How I Nearly Lost All My Photography Gear

We left Iguazú Falls, Brazil on an overnight bus to Curitiba. I was excited about going to Curitiba because I was going to see a friend whom I hadn’t seen in 30 years. The bus left Iguazú Falls at 9:30 pm and was due to arrive Curitiba at 7:00 am. Sleeping on the bus didn’t provide the best rest as the seat wasn’t as comfortable as a bed and the excessive use of air conditioning was nearly unbearable. When we arrived in Curitiba my friend was waiting for me. I hadn’t had a full night’s rest, but it was enough to get through the next day. We spent a full day with her and her husband and returned to the hotel to prepare for our flight to Sao Paolo the next morning.

As I started to pack, I went to the safe to retrieve the items I had stored there; mainly our passports. When I tried to open it, the unthinkable happened. The safe battery had died and I was not able to open the safe. In a fit of panic I called the front desk who informed me that no one was on staff who could open it until 7:00 a.m. the next morning. I spent the entire night thinking of default passcodes and googling for potential default passcodes. I’d drift off to sleep yet in a few minutes I was awake again with the fear of not being able to retrieve our passports before our flight. As a result I logged a second consecutive night of minimal sleep.

As soon as 7:00 a.m. rolled around, I promptly reported to the front desk to beg to get someone to open the safe. Within an hour the safe was opened and I began to complete my packing. At this point I decided to take out my folding canvas bag from my main suitcase and put all my photography gear in it. This caused me to go from two to three bags.

We set out for the airport, checked in, and boarded our flight. I put two items in the overhead bin and put my photography gear under the seat in front of me. Within minutes, I was fast asleep. I slept the entire flight trying to make up for the two nights of sleep I had lost leading up to this flight.

When we landed in Sao Paolo, I took my two items from the overhead bin and exited the plane. As we were hailing a cab, I bent down to open my suitcase to get the hotel address for the driver when I shrieked, “My cameras!! I left my cameras on the plane!”

I don’t remember the last time I felt so out of control. I quickly ran to the first person in uniform I saw, “Help me! I left my cameras on the plane!” These uniformed people were in the Brazilian military. They quickly walked us to an airline representative who took us to a back office. My heart was beating so fast in fear. I knew this flight was just making a stop in São Paulo for more passengers before continuing to its final destination. I knew I had minutes before the plane left and my cameras were gone forever.

The people in the office were all very nice and kept reassuring me and telling me to relax. Within minutes the representative was in contact with a member of the plane’s crew who had me give her my seat number and describe the contents of the bag.

The representative told me, “You can’t go back there because you don’t have a boarding pass. Wait for me at the exit until I return from the plane.” He was gone for about twenty minutes, yet it felt like an eternity. Finally I saw him and in his right had he bore the bag that held my cameras. I couldn’t contain myself. I gave him the biggest hug and thanked him profusely. I could not believe how close I came to losing my cameras and all the memories from my Brazil trip to that point forever.

When I reflected on this incident, I came to the conclusion that this error was due to two factors. One being overly tired and two changing the number of bags I was carrying. From that point forward, I always make sure I travel with a strap so that if I need an extra bag, I can attach it to one of my original bags. As a result, I’m a bit gun shy about using hotel safes.

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