Upon arriving in Bogota after a quick flight from Santa Marta, we were thrilled to feel cold air and were excited to be in a big city. With help from two very friendly Colombians, we figured out which colectivo to take into the center of town, got our bearings, and attempted to walk down the least sketchy-looking main street we could find to La Candelaria, the neighborhood where our hostel is located. The walk was maybe a mile or less, and when we were more than halfway to our destination, we saw four or five aggressive young men coming around the corner. We both looked at each other and mumbled something about how we didn’t like the look of them, but kept walking quickly, periodically looking over our shoulders and not seeing them anymore. About three blocks later, they appeared out of nowhere, and two of them attempted to corner Nick while the others tried to pull my bag off me. It all went down very quickly, but what I remember is at some point falling down on my back (I’m pretty sure I tripped backwards over a curb in trying to get away from them), arms and legs flailing around in the air like an overturned turtle, while screaming like I’ve never screamed before. They were unable to get my bag, because it was an across the shoulder bag, and the strap across my back was under my backpack, so the only way they could have gotten it was to cut it off with a knife, or to remove my backpack first, neither of which happened. Luckily, the night before, Nick had sewn up a hole in the bag (with dental floss!) where the strap connects to the bag– I don’t think it would have withstood all that tugging had he not fixed it. While I was screaming at the top of my lungs and trying to hold on to my bag, Nick got away from the guys that had cornered him and came over yelling like I’ve definitely never heard him yell before, and I guess it was all enough to scare the guys away. We got up, all our belongings still on us, without a scratch. I consider us really lucky– we could have gotten hurt, all our valuables could have been taken, and frankly I’m still a bit shocked that it ended up like that. We were definitely outnumbered and they could have had weapons. I would like to thank: those guys for being really crappy thieves; dental floss, which I usually don’t give too much credit; and my trusty Le Sportsac bag, for not ripping when the guys tried really hard to pull it off me.
The lesson learned is that if we’re arriving into a big city that is notorious for petty crime at night, we should take a cab directly to our hostel instead of trying to walk around the city with all of our stuff. Those big backpacks on two gringos at night are like glow-in-the-dark moving targets. The unfortunate part of the incident is that it has made us a bit apprehensive about Bogota in general– we’re constantly looking over our shoulders and questioning whether we should walk down any given street. Perhaps that’s a good thing, but I don’t like feeling suspicious of every person I see. We’re reminding ourselves that it could have been much worse, and that we hate when people judge DC because of one bad incident that happened to them there. These things happen, and we’re okay, so we’re moving onward and upward!