LOST IN THE AMAZON
In the Bolivian Amazon, where vast rivers wind endlessly through mountainous terrain and a thick blanket of fog creeps through the trees, the locals say the jungle can swallow you in a second. Chilean tourist Maykool Coroseo Acuña, 25, survived for nine days while lost in the depths of Madidi National Park, a protected rainforest in the northwest of Bolivia.
Acuña went missing from his Max Adventures tour group, which was staying at a campground near the Tuichi River. He was last seen sitting on the steps of his cabin around 8:30pm. Feizar Nava, who ran Max Adventures, had invited the tourists to participate in a Pachamama ceremony – a rite involving coca leaves, candles, and cigarettes – to thank Pachamama, or Mother Earth, for giving them permission to enter the forest. However, Maykool refused, and when a guide visited his cabin to check on him a mere five minutes later, he was nowhere to be found. The group searched for him with torches until five in the morning, without success. “It’s because he offended the Pachamama,” Feizar said. “He didn’t want to participate in the ceremony.” An angry Pachamama could let you be driven mad by Duende, a mischievous sprite who hides his victims in another dimension.
Two well-known shamans were called in, and announced that Duende had been harnessing the energy of Mapajo, a powerful tree spirit, to hide Maykool. Over the next week the rangers and guides searched for eight to 10 hours a day, each day in a different section of rainforest. Then one of the rangers found a muddy sock which Maykool’s stepmother confirmed was his. After two more sleepless nights praying to the Pachamama, the shamans claimed that they were finally able to make contact with Acuña’s soul. “The sock made it much, much easier for us to reach him,” they said, swearing that more signs of him would appear in the coming days.
The next morning he was found, less than a mile from the campground. Nine days in the rainforest had left him dehydrated, his skin ravaged by bites, botflies, and spines, his feet and ankles painfully swollen. He said he was able to survive by following a group of monkeys, who dropped him fruit and led him to shelter and water every day. However, the mosquitos were eating him alive, he was beginning to starve, and was becoming more and more desperate. “Yesterday was when I really made a promise to God,” he said. “I got on my knees and asked Him with my heart to get me out of there.” It’s unclear which species of primates came to his rescue, but Rosillo, Lucachi and Titi monkeys are indigenous to the area.
He said that the night he disappeared, strange, terrible thoughts had crept into his mind, and he had an irresistible urge to get out of the rainforest. “I started running,” he said. “I was wearing sandals and I said no, they would slow me down. I threw away the sandals, then the cell phone and my flashlight. And after running so much, I stopped under a tree and I started thinking. What had I done, what was I doing? And when I wanted to get back it wasn’t possible.” His rescuers believed that Duende drove him
temporarily insane and lured him into another
dimension. National Geographic, 24 Mar; New York Post, 25 Mar 2017.
Anton Pilipa, 39, disappeared from Vancouver in 2012. Almost five years later, in November 2016, he was discovered wandering barefoot with no identification near Manaus, capital of Brazil’s jungle state of Amazonas. His travels appeared to have taken him more than 10,000 miles (16,000km). After crossing the US he would have traversed 10 other borders including those of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama and Colombia. He was on a mission to get to the national library in Buenos Aires in Argentina, but was turned away when he got there as he had no identification. He then headed back north to the Brazilian rainforest. He was picked up by Brazilian-Canadian police officer Helenice Vidigal who was determined to return him to his family and eventually made contact with his brother Stefan through Twitter. Anton, who had battled mental health problems, had walked most of the way, as well as hitchhiking and hiding in the back of trucks. He had survived on fruit, nuts and berries and had found food and clothing on rubbish dumps. Stefan launched a crowd-funding mission to raise enough money to bring his brother home; but he fled from hospital. A month later he was rediscovered in the rainforest and placed in hospital again, and his brother arrived to pick him up in late January. “I know that I am very lucky to be alive,” he said. Sun, D.Mirror (online), 9 Feb; D.Telegraph, 10 Feb 2017
A TODDLER IN THE TAIGA
A three-year-old boy survived alone for three days in a remote Siberian forest with only a small bar of chocolate. Tserin Dopchut had been under the care of his great grandmother, but when her back was turned he ventured off near the village of Khut, located amid dense forest in the Tuva Republic, possibly following a puppy. His father serves in the army, and most of his family were gathering in the last hay in the fields when he vanished. For 72 hours he braved plummeting temperatures, the threat of wild animals and the danger of falling into a fast-flowing river before his uncle eventually rescued him. “The situation was very dangerous,” said Ayas Saryglar, head of Tuva’s Civil Defence and Emergencies agency. “The River Mynas is fast and cold. If a small child fell in, it would be certain death. There are wolves and bears in the forest. The bears are now fattening for the winter. They can attack anything that moves. In addition, it is warm during the day, but at night there are even frosts. If we consider that the kid disappeared during the day, he was not properly dressed – only a shirt and shoes, no coat.”
A huge land and air search was launched, involving more than 100 people – villagers, kinsfolk and local policemen – and a helicopter scouring a vast area of about 120 km2 (46 sq miles). The child was saved when he recognised his uncle’s voice calling his name, and called back. His rescue was announced by the head of the Tuva Republic, Sholban KaraOol, who blogged: “Hurray! Little Tserin has been found alive!” After being hugged, his first question was whether his toy car was OK. Rescuers were quick to praise the toddler’s initiative – he found a dry place under a larch tree and slept between its roots. The whole village (population 400) threw a party to celebrate his survival. “It is now predicted he will become a rescuer himself,” said Sholban Kara-Ool, “because he showed incredible stamina for his age by surviving for so long alone in these cold woods.” Siberian Times, 21 Sept; BBC News, 22 Sept 2016.
TOP: Chilean tourist Maykool Coroseo Acuña is rescued by Bolivian rangers, guides and shamans after nine days in the jungle.
LEFT: Anton Pilipa disappeared from Vancouver in 2012 and was found wandering in Brazil. BELOW: Three-year-old Tserin Dopchut survived for three days in a remote Siberian forest.