Norwich library staff reunite Jonathan Smith with his luggage - 5000 miles from home

Jonathan Smith reckons customer service at Norwich's Millennium library is just the ticket – after staff there helped reunite him with his luggage 5,000 miles from home.

An amazing detective story, involving transatlantic telephone calls and emails exchanged across two continents and three countries, all began late in January on a crowded and colourfully named chicken bus in Guatemala when a French girl hopped off with his back pack instead of her own.

Experienced traveller Jonathan, 37, a Norwich council housing officer, only realised what had happened when it was time for him to get off and had a sinking feeling when he was passed from the roof the young French traveller's bag instead of his own.

It left him stuck in a small town near the central American country's second city, Quetzaltenango, with just the clothes he had on, his passport, phone and money – and someone else's luggage.

Jonathan, of Stuart Road, Norwich, said: 'My bag contained all my clothes, my toothbrush and my two books, including the Lonely Planet guide, Central America on a Shoestring, which I had borrowed from the library.

'The sudden realisation I had lost my bag unleashed all kinds of emotions, including panic; it seemed so important at the time.'

Only three days into his three-week holiday, there was nothing he could do other than retrace his steps and get off at the stop where the French girl and her friend had hopped off.

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Jonathan had spoken to the girls and knew they were heading for Guatemala's highlands so over the next couple of days he followed the route they would have taken, inquiring at hotels in towns en route.

He said: 'I was hindered by the fact I don't speak any Spanish.

'I was at least able to use my phone to email a friend in Manchester who emailed me back the relevant pages of the Lonely Planet guide I had lost.'

Jonathan, who by then had bought himself a new shirt and toothbrush, confessed it seemed strange carrying around a stranger's luggage.

He said: 'When I reached the border with Belize I did not know what to do, but it was then I received an email from Norfolk Library Service.'

It turned out the French girl, Agnes Varnier, had found the library book in his luggage and rung her mother back home in Europe.

She had rung the Millennium library where staff contacted Jonathan's mother Christine Smith, in North Walsham, to find out his email address.

Jonathan said: 'They were able to pass me the French girl's contact details and within two hours we had met up; it turned out she had only been about 50 miles away; she was so apologetic for taking the wrong bag,'

He said he had been so deliriously happy he could now continue his travels with all his luggage that he repeatedly emailed the library staff to thank them.

Jonathan, who has visited 90 countries in his travels and will soon be heading off to northern Spain, said: 'It just underlines the importance of having a smart phone.'

Steven Reilly, spokesman for Norfolk County Council, said: 'This story clearly demonstrates just how beneficial it is to be a member of Norfolk County Council's Library Service.

'It is pleasing that our staff were able to help ensure this story had a happy ending.'

stephen pullinger@archant.co.uk

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