The rescue team wraps Jeshua in a thermal blanket shortly after finding him
The rescue team wraps Jeshua in a thermal blanket shortly after finding him | Photo courtesy of Jeshua Kaslo

Hiker survives 16 days lost in Colombian wilderness

During my days lost, I had to drink my own urine and shelter for sleep in cold, wet clothes. I experienced hallucinations of spiritual teachers who accompanied me through the ordeal.

Jeshua Kaslo
Interview Subject
Jeshua Kaslo survived 16 days lost in the Colombian páramo before rescuers found him on March 7, 2022.

His recovery hasn’t been easy; he reports that he had trouble eating and sleeping at first and that his toes were burned by the cold and are still recovering two months later.

Kaslo has produced some short films and is a lover of nature and a practitioner of the teachings of God.

He believes God led him to experience this ordeal to spread his message to many. He is preparing a conference featuring the teachings learned while lost in the wilderness and also plans to record a film about his experience.
Background Information
Cerro Pan de Azúcar (see photos here) is located approximately 53 kilometers (33 miles) from Bogotá. It is characterized by a mainly páramo ecosystem, which has been described as “islands of grasslands and shrubs surrounded by a sea of cloud forest lower down.”

There is a large presence of moss and frailejones in the mountainous areas. Its altitude is between 3,048-4,877 meters (10,000-16,000 feet) above sea level. with an average temperature of 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit).

It is located very close to Lake Guatavita, which was historically a sacred spiritual site for the Indigenous people of the area and where the legend of El Dorado originated.

GUATAVITA, Colombia—In February, my entire life changed when I became lost in the páramo (high, treeless plateaus that surround mountainous regions in Central and South America).  

The rescue team provides first aid care
The rescue team provides first aid care | Photo courtesy of Jeshua Kaslo

During my days lost in the wilderness, I had to drink my urine to give my body energy and shelter for sleep in cold, wet clothes, I experienced hallucinations of spiritual teachers who accompanied me through the ordeal.

Eventually, like a miracle, the little left of my cell phone’s battery allowed me to send my location for rescue. When people knew I was alive, they celebrated as if the Colombian soccer team score a goal.

Since this experience, my life split in two. 

Losing track of the group

A friend invited me for a walk on Cerro Pan de Azúcar (Sugar Loaf Hill) in Guatavita on Feb. 19. It seemed like a good opportunity to use my drone for the first time, so I went along.

After a while, the drone fell not too far from the group, and I went to look for it. The time left in that location was short, and the guide instructed us to stay together and never to leave the group, so they walked near me.

I arrived at a space with uneven vegetation. I noticed that there was a change in the types of plants and in how the landscape looked; it was different from everything we had seen up to that moment. The colors were so vivid, it seemed as if a human being had never stepped foot on this area.

When I looked back and attempted to locate the group, I couldn’t find them. I yelled and no one replied. They had been next to me just a few minutes earlier. At that moment, I felt as if I had entered another dimension, I had been too close to my group to have lost sight of them. It made no sense.

Trying to get my bearings

I tried to get back on the trail, but everything had seemingly changed—the path we had all been on had disappeared, and the stone we had used as a reference was no longer there. Right there, at that exact moment, I felt completely lost for the first time.

I got so scared; anguish filled me. It was the first time I had ever been to that place, and I had no bearings on my location. I yelled, searching for my group, but heard nothing back. I sent them my location via WhatsApp, hoping they could help me, but I had used up most of my battery life piloting the drone and didn’t have much left. It was impossible to get a signal for calls.

I recall walking for about 15 minutes. I tried to locate the path, and re-sent my location to the group, but nothing helped.

After my rescue, when we met again, members of the group showed me the locations that I had sent them—they showed three hours and a long distance apart. That reinforced my sense that I was in a different dimension, because for me it felt like only a few minutes and a short distance between messages.

Surviving a dreaded first night

Thick, white fog surrounded me as I walked, making it extremely difficult to see. I was walking blindly. I knew that the night would come at any moment, and that ignited a growing panic in me, as I realized any search for me would stop once darkness fell

I searched in vain for a place to rest and wait for dawn. Suddenly, I heard the sound of moving water. The fog was heavy and I was so scared, but I knew I needed drinking water. I continued walking slowly, following the sound, when suddenly, in one step, I fell into the river.

The cold water hit me like a strong blow to my entire body. I managed to get back out, but now my concern grew; not only was I lost in the dark and cold, but all my clothes were wet.

My emotional state plummeted, but I knew I had to endure the night. I assumed that rescue would come my way the next day.

In the meantime, I made a kind of tent with my clothes. I placed my head inside the shirt and laid my scarf on it. I curled up to hold the ends of the shirt, and to stop the cold air from getting in, I exhaled warm breaths slowly under my shirt to keep myself warm. I called it my improvised home.

I knew I could not allow myself to sleep deeply or hypothermia would set in. Therefore, I fought every night against myself.

That first night, I began my first dialogue with God. I thought a lot about who I am and my mission in the world. I woke optimistically and felt sure I would survive. I was proud of myself because I had achieved my first great victory: getting to dawn alive.

My ordeal in the wilderness continues

Still, my surroundings emanated hostility. Everywhere I tried to sit was wet, the vegetation was dense and nearly impenetrable, and the view was misleading. I could not find a single comfortable place to rest, and if I saw rock as a reference, two steps forward, it was no longer there.

Another day went by, and no rescue team appeared. I began to prepare myself for a true test of survival.

Before this experience, I had fasted due to my spiritual convictions and had lived with a lack of food. Thanks to previous conversations, I had learned about urine therapy, so I decided to try it to give my body energy. My option to stay alive were to drink water to produce urine, then to drink my urine.

I tried to keep my spirits up, but it was difficult because it was always grey and gloomy. The humidity rotted some trees, so they fell apart when I touched them. One day I found wild grapes; they were breathtaking but tiny and limited.

A failed rescue and a calming encounter

A few days in, a sudden noise thundered from the sky, and hope and excitement filled me.  I saw the helicopter go by and knew it was looking for me. Twice I saw it coming towards me; I screamed and jumped, trying to be seen, but the vegetation did not allow it. At each turn, it seemed they had caught a glimpse, but the helicopter eventually flew off.

That experience greatly weakened my spirits. I assumed they would stop looking for me, and I thought again that I would die in this lonely and sad place.

I realized I had walked a long way down the river and stopped to reflect. Suddenly, I heard a voice in my head say, “If you do not go back, you die.” I decided to listen and thought that God must have been speaking to me.

The fifth day was the most important to me. That day, more spiritual things began to happen. Under my so-called tent build with my clothes to keep warm, I continued my technique for resting without deep sleep.

This night, I felt the presence of Jesus by my side. He asked me, “Do you accept spending 40 days of fasting in this place, in my company?”

Everything made sense then; I discovered that God wanted me to be in this place with a purpose. I accepted that I was not going to eat and that I would have to endure the inclement weather. However, he would take me back when it was my time.

I decided that from now on, I would advance at a slow pace, preserving my energy, fulfilling the fast and waiting for my teachings.

A series of spiritual encounters

A series of apparitions began. First, an African shaman taught me songs that increased my body’s temperature; another day a yogi teacher visited and taught me a leg movement to energize the body. Those teachings became tools to fight hypothermia.

Jesus also visited me again and taught me a word that would calm me when despair came. I knew it was Jesus, because I could feel the power of his energy.

Around this time, I walked to a flatter area, full of Espeletia (commonly known as frailejones). There, something wonderful happened: I found a lighter in a pocket. This whole time, I didn’t know I had it. From that day on, I was able to make fires at night, which helped me rest.

A final message from God

On the 14th or 15th day, I had a new vision. God came to my side, and a sense of peace and calm overwhelmed me. I felt an incomparable love as he told me I must return to the highest place and that rescuers would likely find me the next day.

At that moment, I remembered his first appearance when he told me that there would be difficult days ahead, but that he would save me once I had passed this test.

The next day, I started walking to the highest point. The path was more complicated and the terrain was rugged. I used a stick and the branches of surrounding foliage to support myself. I felt so tired and weak; my water source was far away, and I had nothing to drink.

At the peak, for reasons I can’t explain, I took the drone and cell phone out of my bag. I tried to turn them on, knowing that they had no battery left, and got a big surprise when I saw that the cell phone light up with a tiny amount of battery life. I opened WhatsApp and sent my location to everyone I could. One of the group guides answered me with a voice message, but the phone died just seconds later before I could listen to it. Relief flooded me.

At long last, rescuers appear

I assumed searchers would rescue me in a matter of minutes—I even stood up to see if I could spot them coming. However, disappointment returned after a while because no one was coming. I was already losing hope.

Finally, in the midst of that eternal wait, I heard a voice call, “Hello…” I got up and shouted back. I couldn’t believe they had arrived. I heard a second “Hello” and answered back even louder, and then I could see them and they could see me.

The moment of meeting was sublime. We hugged, I no longer had the strength to cry, but they gave me hot panela water (sugar cane juice), and I felt more alive than ever.

The rescue crew
The rescue crew | Photo courtesy of Jeshua Kaslo

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Ruby Hernández is a social communicator and journalist, interested in stories that move readers' senses and in characters that leave their mark on society. She has extensive experience in the written press, mainly on Judicial Order issues.