Yikes and jeewilikers! September 4th to the 5th.
It was September 4th, and the Hajji was rolling along, slurping diesel and putting kms behind her, as she do. We approached the Croatia-Bosnia border, in high spirits, as we do, as our experiences have taught us that a smile full of teeth does magic to the constitution of a border guard. We applied said smiles, and rolled on up to the hut. A handsome woman almost immediately directed us to get out of Hajji, and she proceeded to rummage about like a hunter-gatherer. Our first search! We were delighted!
She kept asking us if we had pills, and bluffed about having a dog "just over there". We maintained our convivial dispositions, (con-viv-i-al: -adjective; fond of feasting, drinking, and merry company), and the rude invasion was over before we knew it. This act of intrusion, such foreshadowing as it turned out to be, unfortunately was not recognized. We continued on to Sarajevo ignorant of our fate.
The road was lovely, as it always is when escorted by Hajji, and we entered the historical capital of BiH (Bosnia and Herzegovina) at dusk. A massive white Ford van filled with Kiwis on vacation from their remittance labour in London had parked on the same side-street as us. A splendid chat was had, and morale was correspondingly heightened. We strode off to enjoy the city, accepting beer at every turn, filling our empty bellies with cheap and delicious Italian/Bosnian fusion. The town was alive with young and attractive Bosnians strutting up and down the main promenade. We resolved to return to Hajji, suck some more burr, and escape into the night to fraternize with locals.
You won't believe what greeted us when we made it to her! Hajji, that steward of the land, that ambassador of joy and purity, had been vandalized, desecrated...obviously the villains failed to observe her sacred and hallowed character. Before I tell you what happened, let me describe her body. Along her right side, she is adorned with a slippery sliding door, complete with tinted window. Just behind the door, there is a set of two plexi-glass windows, one of which slides to allow Balkan air to breeze in. It was the fixed pane, (a double-paner at that), which we found smashed! Our stomachs dropped and our throats tightened...never before had she been victimized so. It was really a terrible feeling.
Ben, in foul mood, showing the crime.
We ran a quick search of the inside; nothing was missing. It was simply the work of misguided and hateful youths, no doubt paying forward the episodes of brutalization visited upon them by drunk fathers and powerless mothers. We were all feeling a tad shaken up, so we stayed in and played cards till sleep took us.
The following morn, we got the window replaced, and promptly took Hajji to a new parking space on the other side of the river, (bad guys can't swim). We got dressed, and put on our makeup...and it was then that Ren realized her little bag was missing! All her jewelry that she had accumulated in the past 18 months of traveling, along with lots of other little treasures, were gone. The window was nothing - they can be fixed no problem - but these other things, were more than just things. They were memories and physical manifestations of people and places we had met and seen throughout our travels. It was bitter, the feeling we all had. With heads down, but chins still up, we locked Hajji and made our way through the streets of Sarajevo toward the police station.
We walked off the street, up the steps of the cop house, and straight into a cloud of smoke and language-barrier-aided inefficiency. Hours were spent fruitlessly trying to get a report out of them, until finally, defeated, we walked out of there and back to Hajji.
Coming around the final corner to where she now rested, I joked that I hoped she was alright...but when she came into sight, a half block away, we all saw that the driver-side door was wide open! Now stop here for a second. I want you to imagine, really imagine, the scene. Coming back from the police station, having been there reporting a violent attack on our baby, we see that her door is open on a busy street in the middle of the day; it was a sickening wave that enveloped all of us. I immediately started running to her, got there and saw that our bags had been tossed around. Ben's was there, so was Ren's big one...I scanned for my two sacks: nothing. My heart was beating so fast, and when the others got to me, I told them in a dry voice that my bags were gone. We were all completely in shock, unable to focus on anything. Then we noticed that the passenger-side window had been shattered. Check it out...
And the bastards had to break it from the outside too...glass everywhere.
These guys we got to know pretty good...and lots of thanks to the lovely girl who helped us talk to them.
We waved up to a window where a woman had been watching us, and had her English-speaking daughter call the cops for us. They came, she came down to translate, and the routine notes and pictures were taken. Then the inspector came...the guy had helped us at the station 45 minutes earlier, and smacked his forehead in tired dismay. We were told to report back to the station on Monday, (it was Saturday about 4pm), so that our statement could be taken when the bilingual policeman was working. Alright, we said, but there was no way we were going to spend the next 48 hours in Fright-City, BiH. We hightailed it to the outskirts, to the safety of a Dutch-infested campground.
Cous, two bags lighter.
The once-beleaguered, oft-besieged city of Sarajevo had showed its teeth and made its point. We took what they had left us, and crawled out of town.