It’s Wednesday morning, and the boyfriend and I are walking down Calle 10. We’re in La Candelaria, Bogotá’s old town, on our way to Museo Botero. A couple of locals tells me to keep an eye on my camera, something we’ve grown accustomed to after we arrived in South America almost six weeks ago. And because I’m fully aware they’re not doing thisfor fun, I say ‘gracias’, and tighten my (already firm) grip on the camera, to show them I understand.
We continue to walk and to enjoy Calle 10. It’s a lovely, charming street with beautiful views of colourful houses and quirky rooftops. But for some reason I feel a little wary, and I contemplate for a second whether I should move some cash from my wallet to my pockets. You know, to spread the risk a little. Just in case.
But I decide not to. I mean, it’s broad daylight (it’s not even noon at this point) and there are people around. So I consider the danger of anything happening to be extremely low.
The next thing I know, I hear footsteps behind me. Several pairs of feet. And they’re running. Fast.
Just seconds before several sets of hands are all over me, I somehow manage, probably as a result of pure instinct, to gather my camera and my bag and hold them tight against my chest, like you would trying to protect a child.
What follows is mostly a blur. The evil kind that seems to last forever. All I remember are all these hands and fingers pulling and pushing, grabbing and groping, trying to break my arms away from my belongings. And then, when they don’t get what they want quick enough, they get more aggressive and the three of them pull me down to the ground.
It’s at this point I understand the gravity of the situation, and I get scared. Simultaneously I realise they don’t have any weapons, and I go from scared to get angry real quick. And then I get pissed off. Who the fuck do these thugs think they are?! And no way am I gonna let them have my camera and my photos! The boyfriend, poor thing, is trying to cover me while doing his best to fight them off. But three to one is a loosing battle even if they are only kids.
They never did get my camera… But after a tug of war, they do get their hands on my bag. Not because they’re particularly strong, but because the stupid shoulder strap is teared off. And while they run off with my money, iPhone, credit cards, drivers licence, prescription glasses and what not, we’re left behind completely shellshocked. And surrounded by an audience of people just stood there watching…
Yes, the police is alerted, but to no use. The only thing they offer is an incredible poor attitude, in addition to an extremely condescending ‘Really?! You don’t speak Spanish?!’. Thankfully there’s a lovely English couple who offers both comfort, hugs and 40 000 pesos to pay for a cab back to our hotel (I forget your names, but thank you so very much!).
We know we’ve seen the last of our things, and we can live with that. These are, after all, replaceable. It’s the aftermath that’s been difficult to cope with. One thing is having to sort out all the practical stuff; blocking our credit cards, trying to get our hands on a police report (which, it turns out, you do online. Yes, online!), dealing with the insurance company and so on. It’s not just annoying, but also makes it very difficult to do what we came here for: Enjoy Colombia’s capital.
But the ‘fun’ doesn’t stope there. The ‘after effects’, as I like to call them, are many. The first morning after the assault we both woke up to several physical evidences that had surfaced overnight; from scratches, bruises and marks on our faces and bodises to stiffness and pain all over. It’s been days now and we still don’t sleep well. The physical pain hasn’t gone aways either.
The there’s the paranoia. You’re suspicious of everyone and anyone, and you’re always on the alert, which is extremely tiering. You should’ve seeen me jump when a poor, innocent biker passed me on the street earlier today – I was ready to punch!
Everyone keeps saying we shouldn’t let this ruin our wonderful trip. And we will try not to. But there’s no denying the experience has left a boa stain on our Bogotá experience, which I hate, because I was really exited about coming here. I was so happy see my friend Camilo again and I was keen to discover the city.
I have promised myself that even if all I hear these days are footsteps coming up behind me, even if I constantly look over my shoulder, and even if the last thing I do before I go to sleep is double check the chain lock, I am determent to enjoy our last few days in Colombia. I plan on leaving this city with plenty of positive memories, which, of course, I will share with you.
The next blog post will be more upbeat, I promise, but travelling ain’t always a sunshine story, so thanks for bearing with me, and for also reading my less happy posts :)