Losing It On A Colombian Bus – In More Ways Than One

7 months of bus travel and backpacking through Mexico, Central America and now South America… I know how to do this. I am smart. I am experienced. I watch people like hawks. I am in control…. Well, apparently not. We had a usual routine. One person takes the carry-on smaller backpacks onto the bus while the other one watches the bigger backpacks be put under the bus. Then the one outside waits until everything is loaded and usually is one of the last ones to hop onto the bus.

This has worked like a dream; why wouldn’t it continue to?

I was taken off guard. It was a new country and sometimes new countries have new rules. When I got onto the bus at the bus station in Cali, Colombia there was a man on board who asked me what seat I had. Strange but maybe good service?! He walked in front of me and showed me to my seat. He then lifted the cushion off of the bus seat and showed me how to shove one of our smaller packs under that seat. No problem. It is tightly squashed under my very seat..or so I thought.

Only about 2 minutes later, my travelling partner gets onto the bus and asks where the carry-ons are… I point to the one at his feet and the other one under my seat. He checks. He tells me he doesn’t see it. Impossible! I check and he is right, it has vanished. I can’t even fathom that I have been taken. It is too quick, too unbelievable, how would I not have known? I am better than this.

The bus is pulling out of the bus station. I charge up to the front and demand the bus driver to stop the bus. I tell him my bag is missing and I need to look inside and outside the bus before we leave. I immediately know that he is in on it… immediately feel it. He acts confused, indignant and with this charade, I begin to lose it. I put in all those hours of studying Spanish to good use. I begin to put on a show… called the “Cheryl is definitely losing it show as she doesn’t like to be scammed”. He pulls back into the station and basically forces us off the bus. We get our bigger backpacks from underneath and think about what to do next.

Scoping the bus station, scavenging through the garbage cans and surrounding area, we head to the Colombian police station. Useless naturally but again I got to practice a few choice words in Spanish.

Feeling hurt, frustrated and disappointed, we took a couple of days to recuperate; staying in one spot and splurging a bit to make ourselves feel better. Despite this, Colombia was one of our favourites in South America but we learned that you can never be “too experienced” when it comes to scams. These are professionals. Later we figured it out. The person sitting behind me on the bus, somehow got my bag out from under my seat, and quickly passed it through the window to the outside. Me, thinking it was so squished in, never realized that this would be possible. They got a cheap camera, a used journal (our story of 7 months of travel) and a very used guide book… that was it… so we somehow smugly said, Suckers… but who were we kidding? It still sucked.

People Watching in Plaza = Boring (teen’s p.o.v) /Exciting (mom’s p.o.v)

Oh I had so many fond memories of Colombia – having been robbed twice and being held up by soldiers and separated from the men as they were body searched.

How could Colombia ever be, well hum drum, with those memories in mind?

It was the perfect place to try out solo traveling with my teen before we met the rest of the blended family in Peru. I researched and researched and thought I had found THEE PLACE – a tiny gem of a town called Jardin. It was on the travelling radar but not big time so we should be able to find a great mix of local people and a few tourist amenities.

We landed very late in Medellin and fortunately found a man to join us in our taxi on our way to the hotel. So far all is good. We head to the bus station the next morning and we take the bus through some amazing mountain scenery on the way to our oasis, Jardin. We arrive and yes, it is sweet, it is cute, it is darling and we find a room overlooking the main plaza. Well Colombians are not so quiet so neither was our room on the plaza. We quickly decided that the benefit of the view was overtaken by our lack of sleep. We moved further from the plaza and joined a woman in her home where we were the only people staying.

Well, Jardin is small and I have a teen with me. After puttering around the town, finding our local bakery and pizzeria, going up the mountain in a gondola, we are left with a bit of free time as we wait for Saturday night to roll around. You see Jardin is famous for its cowboys who ride their horses into town; hitch them up and then drink in the plaza. However, the downside was that this actually happens every night of the week so by the time Saturday rolled around, my teen was kind of “been there, done that”. My response was that we should hang out in the plaza and spend quality time together watching people and eating the local snacks.

Okay… this was where the break down began…. apparently this was not a thrill a moment according to my teen as she ventured off alone back to her room to read; which she is known to do for hours on end.

Alone in the plaza, I was wishing that I had dragged Chris to Colombia who together, we have mastered the art of people watching and are content to do it for hours.

I learned that travel too is different strokes for different folks.

Upon flying to Peru to meet up with the other part of our family, my teen returned to life as she biked down mountain curves, hiked Machu Picchu, swam in jungle rivers, bathed in hot springs, sand boarded down sand dunes and even swung from a jungle vine.

Apparently, I was informed, that this is what teens want 🙂