|On 13 October 1972 a plane
carrying 40 passengers and five crew crashed into the Andes
mountains between Argentina and Chile.
Thirteen people died in the crash. A further 16 died during
following 70 days, while they were waiting to be rescued. When they
finally realized that nobody would ever find them in the snow of the
mountains, they prepared a final expedition. On the morning of 12
December, two months after the plane had crashed, Roberto Canessa (19),
Nando Parrado (22), and Antonio Vizintin (19) , the strongest of the 16
survivors, set out for a last attempt to find a way out of the
wildernis of the mountains.|
The story of the survivors is told by the English novelist Piers Paul Read, it is "based on days of taperecorded conversations with the survivors, their parents and the rescuers".
(1) At five o'clock next morning, Canessa, Parrado and Vizintin
prepared to go. (2) Parrado wore a T-shirt and a pair of women's
woollen slacks, three pairs of jeans and six sweaters. (3) He put
a woollen balaclava over his head, then the hood and shoulders he
had cut from his sister Susana's fur coat, and finally a jacket.
(4) Under his rugby boots he wore four pairs of socks, covered
with plastic bags. (5) He had gloves, sunglasses and, to help him
climb, an aluminium pole.
(6) Vizintin also had a balaclava. (7) He wore as many sweaters
and pairs of jeans, covered with a raincoat, and a pair of
Spanish boots. (8) He carried the heaviest load, including a
third of the meat, packed in a rugby sock. (9) With it was fat,
to provide energy, and liver, for vitamins. (10) The supply was
to last for 15 days.
(11) Canessa carried the sleeping bag. (12) He liked to think
that each garment he wore had something precious about it. (13)
One of his sweaters had been given to him by a friend of his
mother, another by his mother herself, and a third had been
knitted for him by his girlfriend Laura. (14) One of the pairs of
trousers he wore had belonged to Daniel Maspons, now dead, and
his belt had been given to him by Parrado. (15) He also wore the
dead Panchito Abal's skiing gloves, and skiing boots belonging to
(16) The Strauch cousins gave the expeditionaries breakfast. (17)
The others watched in silence, they all knew that this was their
last chance of survival. (18) Then they embraced and Parrado,
Canessa and Vizintin set off up the mountain.
(19) They climbed up the valley, knowing that this course took
them north-west and that at some moment they would have to turn
west and climb directly up the mountain. (20) The difficulty was
that the slopes encircling them looked uniformly steep and high.
(21) Canessa and Parrado began to argue about how soon they
should start to climb. (22) Eventually they agreed, took a
reading on the plane's compass and started to ascend.
(23) The snow had started to melt and even in their improvised
snowshoes they sank up to their knees. (24) The wet snow also
made the cushions heavy to drag, bowlegged, up the mountain. (25)
But they persevered, resting often, and when they stopped at
midday they were already very high.
(26) After a meal of meat and fat they continued. (27) Their plan
was to reach the top before dark, but by the time the sun went
behind the mountain they were nowhere near it. (28) Realising
that they would have to sleep on the mountainside, they started
to look for a level surface. (29) To their dismay, it seemed
there was none.
(30) It was growing dark and a feeling of panic was coming over
them. (31) Then they came to an immense boulder beside which the
wind had blown a trench in the snow. (32) They pitched camp in it
and climbed into the sleeping bag. (33) They ate some meat and
drank a little cognac, and at last they slept or slipped fitfully
(34) The night was too cold and the ground too hard for them to
sleep well, and the first light of morning found them awake. (35)
When the sun came up they started to climb once again - Parrado
first, followed by Canessa and Vizintin.
(36) The mountain was now so steep that Vizintin dare not look
down. (37) By the middle of the afternoon they still had not
reached the top, and, though they felt themselves to be near,
they were afraid of making the same mistake as the night before.
(38) They looked for and found a similar trench carved by the
wind and decided to stop there overnight.
(39) Next day, as soon as it was light, Parrado prepared to
continue the climb. (40) But Canessa seemed less sure that he
wanted to go on, and suggested that Parrado and Vizintin should
leave their knapsacks with him and climb a little farther up the
mountain to see if they came to the top. (41) Parrado agreed and
set off at once with Vizintin behind him, but in his impatience
to reach the summit he climbed fast and Vizintin was left behind.
(42) The ascent had become exceptionally difficult. (43) The wall
of snow was almost vertical and Parrado had to dig steps, which
Vizintin used as he followed on. (44) If Parrado had slipped he
would have fallen hundreds of feet, but this did not dismay him:
the surface of the snow was so steep and the sky above it so blue
he knew he was approaching the summit.
(45) As he climbed he told himself, "I'm going to see a valley,
I'm going to see a river, I'm going to see green grass and
trees." (46) And then suddenly the sheer face was no longer so
steep. (47) It fell sharply to a slight incline, then flattened
out on to a level surface some 12ft wide before falling away on
the other side. (48) He was at the top of the mountain.
(49) Parrado's joy at having made it lasted for only the few
seconds it took him to scramble to his feet. (50) The view before
him was not of a green valley but of an endless expanse of
snow-covered mountains. (51) For the first time Parrado felt that
they were finished. (52) He sank to his knees and wanted to curse
and cry to heaven at the injustice, but no sound came from his
mouth and as he looked up again, panting from his exertions, his
momentary despair was replaced by a certain elation at what he
had done. (53) He had climbed one of the highest mountains in the
(54) As he studied the panorama spread before him he noticed that
due west there were two mountains whose peaks were not covered
with snow. (55) "The cordillera must end somewhere," he said to
himself, "so perhaps those two are in Chile." (56) The truth was,
of course, that he knew nothing about the cordillera, but the
idea renewed his optimism, and when he heard Vizintin calling him
from below he shouted down: "Go back and fetch Canessa. (57) Tell
him it's going to be all right. (58) Tell him to come up and see
(59) Canessa reluctantly clambered up the side of the mountain.
(60) He left his knapsack with Vizintin, who remained below, but
still it took him an hour longer than it had taken Parrado. (61)
When finally he stood at the summit he looked aghast at the
endless mountains. (62) "But we've had it," he said. (63) "There
isn't a chance in hell of getting through all that."
(64) "But look," said Parrado. (65) "Look, there to the west.
(66) Don't you see? Two mountains without snow."
(67) "But they're miles away. (68) It'll take us 50 days to get
(69) "Fifty days? Do you think so? But look there." (70) Parrado
pointed into the middle distance. (71) "If we go down this
mountain along that valley it must lead to them."
(72) Canessa followed the line of Parrado's arm. (73) "Maybe", he
said. (74) "But it'll still take us 5O days, and we've only
enough food for 10."
(75) "I know," said Parrado. (76) "But I've thought of something.
(77) Why don't we send Vizintin back? We'll keep his food. (78)
If we ration it, it should last us for 20 days."
(79) "And after that?"
(80) "After that, we'll find some ..."
(81) They retraced their steps down the mountain, reaching
Vizintin at five in the afternoon. (82) As they were eating,
Canessa turned to him and said, in a casual tone of voice, "Hey,
Tintin, Nando thinks it might be best if you went back to the
plane. (83) It would give us more food."
(84) "Go back?" said Vizintin, his face lighting up."Sure. (85)
If you think so." (86) And before the others could say anything
he had picked up his knapsack.
(87) "Not tonight," said Canessa. (88) "Tomorrow morning will
(89) "Okay", said Vizintin. (90) "Fine."
(91) "You don't mind?"
(92) "No. (93) Anything you say."
(94) "When you get back," said Canessa, "tell the others we've
gone west. (95) And if the plane spots you and you get rescued,
please don't forget about us."
(97) After Vizintin had left them, Canessa and Parrado decided to
spend the whole of that day resting near the top of the mountain.
(98) The three-day climb had exhausted them, and they knew they
would need all their strength to reach the summit again and then
go down the other side. (99) At nine on the morning of Saturday
16 December they set off once more. (100) It took them three
hours to reach the top, and there they again rested and looked
for the best way down.
(101) Parrado took the lead for the descent. (102) It was
extremely difficult going. (103) There was considerably less snow
but the side of the mountain was very steep and often made up not
of solid rock but of shale. (104) The two were attached by a
nylon luggage strap, and mostly they slid down the mountainside,
sending small avalanches of grey stone flying. (105) Canessa
began a continuous dialogue with God. (106) "You can make it
tough," he prayed, "but don't make it impossible."
(107) After descending in this manner for several hundred feet,
they came to a point where the side of the mountain was in shadow
and snow was still thick on the ground. (108) The gradient was
steep but the surface was solid and smooth, so Parrado decided he
would toboggan down on a cushion. (109) He untied the luggage
strap, sat on one of the two cushions used as snowshoes, stuck
his aluminium pole between his legs to act as a brake and shoved
off down the mountain.
(110) He immediately began to fall at great speed, and when he
dug the pole into the snow it had no effect at all. (111) He went
faster and faster, reaching a speed he estimated to be 60 m.p.h.
(112) He dug his heels into the snow but they did nothing to stop
him. (113) Suddenly, in front, he saw a wall of snow. (114) If
there are boulders under that, he thought, I've had it. (115) An
instant later he smashed into the wall and came to a stop. (116)
He was conscious. (117) The wall had been made of snow.(118)
A moment later Canessa caught up with him. (119) "Nando, Nando!
(120) Are you okay?" he shouted urgently.
(121) Parrado slowly climbed out of the snowdrift. (122) "I'm
okay," he said. (123) "Let's get on ..."
(124) They continued more cautiously down the side of the
mountain. (125) At 4 p.m. (126) they came to a large flat rock
and decided to stop and dry out their clothes before dark. (127)
They estimated that they were about two-thirds of the way down
the mountain. (128) When the sun set they got in the sleeping bag
and slept on the rock.
(129) They waited in the sleeping bag until the rays of the
morning sun were on them before eating their breakfast of raw
meat and brandy and setting off again. (130) It was the sixth day
of their journey, and at midday they reached the bottom of the
mountain. (131) They found themselves where they had planned to
be - at the entrance to the valley that led to the bare
(132) Soon after they started down the valley the strap on
Canessa's knapsack snapped and he had to stop to mend it. (133)
He was grateful for an excuse to sit down, for his strength was
beginning to fail him.
(134) Whenever Parrado looked back he would see Canessa sitting
on the snow. (135) He would shout to him to come on, and slowly
Canessa would get to his feet. (136) As he walked he prayed.
(137) Every step became a word of the Lord's Prayer.
(138) Parrado's mind was less on his Father in heaven than his
father on earth. (139) He knew how his father was suffering; he
knew what need he had of his son. (140) He was walking through
the snow not so much to save himself as to save this man he loved
(141) With his mind on his father in this way, Parrado would draw
ahead of Canessa. (142) When he remembered his companion again,
he would look round and see him several hundred yards behind.
(143) Then he would wait and, when Canessa caught up, allow him
to rest a few minutes. (144) On one such stop they saw a stream
coming down from the side of the mountain, and growing round it
moss, grass and rushes.
(145) It was the first sign of vegetation they had seen for 65
days, and Canessa, tired though he was, climbed up to the stream
and picked some grass and rushes and crammed them into his mouth
(146) Next morning they continued down the valley full of
optimism, but once again Parrado drew ahead. (147) Canessa could
not keep up. (148) When Parrado stopped and called to him to
hurry, he shouted back that he was tired and could not go on.
(149) "Think about something else," said Parrado. (150) "Distract
yourself from the walking."
(151) Canessa began to imagine that he was walking down the
streets of Montevideo, window shopping, and when Parrado once
again called to him to hurry Canessa replied, "I can't. (152)
I'll miss some of the store windows." (153) Later he distracted
himself by shouting the name of a girl Parrado had once told him
he liked: "Makechu ... (154) Makechu ...!" (155) Her name was
lost in the snow, but Parrado heard and smiled.
(156) They walked on, and slowly the sound of their cushioned
feet was drowned by a roaring noise that grew louder as they
approached the end of the valley. (157) A panic entered their
hearts. (158) What if an impassable torrent now blocked their
way? (159) Parrado's impatience to see what lay ahead took
possession of him. (160) His pace quickened and his strides grew
wider over the snow.
(161) He drew 200 yards ahead and suddenly found himself at the
end of the valley. (162) The view that met his eyes was of
paradise. (163) The snow stopped. (164) From under its white
shell there poured a torrent of grey water that flowed into a
gorge and tumbled over boulders to the west. (165) Everywhere
there were patches of green - moss, grass, rushes, gorse and
yellow and purple flowers.
(166) As Parrado stood there, his face wet with tears of joy,
Canessa came up behind him, and he too exclaimed with happiness
at the sight of this blessed valley. (167) Then both boys
staggered forwards off the snow and sank on to rocks by the side
of the river. (168) There, amid birds and lizards, they prayed to
God, thanking Him for having prised them from the Andes.
(169) They were confident now that they were saved, but they
still had to press on. (170) Though there was no snow, the going
was not easy. (171) They had to walk on rocks and climb over
boulders the size of armchairs, and at length they were brought
to a halt by an outcrop of rock that rose almost sheer in front
of them and fell away precipitously into the river on their left.
(172) Rather than scale the obstacle, they decided to ford the
river. (173) It was 25ft wide, and the current flowed with such
force that it carried boulders with it. (174) Still, there was a
rock in the centre of the stream large enough to withstand the
current and high enough to stand above the water. (175) They
decided that they could cross by leaping from the bank on to the
rock and from the rock on to the opposite shore.
(176) Canessa went first. (177) He took off his clothes, tied a
nylon luggage strap round his waist and two other luggage straps
to that. (178) Then, while Parrado held one end in case he fell
into the river, he leapt across. (179) Parrado, when he saw that
his companion was safe, took the sleeping bag, tied it to the
luggage strap and threw it with all his might to the other bank.
(180) There Canessa untied it and sent back the strap so that
their clothes, sticks, knapsacks and shoes could be thrown across
in the same way. (181) It took great effort to throw the knapsack
that distance and the second fell short. (182) Canessa had to
climb down to the water's edge to retrieve it, getting soaked.
(183) Parrado joined him, but since so many of their clothes were
wet they walked only a little farther. (184) Finding an
overhanging shelf of rock, they decided to camp under it for the
night. (185) The sun still shone and they laid out their clothing
to dry. (186) Then they settled back on their cushions and ate
some meat, watched by a large number of curious lizards.
(187) That night was warmer than any so far. (188) They slept
well and in the morning set out on the eighth day of their
journey through the Andes. (189) In the light of morning, the
view ahead was of unsurpassed beauty. (190) Though they were
still in the shadow of the mountains behind them, the sun
illuminated the farther reaches of the narrow valley, tinging the
green of the gorse and cactus plants with the silver and gold of
mist and light. (191) There were now trees to be seen in the
distance, and in the middle of the morning Canessa thought he saw
cows on the mountainside.
(192) Then suddenly they came on a most tangible sign of
civilisation: an empty soup tin. (193) It was rusty, but the
maker's name - Maggi - could still be read on its label. (194)
Canessa clutched it. (195) "Look", he said. (196) "People have
(197) Parrado was more cautious. (198) "It might have fallen from
(199) "How on earth could it have fallen from a plane? (200)
Planes don't have windows, do they?" (201)
There was no way of telling how long the can had lain there, but
the sight of it gave them hope and as they continued down the
valley there were other signs of life. (202) They saw two hares
leaping over the rocks on the other side of the river. (203) Then
they found some dung.
(204) "That's cow dung", said Canessa. (205) "I told you those
were cows I saw."
(206) "How do you know?" asked Parrado. (207) "Any animal could
have done that."
(208) "If you knew half as much about cows", said Canessa, "as
you know about cars, you'd know that's cow dung!"
(209) Later they sat by the river to rest and eat some meat.
(210) They noticed as they unpacked the rugby sock, that while
their food supply remained adequate it was beginning to suffer
from the warmer temperatures. (211) After eating a ration of two
pieces, they repacked it all the same and set off yet again down
the valley. (212) The river was wider now, and smaller rivulets
descended from the mountains on either side.
(213) It was here, where the river widened, that they found a
horseshoe. (214) It was rusty like the soup tin, so there was no
knowing how long it had been there, but it was not something that
could have fallen from a plane. (215) More evidence followed.
(216) As they rounded one of the many outcrops that jutted into
the valley, they suddenly came within 100 yards of the cows that
Canessa had seen from a distance that morning.
(217) Even now Parrado was cautious. (218) "Are you sure they
aren't wild cows?" he asked Canessa.
(219) "Wild cows? You don't get wild cows in the Andes, I tell
you. (220) Nando, somewhere quite close to here we'll find the
owner of those cows, or some man who's looking after them."
(221) A little farther down the valley they found a shelter for
cattle made of branches and brushwood that they immediately
recognised as excellent fuel for a fire. (222) They decided to
stop there for the night and celebrate their imminent salvation
by feasting on the remaining meat. (223) "After all", said
Canessa, "it's going rotten, and we're sure to find some sort of
shepherd or farmer in the morning. (224) Tomorrow night, I
promise you, we'll be sleeping in a house."
(225) They unpacked the meat and lit a fire. (226) They roasted
10 pieces each and ate until their stomachs would not take any
more. (227) Then they lay in their sleeping bag, waiting for the
sun to set.
(228) When they awoke next morning the cows had disappeared.
(229) This did not alarm them. (230) They discarded what they
thought they would never need again and, their loads lightened,
they set off, expecting to find round each outcrop of rock the
house of a Chilean peasant.
(231) As the morning wore on, however, the valley continued much
as it had been before, and Parrado began to chide Canessa for his
optimism. (232) "So you know so much about the country, do you?
(233) So I'm just a poor fool who only knows about cars and
motorbikes? (234) Well, at least I wasn't so sure there was a
farmhouse round the next corner ... (235) Now we've eaten half
the meat and thrown away the sleeping bag."
(236) "The meat's gone bad anyway", said Canessa, his temper not
improved by the first uncomfortable feelings of an attack of
diarrhoea. (237) He was also exhausted. (238) His whole body
ached. (239) All his will had to be used to put one foot in front
of the other.
(240) "I can't go on", he said finally, sinking to the ground.
(241) "You must go on. (242) Do you see that plateau?" (243)
Parrado pointed down the valley to a raised piece of land. (244)
"We've got to get there by tonight."
(245) "I'm too tired. (246) I can't walk any more."
(247) "Don't be so stupid. (248) You can't give up just when
we're getting somewhere."
(249) "I tell you. (250) I've got diarrhoea." (251) Parrado
flushed with irritation and impatience. (252) "You're always ill.
(253) I'll take your knapsack so you won't have any more
excuses." (254) He picked up Canessa's load and set off with two
packs on his back. (255) "And if you want anything to eat", he
shouted back, "you'd better come on, because now I've got all the
(256) Canessa stumbled after him, wretched and lame. (257)
Inwardly he too was furious, not so much with Parrado for
scoffing at his illness as with himself for his weakness and
(258) It became easier to walk now, and occasionally they wereencouraged by signs of horse dung. (259) The symptoms of
diarrhoea abated in Canessa, and both boys fell into a rhythm of
(260) By late afternoon they had reached the escarpment that led
up to the plateau, and the promise of rest gave Canessa extra
(261) The first thing they saw at the top was a corral with stone
walls and a gate. (262) The ground of the enclosure had been
freshly broken by horses' hoofs, and both boys felt their
optimism return. (263) But Canessa's physical condition had so
deteriorated that it could not be restored by such a simple tonic
as renewed hope. (264) He staggered as he walked and had to lean
on Parrado's arm, and when they came to a small copse they agreed
that they would stay there the night. (265) It was in the minds
of both of them that Canessa might have to stay longer.
(266) While Parrado went in search of firewood, Canessa lay back
under the trees. (267) The ground was covered with fresh grass,
the mountains rose up behind them and the sound of the river
could be heard. (268) Exhausted as he was, the beauty of the spot
was not lost on Canessa. (269) He looked languidly at the gorse
and the wild flowers, and his thoughts turned to his horse and
his dog and the countryside of Uruguay.
(270) He looked vacantly towards the other side of the river.
(271) The setting sun gave long shadows to the trees and boulders
at the foot of the mountain that seemed to move and change shape.
(272) And suddenly, from out of these shadows, there came a
moving shape, large enough to be a man on a horse.
(273) Canessa immediately tried to get to his feet, but even in
his excitement his legs would hardly move. (274) He shouted to
Parrado: "Nando. (275) Nando! (276) Look, there's a man, a man on
a horse! (277) I think I saw a man on a horse!"
(278) Parrado looked in the direction Canessa indicated, but he
was so nearsighted that he could not see anything.
(279) "Where?" said Parrado. (280) "Where's the man on the
(281) To his dismay, when Canessa looked again he saw only a tall
rock and its lengthening shadow. (282) "I'm sure it was a man",
he said. (283) "I swear I saw him. (284) A man on a horse."
(285) Parrado shook his head. (286) "There's no one there now."
(287) Then, above the thunder of the river, they heard the sound
of a human cry. (288) They turned and there, on the other bank,
they saw not one but three men on horses. (289) They were staring
at them while herding cows along a path that ran between the
river and the mountain.
(290) Immediately the boys began to wave and shout, and the
horsemen seemed to notice them, but the noise of the river
drowned their cries. (291) It began to look as if the horsemen
would ride on.
(292) Parrado and Canessa became more hectic in their gestures
and shouted yet louder that they were survivors from the
Uruguayan plane that had crashed in the Andes.
(293) "Help us!" they shouted. (294) "Help us!" (295) And Parrado
sank to his knees and joined his hands in a gesture of
(296) The horsemen hesitated. (297) One of them reined in his
horse and shouted some words across the gorge, the only one of
which they could understand was "tomorrow". (298) Then the three
rode on, herding the cows along the narrow track in front of them
(299) The sun rose on the tenth day of the boys' journey through
the Andes. (300) At six both were awake, and looking across to
the other side of the river they saw the smoke of a fire and a
man standing beside it. (301) Next to him were two other men,
both still sitting on their horses.
(302) As soon as he saw them, Nando Parrado ran towards the edge
of the gorge. (303) He was then close enough to the man on the
other side to understand his gestures, which directed Parrado to
climb down the side of the gorge to the edge of the river. (304)
This he did, and the peasant did the same until they were
separated only by the 35 yards of the torrent.
(305) The peasant took a piece of paper, wrote on it, wrapped it
round a stone and threw it across the river.
(306) Parrado stumbled over the rocks, picked up the letter and
unwrapped it. (307) He read: There is a man coming later that I
told him to go. (308) Tell me what you want.
(309) Parrado felt in his pockets for a pencil or pen. (310) He
gestured to the opposite bank, and the peasant took his own
ball-point pen, wrapped it with a stone in a handkerchief and
threw it across the river.
(311) Parrado sat down and wrote the following message: I come
from a plane that fell in the mountains. (312) I am Uruguayan.
(313) We have been walking for 10 days. (314) I have a friend up
there who is injured. (315) In the plane there are still 14
injured people. (316) We have to get out of here quickly and we
don't know how. (317) We don't have any food. (318) We are weak.
(319) When are you going to come and fetch us? Please. (320) We
can't even walk. (321) Where are we?
(322) He added to this an SOS and wrapped the piece of paper
round the stone and the stone in the handkerchief. (323) Then he
threw it back over the river and watched and prayed as the
peasant unwrapped and read the message.
(324) At last he looked up and signalled that he understood.
(325) He took from his pocket a piece of bread, threw it across
the river, waved again and turned to climb back up the side of
(326) Parrado walked back to Canessa, clutching the bread in his
hands, a tangible sign that they finally had made contact with
the outside world.
(327) Canessa fixed his tired eyes on the bread. (328) "We're
saved", he said. (329) "Yes", said Parrado, "we're saved." (330)
He sat down and broke the bread in two. (331) "Here", he said,
"let's have our breakfast."
(332) "No", said Canessa. (333) "You eat it. (334) I've been so
useless. (335) I don't deserve it."
(336) "Come on", said Parrado. (337) "You may not deserve it, but
you need it." (338) He handed the crust to Canessa, and this time
Canessa accepted it. (339) Then the boys sat down and ate what
they had been given, and never in their lives had bread tasted so
(340) Two or three hours later, at around 9 a.m., (341) they saw
another man on horseback, but this time he was on their side of
the river and was riding towards them. (342) He greeted Parrado
with great reticence and introduced himself as Armando Serda.
(343) The man who had seen them earlier, he said, had ridden off
to inform the carabineros of his discovery.
(344) Parrado and Canessa could see that Serda was poor - so poor
that his clothes were in worse condition than their own - but
they suspected that he might possess what at that moment they
valued more than any treasure. (345) And sure enough, when they
told him that they were starving, he brought some cheese out of
his pocket and gave it to them.
(346) So happy were they with the cheese that Parrado and Canessa
did not mind when the peasant then left them and went on up the
valley to see to cows that were there. (347) While he was away,
they ate the cheese and rested. (348) Then, before he returned,
they took what remained of the human flesh they had brought with
them and buried it.
(349) At around 11 o'clock that morning Armando Serda finished
his work and rejoined the survivors. (350) Canessa could not
walk, so he was placed on Serda's horse and the three of them set
off down the valley. (351) They crossed a tributary of the River
Azufre, and farther down the valley, in a meadow, they came to
the first human habitation they had seen since the accident.
(352) It was a modest house, rebuilt every spring, with wood and
bamboo walls and a roof made with tree branches, but no palace
could have seemed finer. (353) Their host led them into an open
courtyard, seated them at a table and introduced them to a second
peasant, Enrique Gonzalez. (354) More cheese and then fresh milk
were brought to them by this man, while Serda busied himself at a
(355) In a short time he brought them each a plate of beans,
which he refilled four times as they gobbled it down. (356) When
the beans were finished they moved on to macaroni cooked with
scraps of meat, and after that bread and dripping. (357) Then,
when they could eat no more, their hosts led them to a hut on the
other side of the cottage. (358) In it were two comfortable beds
on which Parrado and Canessa were invited to take a siesta.
(359) It was midday on Thursday 21 December, 70 days since the
plane had crashed in the Andes ...