Published: June 20th 2012June 17th 2012
As all big cities, Bogota initially overwhelms and intimidates the visitor with its hustle bustle, higher prices and unending city landscape. We chose the Candelaria or old section of Bogota, where museums, government buildings and cobble streets predominate. Our hostel, Anandamayi at a higher price range for $67 a night was clean, quiet and restful environment for a sick wife. Upon arrival, Amei was now hacking, coughing and displaying all the symptoms of a bad flu. It was the perfect place for a sicko, so we chose three nights in order for Amei to recuperate. The trooper that she is, we were able to still get out and view of few of the Bogota sites. The first and surprisingly really impressive was the Museum of Gold. Fine crafted gold jewelry, adornments, mask and more are displayed artistically throughout. These were the metallic remnants of wonderful artist from amazing indigenous civilizations before Spanish conquistadors melted most of it down. Although what remains is indeed exceptional metallurgy, one wonders what was and what heights indigenous civilizations obtained before European disease and swords decimated and destroyed. Almost lost in my wonderings, I wandered back to where I left Amei on a bench to find
her snoozing, the cold medicine doing its job. In her sickly state, Amei was still able to make it up to Montserrat, a church on a hill overlooking the Bogota basin with views to the horizon. That was enough that Amei's strength would allow, so the rest of our time was spent enjoying our hostel's complimentary breakfast, darting out for lunches and dinners and reading Lonely Planet, Moon Travel Books on the net and other assorted travel sources. Backpacking requires information on not only where you are, but where you are going, how to get there and what to watch for as well as watch out for. Information we should have heeded more seriously.
For seriously we were robbed. It was an overnight bus to Popayan in the direction of the Ecuadorian border, a twelve hour ride starting in the evening and arriving late the next morning that did us in. The Magdalena bus company seemed comfortable and secure enough, with cushioned high-back chairs, a clean interior and a uniform wearing driver and assistant. We stowed our backpacks in the luggage compartments and carried our handbags on board whereby we placed them in the racks above. First
mistake. Then Amei feeling her flu retreating turned to reading on our IPad, which is a bit conspicuous in a darkened bus. Second mistake. Well what else can you do on overnight bus trips but fall asleep. Third mistake. Well, we realized we had been robbed when turning into the station and reaching for our bags above. Mine was gone and only Amei's remained. Everyone left the bus except for us, checking under seats, in the bathroom, crawling on my hands and knees amongst passengers discarded trash. I explained the theft to the driver, who instantly raised my suspicion by his unsympathetic attitude and lecturing that it was my fault for leaving bags in the rack above. Ok I'll admit to stupidity on that one, but where was the bus drivers more compassionate natural reaction that I presume most witnesses to crime would have. I expected him to ask me what happened, how, when, what did I lose, is there something he can do. There was none of that. My gut told me that his assistant were partners in crime, easily scoping the only foreigners on the bus who typically carry expensive cameras, laptops and other valuable travel tools. They
know when we sleep and have plenty of compartments to hide bags. No matter though, I had no proof, my handbag was gone, the bus drove off so were left in the terminal to asses the damage.
Gone was our Canon T2i camera, my prescription sunglasses, a flashlight, about $100 cash, a debit card, some pens but the real damage hadn't hit home yet. It was the realization that I had both our passports in my bag. Dummy me. For in most cities you can buy another camera, glasses etc. But losing passports was new territory for us. Before even having to figure out that challenge, we were in the bus terminal police station filling out a theft report. Now the police were sympathetic, polite and professional, but all of us in the station seemed resigned to the futility of it all. No thief would be caught, nothing would be found or returned so whats the use. Fourth mistake. Without a theft report of stolen passports, Colombian immigration won't let you out of the country and the US embassy won't issue you a new passport. In fact, to even get passports replaced, we would have to travel
12 hours back to Bogota where the embassy is, spend 10 days waiting for them to be reissued after god knows how many forms to fill out. So we sat in the police office and waited for our report. With report in hand, we checked into our hostel, shook off some near depression, and immediately set out with Amei's back up debit card to get some much needed cash. While pushing buttons at the ATM, a motorcycle cop arrived. Oh oh, what did we do now. Actually, our luck was changing for the officer said he had been searching for us all morning long. Good news, they have our passports down at the station and to please come. Hats off to the Colombian police. They not only recovered are passports but doggedly searched us down in a large city to notify us. Apparently the thief had no use for passports so he discarded them outside the bus station. At the police station we received our passports and debit cards, making us ironically very happy and lucky robbery victims. Happy since we didn't have to replace passports, and really lucky since they could have grabbed Amei's bag instead. Inside her bag
was the more valuable MacBook Air and IPad, our communications gear for the trip. Naw, naw, naw, naw if you're reading this you crook. Anyway, I guess as all victims of crime, you learn to be more vigilant, relish relationships over possessions and simply move on since there is so much more to live for than losing a few replaceable things.
There are more photos below