” as it raced at breakneck speed through, by then dark, dusty, narrow roads and suspicious-looking alley-ways; then making a long, complicated “report” in very broken high-school Spanish, only to be ASSURED that it was most certainly a COMPLETELY hopeless matter. The next morning we posted a notice on the broken window of our car which stated, we hope (in high-school Spanish), that trying to steal anything further from the car was pointless as we had already been robbed and that we would pay MANY pesetas for the return of our property to the desk at the hotel (they had kindly agreed to be our ‘middle-men’). The next evening as we watched the car from our seats by the window of a restaurant and ate our card-table-sized pan of wonderful paella, several people stopped, read our little notice, laughed and laughed and walked on . . .