Our farewell to Colombia did not lack a certain dramatic touch, almost a manifestation of what the country so often is associated with – drugs. All 15 passengers booked on our tiny plane from Cartagena to Panama City were searched before check in. We mean SEARCHED, every single item inside the luggage was taken out and checked meticulously, then the luggage itself examined, the toiletry, medication, everything!
We had bought lots of “Artesanias” made of wood, each was carefully wrapped. All this was undone; every piece was wiped with a special cloth, to check it had been soaked in cocaine? Three big square white candles drew a lot of attention and were pocked with long sticks that the officers sniffed at.
Naturally everybody was cleared and after a long wait we were asked to pass through security. After x-raying the hand luggage, it was searched again. A female officer patted down Heidi and pocked around her stomach. Her first thought was that the impact of all the arepas, frijoles, fried chicken and too many rum & cokes had to be battles once back home.
Heidi was then questioned who she was travelling with, when she pointed at Gilles, who had already passed inspection, he was called back and we were both sent upstairs. At this point we expected the worst, an extensive body search. But methods obviously have become more refined, one by one we had to step on what looked like a convey belt that moved us through a huge x-ray machine. Afterwards we could admire our insides on a huge monitor, actually an ugly sight. It is so detailed that even your dental work can be clearly seen.
Then we waited, waited … together with the crew. After almost an hour delay, Heidi inquired, naturally assuming the plane had not arrived yet. How wrong! It was the extensive search, there were still a few people being searched.
Whether this is a normal procedure for departing international flights or just a random check we do not know. It seems impossible to have passengers of a huge airliner undergo such procedure. Probably it was just a perfect show to prove that the billions of US money to fight drugs have been invested wisely.
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