‘Miracle in the Andes – 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home’ is the story of adventure, courage, tragedy, horror, terror, love and much more of a group of individuals who survive for 72 days at more than 12000 feet in the Andes. Penned by Nando Parrado (one of the survivors) and Vince Rause, it is an autobiographical account of the days Nando and his comrades had to face high in the Andes.
The blurb goes like this –
Nando Parrado was unconscious for three days before he woke to discover that the plane carrying his rugby team to Chile had crashed deep in the Andes, killing many of his teammates, his mother and his sister. Stranded with the few remaining survivors on a lifeless glacier and thinking constantly of his father’s grief, Parrado resolved that he could not simply wait to die. So Parrado, an ordinary young man with no particular disposition for leadership or heroism, led an expedition up the treacherous slopes of a snowcapped mountain and across forty – five miles of frozen wilderness in an attempt to save his friends lives as well as his own.
Thirty years after the disaster, Parrado tells his story with remarkable candour and depth of feeling. ‘Miracle in the Andes’, a first person account of the crash and its aftermath, is more than a riveting tale of true – life adventure; its a revealing look at life at the edge of death and a meditation on the limitless redemptive power of love.
This is not just a mere story. It is a nerve jangling tale of a rugby team who had taken the ill fated charter flight from Montevideo in Uruguay to Santiago in Chile which crashed high in the Andes on October 13, 1972. As the plane crashed, it broke into numerous pieces. The wreckage, bodies, luggage, everything seemed scattered for miles. Not many can survive a plane crash. But a group of 29 people did. They managed to survive the crash only to be confounded by a new danger. They were on top of a glacier at a height of several thousand feet in the Andes. For miles and miles, all they could see was snow; No trees, no animals, no food, not a living thing as far as eyes could see.
Sadness, fear, tension, tragedy, horror – Nando describes each and every emotion with utmost care for detail that as a reader you really feel you were there for those 72 days. The challenges they faced every day whether it was drinking snow water, tackling the avalanches and blizzards, having to turn cannibals to stay alive, seeing their loved ones suffer painful deaths, confound altitude sickness from the thinning air and survive deadly temperatures – all of it and much more make us feel as if we haven’t really faced much in life.
When a simple man like Nando could lead a trek up and down a 17000 feet mountain for more than 50 miles to take people to safety, why can’t we take initiatives to make our lives better and keep ourselves happy all the time? Nando makes the point that love for his family and for his friends was what that kept him alive throughout the days of tragedy. If one thought sentimentally or emotionally in the mountains, his / her death was a near certainty.
Nando’s descriptions are vivid and a reader can visualize all what the group must have been through. He has also taken the pain to describe the backgrounds of most of his teammates. The narrative is a bit slow at places where Nando describes each of them. But to get a real feel of what exactly the group went through, those descriptions are a necessity.
My favourite line – “Savour your existence. Live every moment. Don’t waste a breath”
Don’t read this book like a story or novel. It’s a triumph of human spirit, courage and the indication of humans will to fight against all odds. It would be up there as one of the most inspirational stories of all time.
Rating – 4.5/5