A miracle in San Pedro de Atacama - Backpacking South America

Lose it and get it right back - a miracle experience

Sport: Others

Posted by: Tautik & Rohini

I wake up to a hot morning in the little town of San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. The hostel still sleeps. Bobby and I hang around with our coffee in the little kitchen and the spacious terrace. He finishes a long pending task on his to-do list - to clean his camera. Thrilled with himself, he takes pictures of Seniorita Maria, our hostess, and little Angeli. Slowly the hostel is waking up, quickly filling up the kitchen and terrace with travelers drinking coffee, making breakfast, checking e mails, charging batteries…

We sit on the worn out sofa writing post cards and planning the day while having breakfast – fruits(avocado, duranzo, banana) with vanilla yogurt. A group of four, locals, walk in, in search of a place to stay. Not happy, they go away in some time.

Around noon, thunder strikes! Bobby’s camera is missing! Last seen on the kitchen table by many, it has disappeared right under our noses!

Collective decision with fellow travelers is to go and file a complaint in the Police station -Carabineros de Chile. Senorita Maria has left for the nearby town of Calama and will not be back till the evening.

Leo volunteers to come with us to help with Spanish. He is a young traveler from France, travelling for over a year in South America and a pure soul! With his help, it was a matter of half an hour to file the complaint and walk away with the copy…just a formality!

I do not have the courage to look into Bobby’s eyes! I know what we have lost. Memories of almost 50 days of travel, delightfully captured – deleted now forever. The future travel seems dull without the camera. He can probably travel without money,but, not without his camera!

Leo’s company, his positive thinking, lightens the mood a bit. Near our hostel, we meet a policeman and Daniella, who works in the next shop. A laptop is missing from their shop…and the same group of four locals were there too! The cops are on the lookout, with Daniella with them to identify! A little hope! Another relief is to know that the culprit is not any of the fellow travelers!!!

Half an hour later…the news is that the gang is not in town. May be they have taken a bus - the only possibility is the bus to Calama. Calama police is alerted and they will be at the bus station with Sra. Maria to identify.

Numb with a stale feeling, though Bobby believes he will get it back, we set out to buy papas(potatoes) and huevos (egg) to make lunch. As we reach back the hostel, there is a real twist in the story. The gang is arrested and in custody in San Pedro!We drop everything and head back to the police station. We are greeted by the now-familiar-faces of the policemen. The one who nabbed the gang tells us very politely, that a lot of things have been retrieved, but, it will have to be along wait to get them back. A plethora of paper work! He is the most calm and cordial policeman we have seen.

And then begins the painful long wait. The small waiting area soon fills up…we are joined by Daniella and Marcello. Marcello’s laptop is missing, Maria Jose, her cellular,Ernesto, his laptop, two boys running a shop, some stuff missing from there too! Then comes an elderly lady with a peaceful face, the gang has checked in her hostel!!!
Nobody in the police station knows English. Marcello’s broken words of English are our only saving grace. Everybody, including the policemen are very cordial, almost embarrassed by what happened to two travelers from a far away country in their beloved town!

Each member of the gang is taken one by one to the hotel by the police and returned back to the station. I could clearly identify two of them, though by now they are indifferent attire! The disturbing wail of the captive continues. We wonder what led them to this? They may be poor, but not poverty stricken. Are they a family? if not, how about their families? Where are they from? How long will be the trial? How harsh will be the punishment? We don’t have answers.

Just before sunset, we are led to a big room with a long table and the paper work begins – several forms to fill up. The friendly policeman does everything for the two non-Spanish speaking ‘foreigners’! Then the elderly lady and the policemen go to the hostel to bring back all the stolen stuff! What suspense! We feel like a family, bonded by a mishap! Marcello chants Hare Krishna! Remembers all the Hindu Gods he knows of - Vishnu, Ganesha. He needs his laptop back! Images of his growing baby in his wife’s womb are carefully stored in it!

Fifteen minutes later they are back and back with ALL we were waiting for!!! Yes, our camera included! Nothing short of a miracle!

Salud Carabineros deChile!

We are greeted back in the hostel with cheers and hugs!

- Rohini Datta
11 de Marzo 9.40 am

Map: A miracle in San Pedro de Atacama - Backpacking South America

pin Pin  

no comments