Where'd You Get That Bag?

A mochila bag from Colombia (Photo: Jacqui de Klerk)

What: Handmade Indigenous mochila bag

Where: Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia

The cost: $50

The Lowdown: Two years ago I found myself trekking in the middle of the jungle to discover the Lost City in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. I had left all technology, shopping malls and any form of modern living behind and wildly leapt into this incredible adventure.

Ruins of the Lost City (Photo: Jacqui de Klerk)

On the second day, while struggling to reach the top of a hill that seemed to move further away with every step, I stopped to catch my breath and saw, sitting under a tree, two Indigenous Kogi women. The older Kogi was working on something and moving closer I could see it was a bag. The moment I set my eyes on this traditional work of art, my modern-woman-shopping-loving-I-want-that nature jerked alive and I immediately started the negotiating process.

Kogi Huts (Photo: Jacqui de Klerk)

Just my luck, they couldn’t speak Spanish, and I had forgotten my “Lost Jungle Languages” phrasebook at home. So by means of animated movements, hand signals, and drawing pictures in the sand, I understood that the bag she was busy with was for someone else and that on my way back she will be waiting for me, in this exact spot, with a bag made especially for me. I agreed, not expecting the arrangement to actually take place.

Upon my return, there she was; patiently waiting for me, bag in hand. I was ecstatic to be the proud owner of a mochila, as they are called in Spanish, traditionally and originally handmade by an Indigenous Indian of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, with natural materials and dyes.

Kogi children with their homemade bags (Photo: Jacqui de Klerk)

Every time I use my mochila, I remember the pain, the stamina and the sweat involved in accomplishing this fantastic purchase, and I swear I would do it all over again.

After living and traveling in several countries, the beauty and passion of Colombia got rooted deep in Jacqui de Klerk´s soul, and this is where she now calls home. Jacqui is a freelance environment and travel writer for various publications such as The City Paper Bogotá and Quimera Divers.

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