Walking along the path, I lagged behind the others for a moment. Suddenly, I could no longer spot any of my friends ahead of me. Panic set in, and my heart began racing. I yelled over and over, but only heard the distant humming of a boat’s engine. My hands trembled as I took hold of my gun and fired a shot in the air, hoping they would hear me.
BENI, Bolivia — On January 25, I embarked on a hunting trip with my friends to the Baures jungle in Bolivia, eager to capture footage of our adventure. We expected everything to go perfectly. I never imagined being thrust into a harrowing tale of survival. Thirty one days later, on February 26, local volunteers found me alive, severely dehydrated, and barely standing.
Inside the Baures jungle, my friends and I began our hunting excursion with a well-thought-out strategy. We felt confident and as the first day drew to a close, we needed to head back to our boat before nightfall. Walking along the path, I lagged behind the others for a moment.
Suddenly, I could no longer spot any of my friends ahead of me. Panic set in, and my heart began racing. I yelled over and over, but only heard the distant humming of a boat’s engine. My hands trembled as I took hold of my gun and fired a shot in the air, hoping they would hear me. I focused on the sound, which faded away quickly, as though the jungle swallowed it up.
I felt terrified and decided to find my way back alone. Slowly, I stumbled further into the dense forest of the Amazon, feeling completely disoriented. As darkness crept in, I considered my lack of equipment; all I had left was a single reserve bullet and a lighter. I decided to stay put, hoping to be close enough to the river’s edge for my friends to easily find me. Yet, to my horror, I had ventured deep into the jungle, losing sight of everything as the blackness enveloped me. The sound of rustling leaves and mysterious animal noises added to my growing fear, all alone in the wilderness.
Once I processed the fact that I was truly stranded and alone, I began thinking of ways to survive. The first 15 days felt like pure hell. I struggled to see anything at night and spent the days too tired and dehydrated to make much progress. My body became exhausted from walking, and I searched endlessly for a single drop of water to quench my thirst. I often felt dizzy during the day, and my vision blurred from the lack of food. Desperate, I drank my own urine just to stay alive.
I spent over a month fending off wild animals and enduring harsh weather conditions. In the last 15 days before my rescue, something changed in me. I refused to succumb to death, convinced no one was looking for me. Determined to find my way out, I devised a plan to reach the river – my only way out of the jungle. During those days, I battled hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and fear. All of my senses became heightened. My ears perked at any sound; my nose keen to catch the slightest scent of water or food. Cuts and bruises covered my skin. All I kept thinking about was survival.
One night, wild pigs attacked, ripping apart one of my boots. I felt a sharp jerk in the dark, and I blindly grabbed a nearby tree, unable to climb it. The jerking continued, and I realized the pigs were chewing on my shoe. Quickly, I reached for my water-soaked rifle, but it no longer worked. I aimed for one last shot and the rifle misfired. I remained motionless for hours until daylight revealed the dead animal.
Amidst the constant pain and threats from jungle animals, the experience became surreal. I felt convinced a hidden tribe living in the jungle protected me. Often, I found fresh tracks near me and recognized human feces. It felt like they were taking care of me, and I believed I received divine support from God and these tribal people.
I constantly hid from dangerous animals like jaguars and peccaries. When confronted by them, I raised my arms and yelled with all my might, forcing them to retreat until they disappeared into the dense jungle. Despite my survival skills, moments of sheer panic and hopelessness devastated me. I experienced debilitating panic attacks, screaming for help for hours on end. At one point, I injured my ankle, which made it even more challenging to navigate through the treacherous terrain. I had to crawl with the wet ground and leaves beneath me, as I moved from one place to another, struggling to find a way out of the peril. Tiny larvae tried to burrow into my skin, and countless insects bit me regularly.
Over those 31 days, I felt stuck in an endless loop. Just before my eventual rescue, I stumbled into a well, injuring my ankle. It swelled up like a ball. I could barely handle the excruciating pain and slept for two whole days. Then, one morning, I heard faint murmurs in the distance. At first, I thought it was another hallucination. I summoned all my strength and dragged myself towards the noise. To my utter amazement, I saw a search group of locals and friends 300 meters away. I continued to crawl towards them through the thorny undergrowth, yelling with all my might to get their attention. They spotted me.
Tears streamed down my face uncontrollably, as overwhelming emotions gripped me. When they asked me how I survived alone for so long, I still could not process the things I had done. I used my boots to collect rainwater and ate insects, worms, plants, mushrooms and anything else I managed to capture. I even tried wild fruits similar to papayas called gargateas.
Through this harrowing experience, I underwent a profound transformation. I felt remorse for past actions and events in my life, and became determined to make amends. I vowed to never engage in hunting animals again and recognized the value of all living beings. By being lost, I came to understand the interconnectedness of life. Now, I focus on restoring my health and undergoing a detoxification process. Although my recovery journey continues, and I have psychological challenges to overcome, the doctors remain optimistic I will experience a full recovery. I am committed to moving forward and reclaiming my life, one step at a time.
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