Salento, Colombia | 4.6374° N, 75.5708° W
Amigos in transit are quick on the draw with their calamity-ridden tales rife with plight, robberies, guns, knives, extortion, kidnapping, etc. Thrilling though they are, it is somewhat disarming to think that the offerings of foreign locales: culture, landscape, history, people, are overlooked by travellers in the interest of what makes for a tastier anecdote. In these instances I had nothing to bring table-side – the country had only harboured me for a fortnight, mind you.
Losing anything in Colombia was a guaranteed one-way boomerang I was told prior to departing. So in order to make the horror a reality, a series of tumbling mishaps led to the misplacement of mi mochila, my rucksack.
Yours truly’s first hour in the vibrantly colonial coffee haven of Salento was spent conducting a slap-dash investigation of the tiny town, which was mobbed by hordes of caffiends present for a Fiesta Del Café. The town’s seams noticeably bulged.
I was sat in the courtyard of a hotel lobby trying to overcome the swells of panted breath as I recounted my steps to the hotelier, who in turn was translating to a gathered group of concerned local denizens – the majority of whom were a huddle of frail old ladies. During narrative breaks they would snap their gaze away from the interpreter to myself and pipe up in unison: ‘¿Dinero?’ I nodded, confident in my lean Spanish vocabulary. ‘Ay! Dios Mio. ¿Cámara?’ I nodded again and they all buckled under the weight of the intel. ‘Ay! Dios Mio.’ The leader of the pack hushed the rest before asking slowly and solemnly: ‘Ah, ¿Passaporte?’ My final and heaviest nod. Within a heartbeat, they had formed a prayer circle, complete with copious volumes of beads.
The town’s tannoy had been blowing for a considerable period of time. I finally tuned in. Odd words bridged both tongues: perdido - lost, verde - green, and mochila - rucksack. I was tickled by a tinge of mercy: I had made local news. My belongings were traded for my 15 minutes.
The phone at the hotelier's concierge stand danced on its rotary perch. The hotelier ran to answer its dance. ‘Si…si…si…Ay!’ His thumb swung around at us all, reintroducing me to the fading concept of a regular heartbeat.
I marched down to the bus terminal followed by my band of merry followers. My translator, compadre and hotelier, informed me that the bag had been wedged under a seat and had made it back to my prior destination and Salento twice in the interim between its loss and now.
Surprise would be understating my reaction to receiving every item that allowed for my survival in a foreign locale, especially given the genre that most travellers' tales had fallen into. I thanked my mochila murmuration whole-heartedly. ‘De nada,’ they replied in a scatter and had dispersed into the night before I could offer further gratitude.
On finally reaching my hotel, I phoned my friend back on the Ontarian home-front to regale the tale of the town’s humility, but he jumped at the opportunity for an ear to tell of his eve too. His own tale also involved the misplacement of his mochila, however, it had a distinct lack of concerned individuals and the return of his was not in the affirmative. One-way boomerangs are not always where you expect to find them.