Propping up a pillar in a fast-emptying baggage reclaim hall. The same dubious pea-green suitcase comes back round for what seems like the umpteenth time. Eventually we are the sole travellers standing expectant, waiting. Then the belt stops. Only that one disconsolate case to be retrieved. Maybe the shade is too reminiscent of a late eighties shellsuit or an early seventies bathroom suite. I too might have been tempted to disown it, only it too represents somebody's hopes, expectations or at least their dirty washing. Given the confusions in Amsterdam, I would have been surprised if we had been able to exit that hall; replete. So it's off to register the Lost Luggage in the earnest hope that it will reappear tomorrow.
We're fairly sanguine, reasonably relaxed. For in this age of barcodes and on-line tracking, we'll easily follow our wayward luggage's progresses. It's happened before. Several times. The most memorable being the four days bereft of our cycles in Christchurch, they having fallen foul of a 5mm Heathrow snowstorm.
Tomorrow doesn't come. Nor the next. However, I am being reassured that 98% of lost items are returned to their owners within three weeks.
Day four and the Navigator decides to kill time by sewing a new hat; last year's creation has faded, or so I'm informed. She then follows that by boiling up a batch of strawberry jam. Looks and feels like we're stuck within a place called Limbo. Drinking too much high octane coffee.
Day five and a few facts are starting to become clear. We'd travelled on one single ticket but with two carriers, ostensibly both part of the same alliance group. For which we might have reasonably assumed that they would be able to communicate between themselves. We get a 'phone call asking if we've received our bags. NO! and the fact you are asking doesn't exactly fill me with confidence. It transpires that the online tracking site that looks so professional and remains resolutely blank for the duration of this tale, only operates when 'the lost' finds its' self in Argentina. Not a great help when you know that the bags are lying in some vast warehouse on the other side of the equator.
Day six. To really encourage our hopes that we might see our bags again, we've been sent the claim form. We'd already played a Kim's game of memory retrieval and created the eclectic list of spare and replacement parts for a bike trip. It would be interesting to be that proverbial 'fly on the wall', to watch a handler examine the contents. Whilst standing at that Lost and Found desk, we'd been asked to note down some of the contents, items that might help with identification. Schwalbe tyre and Rohloff oil, Allen keys and rust eater, two tarpaulins and a set of hair clippers. A swatch of Black Watch tartan and Matilda the Moo. The agent was somewhat bemused. In truth they're all items that could be adequately replaced in country, are all insured, but that doesn't take into account the sentimental attachments and the superstitions. The Canadian leather gloves that were rescued from the Tweed Bridge in Kelso, the Laguile clasp knife that's been a constant companion for the last twenty years.
So to start filling the form out would be an admission of defeat.
Day seven. Time to tempt fate. Time to head up to the Delta, to the streets of boat chandlers and scrap yards, a ready source of cheap fuel cans that can be cut down to make adequate panniers. Time to visit the Cacciola ferry and threaten to buy a passage to Uruguay. Time to consider a short tour in familiar country that might allow the bags a chance to catch up with us.
Day seven, only later... It worked. A 'phone call to say that our stuff has made it as far as Ezeiza airport and could they confirm our address so we they can courier it to us...... tomorrow. Another day. What the hell....? We celebrate and buy a kilo of ice cream.
Day eight and some questions. Why do our bags have a predeliction for waywardness on outbound journeys, but not for the less important returns to home? Why the concept of 'hold luggage'? Statistically the former is out of balance, whilst the latter leaves me bemused, as I remember my flight neighbour who heaves her Inca-Trail, seventy-litre rucksac into the overhead locker. It's both larger and heavier than what we've entrusted to others.
Postscript: like the lost luggage, there will be a delay of at least eight days before the photographic element reaches this posting.....if it doesn't become part of that 2% that is, forever lost.