Lost – Translation

Lost – Translation


[Daniel Alarcón, host]:  Before we start, a warning: this episode contains a very broad sampling of foul Argentinian language. Discretion is advised.

Welcome to Radio Ambulante from NPR. I’m Daniel Alarcón.

It all starts with a video: two women, about 60 years old, Argentinian, smiling, they’re sitting in the middle of dense and verdant forest. 


[Mónica López]: It’s 8:20 in the morning and we’ve been in this beautiful forest since two o’clock yesterday afternoon.

[Daniel]: They explain that they’re in a forest in Tucumán, a province of Argentina. But they aren’t camping, or anything like that. Not at all. 


[Mónica]: We don’t know what we did. We took the wrong trail of little rocks and we wound up who the fuck knows where. 

[Daniel]: In case it isn’t clear, they got lost.


[Mónica]: And we’re here, hoping someone will rescue us.

[Claudia López]: Exactly.

[Mónica]:  So, ehm… Because had have no fucking clue how to get the hell out of here and you have no idea how much we’ve been through.

[Daniel]: And, honestly, you can’t imagine how much they’ve been through. It was an odyssey.

Today, the story of two women in a Tucumán forest trying to make it back to civilization. And it’s important to clarify here that both of them are OK, so there’s nothing to worry about.

Our editor Luis Fernando Vargas tells us the story.

Here’s Luis Fernando.

[Luis Fernando Vargas]: Claudia and Mónica López. Those are their names. They’re sisters.  This is Claudia, the older sister. She’s 67 years old.

[Claudia]: We get along. We see each other once a week and… well, and we chat.

[Luis Fernando]: And this is Mónica, the younger sister. She’s 62.

[Mónica]: Since we were girls, we were very close. We told each other everything. We were not just sisters; we’re best friends.

[Luis Fernando]: Mónica thinks their different personalities make them very complimentary.

[Mónica]: You see, it’s like yin and yang. That’s what we’re like: day and night. She’s calmer. I put everything out there, Luis. I don’t know how to explain, I’m different. It’s like sometimes I bring her up, and she brings me down a little. And that’s how we find the balance to have a good relationship and that makes us enjoy being around each other, you know?

[Luis Fernando]: Both are from Buenos Aires. They’re retired and now that they have free time, they like to travel all over Argentina. They’ve been to the north, to Salta and Jujuy. And they’ve also traveled to Colombia.

[Mónica]: And one day, because I spend a lot of time on the internet and I’m always messing around in those things, I see that they’re a deal for a trip to Tucumán.

[Luis Fernando]: Tucumán, another province in northern Argentina. They tried to visit part of it when they went to Salta and Jujuy, but they didn’t have enough time.

[Mónica]: And, well, I sent my sister a message. I say, “Chaise[PM1] , do you want to go to Tucumán?” And she said: “OK, let’s do it.” And right then I got the tickets without really thinking about it.

[Claudia]: We looked up information on how we could visit the province. We were able to rent a car, and we rented an apartment in a space, a place that we could… from there you could access any part of Tucumán. Tucumán is a small province, and well, we were going to hike three trails and get to know the historic part and the central region, you know.

[Luis Fernando]: Tucumán is also a province with a robust agricultural industry and several national parks and natural reserves. It has desert regions but also has dense forests, besides a historic center with museums and a lot to do. They planned on seeing everything, and they arrived on Thursday, August 22nd, in the capital of the province. 

[Mónica]: That day we walked around the streets a little. We saw the central plaza. The next day, we rented the car. We went to tour El Parque Nueve de Julio.

[Luis Fernando]: El Parque Nueve de Julio is an enormous green area in the capital’s city center.  It has several tourist and cultural attractions like the city’s Casa de la Cultura and a lake. And on Saturday…

[Claudia]: They started going on the trails that that were recommended for tourists, you know?

[Luis Fernando]: They toured another part of the city, and up to that point, everything was ok. They were enjoying themselves and getting to know Tucumán.

[Claudia]: And well. And then came the famous Sunday morning. What to do.

[Mónica]: Ah, we got off to a really bad start, because we got up at two, feeling pretty annoyed. I don’t know. You know those days when you’re already having a bad day when you get up? Maybe that was a sign we didn’t notice saying: “we don’t have to go.”

[Claudia]: We left mid-morning, and seeing how things were going with us… I was in a bit of a hurry because I wanted to see most of the trail. I wanted to really experience it.

[Luis Fernando]: Las Yungas Trail. They wanted to see the town of Yerba Buena, where there are several natural attractions. And hike up San Javier Hill to take in the view.

[Claudia]: Then, well, we were there seeing how we could get comfortable in the weather and everything. At one point, we had visited a few places, we came across an area that was one of the protected areas where there was a waterfall.

[Luis Fernando]: They decided to stop. It was early, around 11:30 a.m. You couldn’t see the waterfall from the entrance. To get there you had to go down some stairs. All there was at the entrance was a little shed that was the office where you bought your ticket, and inside there was a guard and a park ranger. Everything else was just trees and trees and trees.

The plan was to go to the waterfall and have a mate [a traditional South American infused drink], relax a little and then keep hiking toward San Javier. Since it was going to be a short stop, they just brought their wallets —with some money and their IDs— and a nylon bag where they were they kept their matera —the thing you make mate in— a half-liter bottle of water, some nuts and cookies to eats, and their phones.

They paid the entry fee and when down the set of stairs, which was about 500 meters long, and very steep, made of soil and logs. 

[Claudia]: And later we see a stream with stones to follow. You have to follow that stream to find the waterfall. It was a really dense area with a lot of vegetation.

[Luis Fernando]: They walked along the stream for about 500 or 600 meters, and finally they made it to the waterfall.

[Mónica]: It’s a beautiful place. It’s a dream. Full of stones, with a little stream. It’s a very small waterfall, but the water comes down with a lot of force.

[Claudia]: And there were people who were going down with their packs, with their little bag to make mate, or as families too. There weren’t a lot of people, but there were people.

[Luis Fernando]: And now, it was time to sit down and have a mate.

[Mónica]: And when my sister gets everything ready and realizes she hadn’t brought the yerba… You can imagine the string of insults I flung at her because I wanted to drink a mate.

[Luis Fernando]: They had walked a good while, so they rested there a little. It was about an hour, with no mate, and then they decided to go back. They started walking along the stream they had already followed, the one that took them to the stairs. But… 

[Mónica]: It’s a very steep set of stairs and the exit sign is tucked away on the inside, so if you aren’t scanning the side of that hill the whole time, you won’t see, and we didn’t see it.

[Luis Fernando]: And the stream —that is, the path to the waterfall— curved along the base of a hill. So they couldn’t see the waterfall to get a sense of their position.

[Claudia]: We had walked a little. Then Mónica said: “This doesn’t look like the way back,” because it the kinds of rocks were different and we had walked quite a ways. So we started looking for them… the signs, the markers that say “exit,” and we couldn’t find anything.

[Luis Fernando]: By that point, they had crossed some streams that connected to the main stream that led to the waterfalls.

[Mónica]: I started to see how the rocks were changing color, and I said:  “Chao, we’re… That’s it. This isn’t the place.” We decided to turn around and when we did —being as disoriented as we were— instead of taking the stream that theoretically we had gone down, we took one of the ones that crossed it and we went who knows where.

[Luis Fernando]: They didn’t see anyone nearby and they didn’t have cell signal. It was past noon. 

[Claudia]: So we started looking for a way out right away. We followed the flow of the water. That wasn’t the place. Then we started yelling:  “Help!” Is anyone there? Where are you?” No one answered. And then we kept looking for another stream, and so we were going farther and farther up the hill.

[Mónica]: And my reasoning was just that: if I went down to get the waterfall, I have to go up… and that’s where we got mixed up on the hillside.

[Luis Fernando]: That is, instead of going up the mountain where the stairs were, they were going up the other side, getting deeper into the forest.

By that time, three hours had passed. It was already three in the afternoon. I asked them if they were afraid when the realized they were lost. Claudia told me:

[Claudia]: I felt worried. Of course. But no… I didn’t think about too much because what we needed to do was be attentive. To be alert. The be ok enough to make decisions that wouldn’t harm her or me, you know? I knew we were going to find the solution.

[Luis Fernando]: And Mónica felt the same way.

[Mónica]: I was so sure we were going to find the solution, since I always had in my life, that I knew were going get out of there. At first, I didn’t take it very seriously. I’m being honest. Uh… it was even like a game, understand? “Ah, well, we’re lost. This is nonsense, getting out of here. That’s how I took it. My sister is more careful. My sister became very quiet. And, well…

[Luis Fernando]: But Mónica was also worried that her kids were going to be scared.

[Mónica]: I have two kids, and the three of us are very clingy, and we stay connected on WhatsApp, on the phone, and by email, everything. I knew, because I saw on my phone, that the last time I had service… It was 11:30 on Sunday morning, and it was already Sunday afternoon… That really upset me. I knew they were going to be frantic.

[Luis Fernando]: Claudia and Mónica were up on the hillside when it started getting dark, so they decided to go down…

[Claudia]: And that was when Mónica told me: “Wait because you’re not going to like what’s here.” I came from behind her and that was when we got to the spot where we couldn’t go down anymore.

[Luis Fernando]: It was a large ravine that was impossible to descend without hurting yourself. Mónica held on to the trunk of a tree so she didn’t fall because she was right on the edge. Remember they were on a very steep hillside: if they did anything more than walking, they would slide downhill.

Claudia was about three meters higher, looking for a safer place to rest. She found one, put down her wallet and her nylon bag. She tried to go toward where Mónica was, but she could barely see anything, so she held on to a different tree so she wouldn’t fall. Because they were afraid of falling, they stayed there and very soon they were in total darkness.

[Mónica]: And, well, that night we had to spend 11 hours sitting on a log.

[Luis Fernando]: Mónica had her phone, but they didn’t find Claudia’s until her alarm went off, around 12 at night. Aside from the light from those two devices, it was 11 hours of darkness.

[Mónica]: I couldn’t see anything, and I was very cold. We had a t-shirt, that was it. And, well, the truth is we could really feel the cold because the two of us were sitting, and we didn’t have many chances to move our bodies. This cold, you know, that gets down to your bones.

[Claudia]: And, well, throughout that whole situation we tried to see how we support each other emotionally, and we talked a lot, seeing how we could keep the cold from… getting the better of us or beating us. We shook our arms, our legs. We talked to each other. With each hour that went by, she told me: “It’s 12. 12 o’clock. One. It’s two…”

[Luis Fernando]: It’s three. It’s four. I think about that night, and it’s hard for me to imagine how they survived. Two women we were already older, balancing so precariously, on the edge of a ravine, immobilized, in total darkness. What do you think about in moments like those? Or rather, what do you do to keep yourself from thinking about the gravity of the situation? Well, in the case of the López sisters…

[Mónica]: We remembered things from when we were girls, school vacations, or shit about boyfriends, fights we had with each other as girls. Things about our lives now that we hadn’t told each other about because of time. So, the topic that came up. It was anything.

[Luis Fernando]: In other words, they took refuge in the past. In memories. A way to survive. But they couldn’t completely ignore the circumstances they were in.

[Claudia]: Because we heard all kinds of noises that we couldn’t identify and that we thought were animals or that were anything that could come up to us.

We asked each other, when we heard a noise, after a significant silence: “Eh, are you ok? Are you there? Was that you?” And we always had something to talk about, you know?

[Luis Fernando]: In the morning, before the sun came up…

[Claudia]: We slept for a few seconds, around that time, I closed my eyes, and… and… but the whole time I felt like I could slip, that I could fall asleep and lose the support of the spot where I was.

[Luis Fernando]: And fall into the ravine. They were in imminent danger, but moving from there wasn’t an option either. They were trapped by the darkness. After a while, their body parts were falling asleep, but they couldn’t move much. They didn’t have any food, and they didn’t have much water either.

It was one of the most difficult nights of their lives.

[Daniel]: And that’s how they made it to morning.

We’ll be back after the break.


[Daniel]: We’re back with Radio Ambulante. I’m Daniel Alarcón. Before the break, we met Claudia and Mónica, two sisters visiting the province of Tucumán, Argentina. During their trip, they went to a waterfall in the middle of a forest, and they missed a turn on the way back. When night fell, Claudia and Mónica were trapped between a very steep hillside and an impassable ravine. They spent 11 hours clinging to trees in total darkness.

Then came Monday morning. They had already been in the forest for 15 hours, and they had barely drunk any water. 

Luis Fernando continues the story.

[Luis Fernando]: In the daylight, they were able to get out of the steep area next to the ravine. They managed to make it to a flatter area where there was less vegetation and more sunlight. There they drank a little water. Just a little because, remember, they only had a half-liter bottle. And even though they were confident that they were going to make it out of there in a few hours, deep down, they started fearing the worst. They ate some of the food they brought: some nuts, and half a packet of cookies.

[Mónica]: We ate the cookies and nuts because we knew we had to eat something. All we wanted was to get out of there. We weren’t hungry. We even had cookies leftover, you know? But we did eat all the nuts.

[Luis Fernando]: Then they rested a while after going through such a hard night. Claudia tried to stay calm and convey a sense of serenity to her sister.

[Claudia]: I for one didn’t want to get thinking about anything.  Just about being ok. Just about being attentive and being with my sister so it could be the two of us helping each other.

[Luis Fernando]: But sometimes, of course, they had negative thoughts.

[Claudia]: Small moments when I would find myself saying: “I don’t want to tie frozen here.” Or thinking, what would happen if I fell, if I hurt myself, or if I got a fever. Yes, yes, but it was for a matter of seconds, you know? We… we didn’t follow those thoughts, because we knew from experience that thoughts are what bring out your emotions. And sometimes emotions aren’t helpful. You have to deal with them with your thoughts as well.

[Luis Fernando]: Mónica, on the other han…

[Mónica]: I analyzed my whole life. The mistakes I made, the things I did right. I got to thinking about arguing over stupid things, idiotic differences, about not talking to someone because you’re in a hurry to get to work. Then, instead of answering a message, well, you say “I’ll write you later” and that later never comes. And you say fuck it, you know? Because you could lose your life in a second, and you make issues out of bullshit, just bullshit, Luis.

And sometimes, you have to go through something painful to really take stock of what you’re doing, where you are and where you’re going.

[Luis Fernando]: With all that in mind, they decided to record a video for their children. They sent it to them over WhatsApp.

[Mónica]: My humble thought was: “Well if at some point we get signal, they’ll get the video so they’ll be alright.”

[Luis Fernando]: And that was the video we heard at the start.


[Mónica]: We’re going to tell you a story. It’s 8:20 in the morning and we’ve been in this beautiful forest since two o’clock yesterday afternoon.

[Claudia]: Really Mónica always uses humor as a strategy to come out ahead in situations that are difficult and painful so she doesn’t hold on to those emotions.

[Luis Fernando]: And here, her humor also helped to make their kids believe: “This isn’t serious.” Even though it was.


[Mónica]: We slept in the woods.

[Claudia]: In the Tucumán Rainforest.

[Mónica]: Hanging from two trees.

[Claudia]: Yes, sir.

[Mónica]: It’s maybe the only strength I have. It’s like a shield. You know, humor.


[Mónica]: Everything’s great. We took a picture, yadda yadda yadda. When we left there we didn’t know what we did. We took the wrong trail of little rocks and we wound up who the fuck knows where.

It wasn’t peaceful. The way you see me in the video, it’s like, I’m fine. I’m fucking around, jerking around, making jokes, being surprising. And who knows! I wanted them to see me how I am so they can see me as I am to them. Aside from hearing my voice, to calm them down, to see that I’m ok.

[Luis Fernando]: And, well, of course, take advantage of the opportunity to ask for help.


[Mónica]: So children, God willing, someone will send this marvelous message and someone will come to rescue us. Because we want to come back. We’re fucking cold.

[Claudia]: Thank God we made it through what he have ok.

[Mónica]: But that’s enough.

[Claudia]: But that’s enough. I would not do it again.

[Mónica]: So, ok, we love you, all of you.

[Claudia]: Exactly, we love you [kisses].

[Luis Fernando]: And when I asked them how they felt when they recorded the video, Mónica told me.

[Mónica]: I’m not going to tell you how I was before or after the video. I’m keeping that to myself.

[Luis Fernando]: I was surprised that she answered almost all of my questions, but not that one. I interpreted it like this: it was hard and maybe that was one of the most complicated moments.

With the video recorded, waiting to get signal and send the video at some point, they decided to keep looking for a way out.

[Claudia]: It seemed to us that the solution to the problem was downhill. But, well, we found more cliffs and had to go back up. The journey uphill was very complicated because we went down on our butts, but going up we had to climb, and we helped each other as best we could. We found vines. We always found something to help us, and we were tired we rested.

[Luis Fernando]: Hours and hours walking.

[Mónica]: And I ended up more injured than my sister… my sister because it was like I was taking the lead going up and going down. So, I was getting hit with all the sticks, all the rocks. I was sort of clearing the way for my sister, you know?

[Luis Fernando]: While they looked for the exit, Mónica says that both of them started having hallucinations.

[Mónica]: Oh, you have no idea, it was everything. We saw people. We saw cows. We saw horses, uh… we saw butterflies, everything. Then I said to my sister. Look down there, and we saw cows, horses, people. And I say, “Clau, there it is. And we started shouting like crazy.

[Luis Fernando]: Claudia also saw some sort of wooden structure and a path that led to a staircase. But Claudia told Mónica to close and open her eyes.

[Mónica]: And I closed my eyes, I opened them, and there was nothing there.

[Luis Fernando]: It was a huge disappointment.

[Mónica]: And then I saw things again, and I told my sister. “I’m not closing them this time.”

[Luis Fernando]: She would rather keep on imagining that there was something there.

Hours went by, and again it started getting dark. By then they had been in the woods for 30 hours. They were running out of water, so they decided to find a flat area where they could spend the night. They found a place where there was a burnt log that had smoke coming off of it but wasn’t very hot.

[Claudia]: And we looked for leaves to lay on, and we had a bag, some nylon bags, so we could stay a little bit warmer.

[Luis Fernando]: In those days, the temperature at night was between 10 and 14 degrees [~50-60 degrees Fahrenheit].

[Claudia]: So we got close, we laid down there and that day we were tired so we were able to sleep.

[Luis Fernando]: Tuesday morning came, and they continued their search for the exit with the energy they had left. That night, Mónica had seen lights hanging below, they decided to go in that direction, but they found another ravine that was about two meters high. It was very dangerous to jump down. For a few moments they were silent, and their spirits were low. By the afternoon, they ran out of water. 

[Mónica]: We had started collecting our urine. Because if we freaking had to be there, we didn’t have any more water.

At one point I said to my sister: “Goddammit, I don’t want to die here.” Then I said: “But I’ve got balls; I’m going to get out of here and keep busting my kids’ balls.” That’s how I said it.

[Luis Fernando]: Claudia, as per usual, retreated into silence. By that time, both of them…

[Claudia]: We put ourselves in God’s hands. We said: “This is happening for a reason. Whatever it is… do as You will.” We accepted whatever was going to happen, and we took comfort in that.

[Luis Fernando]: By Tuesday morning, they had already spent 48 hours in the forest. Their exhaustion was too much to bear. So they decided to go back to the smoking log where they had slept the night before.

[Claudia]: And we decided to build a small shelter because we found some… some pieces of a huge log that was falling apart.

[Mónica]: We had made a lovely shelter with logs, with all the walls covered in vines. We had made a little roof with tree bark. It was divine. We laid down there because it was already getting dark, and the time when it starts getting dark is a real low point because you know that you have hours of total darkness ahead of you, you know?

[Claudia]: We took each other by the hands and said: “Alright, God’s will be done. And we’re going to keep going, we’re going to rest and then we’re going to keep going.

[Luis Fernando]: A few minutes passed, and…

[Mónica]: Mi hermana roncaba como la mejor, este, porque ella la deja parada[PM2] . Go a second without talking to her, and my sister’s asleep.

[Luis Fernando]: Mónica, meanwhile, tossed and turned. Her knees hurt so she decided to leave the shelter to move a little and see if that made her tired. That was when she saw two lights moving rhythmically in the distance.

[Mónica]: Then I said: “Those are two people walking.”

[Claudia]: And she starts shouting: “Help!” I was asleep. She starts shouting: “Help!” And I hear her call for help, and I start shouting with her.

[Mónica]: She started shouting: “Help, help, help!” And I said, Stop, I can’t hear.” Because I thought I heard a man’s voice. But since we had had hallucinations during the day on Monday, I said: “I’m imagining it.” So, I asked her to be quiet. We didn’t hear anything. I could still see flashlights.

[Luis Fernando]: They were flashlights, but the weak ones that come on cellphones. Claudia saw them too.

[Mónica]: Then I started shouted again: “Are you there?”

[Claudia]: And they say, “Yes, we’re here. It’s ok, we’re looking for you.”

[Mónica]: And when I heard “yes,” well, that’s when we grabbed onto each other and hugged each other. We… we started to cry.

[Claudia]: “We’re up here! We’re up here!” we shouted, and hugged each other, and found ourselves overcome with emotion. And It was like an explosion of joy and tears.

[Luis Fernando]: It was completely dark, so they just saw the two lights of the cell phones. Later they would realize that it was a business manager for the Hertz auto rental agency, two locals, and a police officer.

[Mónica]: But they couldn’t find us because they were looking on the part of the hill below the gorge, not above it. And we didn’t have any way to shine a light so they could find us. So, I said to them, I shouted: “All the way up! Up, up! Look high up, at the end of the…” I didn’t know how else to explain it to them.

[Luis Fernando]: Until they finally managed to locate them. It took them about an hour to get to where they were.

[Mónica]: The longest hour of my life. They weren’t going to make it. And I spoke to them every so often because I was so afraid that either I was imagining them or that they would change their mind because they couldn’t pass, and they would turn around. But well, no, luckily, they made it.

[Federico Gómez]: I saw the fortitude of the two of them, and that’s when I said: “That’s crazy. Two women lost, with no light, with nothing.” And that was it, all I could manage was to hug them.

[Luis Fernando]: This is Federico Gómez, one of the people who found them. He had been looking for them for about three or four hours.

[Federico]: And that was the most amazing moment of my life because I felt that starting at that moment, everything changed. For the first time, I felt like my life was good for something. And that’s it, the truth is it was a tremendous feeling.

[Luis Fernando]: Federico works at Hertz, the company where Claudia and Mónica rented the car. The sisters’ families told the company they had both been missing since Sunday. This is thanks to the fact that Mónica had sent a photo of the car’s license plate to her kids.

[Mónica]: The thing is I always send them pictures, but I had never sent them a picture of the license plate before. Never.

[Luis Fernando]: Federico lives and works in Salta, a province near Tucumán, but the news of the women’s disappearance made its way through the whole company that Sunday. That was how Federico found out. On Tuesday, the day they found Claudia and Mónica, Federico had traveled to Tucumán to lead a training and he took advantage of the fact he was there to join the search. By that time, the news that they had disappeared had already made the rounds on local TV channels.

[Federico]: We started the search more or less guided by the last cell signal one of the relatives had detected via a Google account.

[Luis Fernando]: The location of that signal was on a farm. Federico and the Hertz manager asked a police officer to take them there. 

[Federico]: When we got there… the farm, they weren’t there, of course. We didn’t find anything. And then, honestly, the situation became much more troubling because there was nothing. There was no phone. There wasn’t even the car. We… we imagined the worst. Including the possibility that they… had fallen off a cliff.

[Luis Fernando]: Around six in the afternoon, they decided to walk the length of a tourist hiking trail near the farm. It’s called Chico Trail and it connects Raco to San Javier Hill. Along the way, they found the car Claudia and Mónica had rented.

[Federico]: We started shouting Mónica’s name and just hearing a cry for help from the other side… That was it. We got on the path, which was a small trail off of a hiking trail in las Yungas, hoping they were alive, basically. Honestly, that was the feeling. And that was it, we got going without having any idea… without knowing where we were. 

[Luis Fernando]: Federico went in with two locals who were helping with the search. They couldn’t find them, despite their calls for help, so they went back to the trailhead. They notified the police, the fire department, and the park rangers, and they went in again with a better sense of what the terrain was like. This time, they could find them.

[Claudia]: We were dehydrated, yes, but still had enough energy to work with them. And we were badly injured. Our skin… yes, our skin, I mean, sliding on the ground, trying to climb, trying to get a good grip so we didn’t fall any way we could. Yes, yes. Mónica’s shoulder is very injured.

[Luis Fernando]: They still had to get out of there, so Federico…

[Federico]: I started working from every angle I knew. I knew it was one of the women’s granddaughter’s birthday that day. I knew her son was in Tucumán. So started encouraging them with that: “Look, we need to get down. Your son is here.” Like that. He knows you’re ok. You have to give him a hug. Eh, Mónica, you have to call your granddaughter to say hi to her. Look, it’s her birthday today, you always talk to her on her birthday.” And, well I started motivating them and motivating them.

[Luis Fernando]: When they go down from the part of the hill they were on, they were met with firefighters who gave them water and caramels to raise their blood sugar.

Mónica’s son was waiting for them at the exit. He had traveled to Tucumán to look for his mom.

[Mónica]: Even though the firefighters, and the doctors too, told him not to come to me so I wouldn’t have a strong emotional reaction when I saw him, I pushed almost everyone out of the way, I went, and I hugged him. That was what I needed.

[Federico]: It was a very emotional reunion. A hug that never ended. It’s like, you know, when you don’t want to let go of that person. Como decir que no pasaba esa noche, [PM3] because they were saying: I don’t think we would have made it through the night.

[Luis Fernando]: Speaking with the daughters, I thought something similar. That they wouldn’t be able to take one more night. And that maybe, a single night would have been too much for one or the other. They made it, and maybe the key was that they were together.

When they got to the apartment they had rented, Mónica charged her phone, and the video was sent. The family shared it with the people who helped with the rescue, and they shared it with more people. It went viral.

[Mónica]: I never imagined in my life that so many people would see a video that was just for my kids, just for my kids.

[Luis Fernando]: But because of that video, they became somewhat famous. And they appeared on radio and TV programs.


[Presenter 1]: We’re going to speak with these two women who traveled to Tucumán and who went through an odyssey that luckily, they’re able to tell us about.

[Presenter 2]:  The women who got lost in Tucumán are with you, Roberto? You saw them? You hugged them?

[Presenter 3] The question is: in this video you don’t see two poor women who are lost in the woods. It was like they were having a great time.

[Mónica]: My son told me: “Mom, enjoy all of this because this is your moment.” And honestly, I enjoyed it to death. I had so much fun. I had a blast. Afterwards, of course. In the moment, no.

[Luis Fernando]: And they left the woods remembering…

[Mónica]: Life is what matters. Family is. And there’s… there’s no reason that justifies being angry, or not being in touch, or anything. Nothing. Because we’re here today, and tomorrow, we don’t know. It’s valuing that. It’s the present. Today, I tell you I love you, and I tell you I care about you, and I kiss you all over. That’s today.  Tomorrow, I don’t know.

[Daniel]: Luis Fernando is an editor with Radio Ambulante. He lives in San José, Costa Rica.

This episode was edited by Camila Segura and me. The music and sound design are by Andrés Azpiri and Rémy Lozano. Andrea López Cruzado did the fact-checking.

Special thanks to Florencia Flores of Tristana Producciones for her help on this story.

The rest of the Radio Ambulante team includes Lisette Arévalo, Gabriela Brenes, Jorge Caraballo, Victoria Estrada, Miranda Mazariegos, Patrick Moseley, Laura Rojas Aponte, Barbara Sawhill, Luis Trelles, David Trujillo, and Elsa Liliana Ulloa. Carolina Guerrero is the CEO.

Radio Ambulante is a podcast by Radio Ambulante Estudios, and it’s produced and mixed on the program Hindenburg PRO.

The Radio Ambulante Podcast club is a private group on Facebook where listeners of Radio Ambulante from all over the world meet to talk about episodes and share additional information about the stories. It’s one of our favorite corners of the internet. Look for it on Facebook under “Club de Podcast Radio Ambulante” to join. We’re waiting there for you.

Radio Ambulante tells the stories of Latin America. I’m Daniel Alarcón. Thanks for listening.


Luis Fernando Vargas

Camila Segura and Daniel Alarcón

Andrés Azpiri

Rémy Lozano

Andrea López-Cruzado

Regina Rivas