Pitch black: that was what life was trying to tell us. All I remember was that I had to stay to my left because on my right was a cliff. We started freaking out, yelling at each other, and we became not the brave people that started this whole journey. As we were discussing what we were going to do and where to sleep, we saw this lantern far away that kept coming our way. We started yelling, “Help! Help!!!” It was an indigenous woman who said to us that she would give us water and shelter. She said there was a chapel a little bit further and that we could put our sleeping bags there and wait for the morning to continue.
By chapel I thought, “Oh yes, a church.” I even imagined benches and how nicely I would spend the night there. When she showed us what the chapel was, OMG! I don’t know if I wanted to laugh or cry, LOL. It was just a cement square where you could barely stand up. There was a figure of Jesus Christ on the cross and a couple of buckets with water and flowers. There were two openings, one was a window and the other the door. But hey, in case of an emergency, I am not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. We were grateful that we had a place to stay that had a roof to protect us from rain just in case. We put our sleeping bags very close to each other because it was getting cold and fell asleep.
In the middle of the night, I felt a strong light in my face. When I opened my eyes, I saw some people getting inside and others kicking our sleeping bags to wake us up. First (of course the silly me) I thought, “Yay! We have more people that are lost,” but when I saw that these people had guns pointed at us, my heart stopped. Was this a nightmare? Unfortunately, it was not. My girlfriend and I were the quickest to wake up, but our 2 male friends were not waking up so we had to see how much they kicked them to wake them up. They separated us into 2 groups, boys and girls. There were a total of 6 men with their faces covered with ski masks and guns.
I remember one of the guys called us to go to him. My first thought was that they were going to rape us. My girlfriend thought the same and that after that they were just going to throw us off the cliff. When I went to the guy, I looked into his eyes, and something came out from my mouth that surprised me: I said, “I will do whatever you want, but please don’t kill me.” He made me turn and put my hands up the wall. I was so scared; it was like time just stopped there, like Hell. When the guy started to pass his hands all over my body to look for money, guns, and documents, I felt extremely uncomfortable, but when he had to touch my private parts, I felt a sense of relief when he was so delicate around there. I could feel he was just looking for stuff and not taking advantage at all. I thought he was a good man: he could do whatever he wanted, but he didn’t. So I felt I could talk to him. While things felt very chaotic, I was trying to talk to the guys. They were losing patience and put their guns to our heads, telling us to shut up. I had to ask for our medicine and the passport of one of my male friends who was Argentinean. The guys gave us the passport and our tennis shoes, except to one of our friends.
We all had guns pointed at us, and it felt like hours, but who knows how long all this took. The 6 guys left eventually, telling us not to even move from there because they would come back for us. We had no idea what to do, but we knew we had to stay until dawn because it was extremely dark. When they left, there was actually a man who stayed behind just to check on us and had a gun. It was so stressful just to know that he was there. We needed to go to the bathroom, but we were not going to even go outside. So we had the greatest idea, to pull all the flowers out of the buckets and just peed there, LOL. As it was very cold, the 4 of us stayed pretty close together waiting for some light to come and leave that place. While we waited, it was very foggy, and all we saw looked like ghosts. I was just terrified as I literally saw soldiers crawling towards us, and I could see through them. I thought I was so scared and tired that I started hallucinating. To my surprise, my friends saw the same too.
Finally dawn came, and the 3 of us had shoes except one of our friends. Not having much with us, we made the decision to go back home. No Cataratas de Palacala for us. Our way down was not as happy as our way up. We were upset, blaming each other, trying to figure out how our friend without shoes could make it down. We put plastic bags around his feet. We stopped by a small village and found some bad, nasty, old shoes; he had to make it with them. We were just in a very bad mood. We felt a little happier when my girlfriend told us she had hidden in her shoe some money and with that we could have some breakfast.
I remember I called home, and my mom just said: “What happened last night?”
“Nothing,” I said, “we just need to get back now.”
“I know something happened because I felt it. We will talk when you come back.”
After hours we finally made it back home. I know we were safe, but the trauma stayed for a while, and to be honest there is still something in me that remembers pretty clearly that nauseating feeling of having a gun pointed at me. I remember the first shower I took after being back. I just started to cry, just to imagine, if this would have turned out for the worst, how I would be at that specific moment.
All I know now is that there were red flags from the beginning of the adventure, but we ignored all of them. I wish I would have paid attention, but this experience brought me to a different state of mind and made me realize that life was fragile and that it can change all of a sudden. That was an important time in my life in which I made the decision to live a happier life and enjoy every single second of it. Without that experience, I’m not sure if I would have made that decision. I should probably at some point go back there and face my past but this time more prepared. I hope my very good girlfriend wants to go with me but this time with our husbands.
Now all I can say is that I have a very good adventure to tell my son, and hopefully he can learn from it too. Here is something interesting to finish the blog. When we started to share this, a couple of people asked me: “Did you get to see the ghost from there?”