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.

From Oaxaca to Gun Point – Not the Destination We Were Aiming For

If one C (well-travelled) meets second C (travelled only in Canada/US) the first C has to find the perfect spot to take the other C so he will fall in love with travel and then, the first C can then fall in love with the second C. So this became a complicated plan and in addition to finding the perfect spot, aeroplan also had to cooperate.

So many hours later, Mexico appeared on the radar as a possibility.

However, the first C was NOT going to resort Mexico with the second C; this had to be the “real Mexican” experience in order to find out if the second C was really into this backpacking thing.

So off we go to Mexico City where we can take a direct bus from the airport to Puebla, a pretty colonial city. So far so good. The bus is excellent and far surpasses anything we have in Canada. The scenery is amazing and to boot, we find a perfect hotel room that looks over the amazing plaza and its church. From Puebla, we move onto Oaxaca (a personal favourite of mine having spent Christmas once there) and gloriously, it hasn’t changed too much. We find another perfect little hotel that comes with a roof top that second C can look out from each and every morning he has his coffee and breakfast. Bonus! I now know roof tops are the perfect lure for him. After a few days wandering Oaxaca and chicken busing it to the surrounding towns for their daily markets, all is looking really positive. He likes it; in fact I think he loves it!

We get on our bus to head back to Mexico City as we are now going to head north.

All is going smoothly until I see a road block. OOPS! I hadn’t really explained those to second C prior to the trip; kind of forgetting to mention those travel moments when things kind of go awry.

Before I know it, the armed soldiers with guns out step onto our bus and start speaking Spanish rapidly. It appears that random passengers have the privilege of being selected for the baggage check; road side. And oh boy… we are the lucky winners of said random baggage check. In fact, anyone who looked foreign was selected however that only meant us and a couple of others. I quickly tell Chris I will look after things; taking full control of the situation; so to speak.

We get off and we are ordered to find our bags under the bus. I am freaking that if second C looks nervous, this will give them more reason to stick their guns in our sides. With the guns pointing at us, we had to open our bags so they could search them. I must admit I was very proud of second C’s fairly calm hands as he opened his pack; a new pack that he was not even familiar with on the best of days. After they checked and found we had the usual crap inside; too many clothes, umbrellas, kleenex etc. we were told to get back on the bus.

Now this is where I get extra suspicious. I am totally sure that they intend to NOT place our bags on the bus so I want to hang out there until I visibly see them returned. Soldier dudes don’t seem as pleased with my plan so they gesture for me to get back on the bus. I look at second C who still has it all together and I think, yes, he is going to be a great backpacker and I settle back into the horrible Mexican movie being blasted on the bus.