In a wonderfully inspiring story of survival, a motorcyclist from Uruguay got lost in the Andes Mountain snowstorms during the South American winter for over four months.
Discovered by Argentine officials who choppered over 9,000 feet above sea level to measure precipitation levels, Raul Fernando Gomez Circunegui was rescued and taken to a hospital early this morning.
The doctor who examined him was surprised that, despite “high blood pressure, a history of smoking and signs of undernourishment, he’s going to be fine and in a few days we’re going to discharge him.” He was also dehydrated.
The AFP reports that Gomez was reported missing in May while travelling to Chile on his motorcycle. When the bike broke down, he tried to cross the Andes on foot. A heavy snowfall disoriented him, and around 12,000 feet he was lost. Searches were conducted and called off by July.
Gomez survived by eating sugar, raisins he brought with him, and food he scavenged from mountain shelters; he supplemented his diet by eating rats he caught with a homemade trap. Though he made it through the ordeal, he lost 44 pounds.
The governor of San Juan province in Argentina, Jose Luis Gioja, was quoted by Reuters as saying “the truth is that this is a miracle. We still can’t believe it… We let him talk to his wife, his mother and his daughter. … I asked him: ‘Are you a believer?’ He told me, ‘no, but now I am.'”
The BBC and many other news outlets covering the story recall the famous 1972 plane crash involving the Uruguayan rugby team that survived by cannibalizing the frozen corpses of the dead passengers. In that instance, only sixteen of the 45 passengers survived, and they were only found after two of the survivors volunteered to trek through the snow.[Image via a beautiful BBC documentary on YouTube about the Andes]