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.