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A Tour Gone Wrong In Torres del Paine, Chile

torres del paine

The eery but beautiful landscape of Torres del Paine.

“Do you see the Paines?” I was currently on a guided tour of Torres del Paine during a trip to Chile, and my guide was pointing out the iconic triple-horned mountain of the park. It was bizarrely beautiful, the shark peaks draped in fog providing a backdrop for icy lakes and eerie twisting roots. The travelers in my group took turns snapping photos of themselves with the Paines as a backdrop. “We should take a picture together,” said my guide, Martin. He was in his mid-20s with a crooked smile and welcoming eyes. He seemed harmless enough. “Sure.” Martin came close to me, putting his arm around my waist, his hand touching a piece of bare skin on my hip that I had t noticed was exposed. Or had me put his hand under my shirt? We took the photo, and I quickly rushed toward the group. Our next stop was a coffee shop to warm up. When we arrived at the cafe, everyone stood to get off. “Jessie, if you could just stay on the bus for a second I need to talk to you about something,” Martin said. Huh? I’d paid in full and presented my voucher, so there shouldn’t have been any issue there. What could he have needed to talk to me about. I had a nervous feeling in my stomach, especially after the photo incident. I stayed in my seat and Martin came and sat next to me. While I wasn’t exactly scared of him I no longer felt he was harmless. Something about him made my arm hairs stand on end. “What did you need to talk to me about?” I asked. Suddenly, he leaped on me, his arms pressing me against the window and his tongue shoved down my throat. It was potentially hot — aside for the fact I had given him zero reason to suggest I wanted his mouth on mine. Wasn’t he supposed to be my tour guide? My mind raced trying to think of a polite way to get his cigarette-stained teeth away from my face. Looking back now I don’t know why I cared about being polite. Maybe I didn’t think anyone would believe me, maybe I was scared he’d react badly, or maybe it’s just something ingrained in my personality after 26 years of living in American society. Suddenly, I had an idea. “I have a boyfriend!” I shouted, pushing him off. Martin laughed. “Well he’s not here, is he?” Apparently Martin didn’t believe in monogamous relationships. “No, but I love him and don’t want to cheat on him. I really want some tea. I’m going inside.” He let me pass, and I sprinted into the bathroom. The rest of the group smiled at me, but instead of speaking up I went and hid in a stall. When I finally calmed down enough to come out of the bathroom, there was a tea waiting for me. “I bought you a tea and a cookie,” smiled Martin. He said this in front of everyone else, despite the fact they’d all paid for their own drinks. I now had an audience, I could speak up, rejecting the tea and calling Martin out on being inappropriate. Instead, I said thank you and drank it, politeness getting the best of me.
torres del paine

Martin and I, before he got creepy.

On the way home from the tour Martin made sure I was the last to be dropped off so that we could have some alone time. I put on my headphones and tried to pretend I was asleep, but he persisted in trying to talk to me. “What are you doing tonight? Do you want to come over? I have wine and we could watch a movie.” I tried to make eye contact with the driver to show him how uncomfortable I was, but his gaze was focused on the road. “I have a boyfriend. I can’t.” Martin persisted, “We don’t have to do anything physical. We can just watch the movie.” “I have another tour tomorrow and I have to be up early.” Just when I didn’t think I could dodge Martin’s pestering anymore, we arrived at my bed and breakfast. “Thanks! Bye!” I shouted, literally running off the bus, fumbling through my purse at a rapid pace to find my keys. My heart didn’t stop pounding until I was inside with the door locked. The hell was over, or so I thought. Around 7pm Martin called the bed and breakfast asking for me. “I’m coming over. See you soon,” he said. “No, don’t…” But the phone was dead. I’d had enough. Why was I trying so hard to be nice to someone who was showing me absolutely no respect. Screw being polite, Martin didn’t deserve it. It was time to speak up. I went to the front desk of my bed and breakfast and confided in the owner, Maria, about my situation. “If he calls or comes here, please tell him I’m not here.” And she did. Not only that, but Maria happened to be in a local tour guide association with Martin, and planned to tell Martin’s boss exactly what happened. Looking back on the situation, I have no idea why I didn’t speak up sooner. My gut told me there was something weird about Martin, but social graces and the need to be perceived as a nice girl got the best of me. It reminds me of a scene from “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” where Mikhail Blomqvist breaks into Martin Vanger’s house (coincidence with the name similarity?) to find evidence, as he suspects he’s a killer. When Vanger nearly catches him — out in the backyard — he invites Blomqvist in for a drink. Despite the fact he knows in his gut Vanger is a murderer, he goes inside because he doesn’t want to be rude. This is how he ends up tied up and almost killed. Always trust your gut!
Jessie Festa standing in front of grafitti wall

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  1. Patricia on at 4:42 pm

    Oh wow! A similar thing happened to me at a bar in Florence but never with a tour guide! I´m glad you got out of that!

    • jess2716 on at 4:44 pm

      @Patricia- Yea, it was definitely alarming, but also taught me a valuable lesson about trusting your gut and not being afraid to speak out!

  2. Erin on at 5:59 pm

    a similar thing happened to me in tanzania. I was on a 4 day Safari. The tour guide didn’t hit on me, but I was alone. In my gut I felt like there was something off. He asked me to join him in smoking pot while we were camping, I kindly declined. Then, I just happened to be the last of 7 to be dropped off in Moshi. On the way there he received a phone call that his grandfather had passed away, which I felt awful about. Days after, he kept texting my phone asking if I wanted to smoke with him and hangout. I simply did not answer. It was a little alarming. Definitely not to the extent of yours.

    • jess2716 on at 6:10 pm

      @Erin- Wow, that is so awkward. I think if a tour guide is interested in one of their travelers they should wait until the very end of the tour and maybe suggest grabbing a coffee, not make them feel so awkward they hate their tour or stalk them after. I’m glad you got out of the situation okay!

  3. Adilah on at 4:41 pm

    This is soo horrible! how completely unprofessional! what tour company was this?

    • Jessie Festa on at 2:04 pm

      @Adilah: Sadly I booked through a travel agent and because this was a few years ago I can’t remember the company. I know — definitely an important detail for the story. I’d just say don’t trust everyone you meet and always be aware!

  4. some guy on at 2:04 pm

    I’m sorry that this happened to you. Please speak up in your group – not wanting to get sexually harassed or possibly worse doesn’t make you a bad person.

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