Lost Melinda!!!January 14, 2018 in Chile ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C
It was starting to get a bit chilly in the shadows so Maria and I sat in the sun waiting for the rest to return. At 6:30 pm, Melinda still hadn't returned so we started getting a bit worried. We didn't know how long she wanted to sit alone at the lake where we had left her but 30 min felt like a good time for her to join us. Around this time, the park ranger's jeep went in to check for vehicles inside since they were were closing at 7 pm. After that one could walk out but the vehicles would not be able to cross the barrier. We decided to wait for the jeep to come back and if Melinda still didn't return, I would take a lift till Laguna Verde on the jeep and try and trace the 4 km path to the entrance from there.
Just a few minutes before 7 pm, the park ranger came back. I tried to explain to them our situation and that I would need a lift in the jeep till Laguna Verde to find Melinda. Luckily, one of them understood a little English and with a mix of my broken Spanish, we managed to understand each other. At this moment, Hristo came back from his trek. He had not seen Melinda on the way, so basically, from Laguna Verde to the entrance, was eliminated since if Melinda was in that section, he would have seen her.
We decided that Maria would stay near the park entrance and charge her phone in the office (they were still open for a few more minutes and Maria's phone had run out of power) and send a message to me if Melinda would return. Hristo too had run out of power on his phone as well as on his power bank so he left his phone there. Hristo and I took a lift till Laguna Verde and instead of coming back to the entrance, we decided that I would trek back to the lake Los Mallines where we had last seen Melinda and Hristo, since he had trekked 8 kms extra on a very steep section, would instead drive with the ranger to a road point near the lake and start walking from there. That way we could eliminate another section if we didn't find her.
We proceeded as per plan and unfortunately met each other in the middle of the trail with still no sign of Melinda. We had continued to call out her name while we were walking but had not heard anything. It was getting quite late, and the sun was a few minutes from setting. Inside the forest, it was already quite dark and with pumas on the prowl, we were getting quite worried now. The park rangers didn't seem to care much though, they had just dropped Hristo and had gone back and left us on our own. We sorted out another section of the trail and decided to split up along 2 parallel trails going further back and wait for each other where they met. That way we would eliminate another section of the trail. In the meantime, at every crossing I had passed, I continued marking arrows towards the entrance, just in case she came there from a different direction, hopefully sje would notice them and know where to go.
Hristo and I walked towards the place where the trails split. It was just at this moment, I got data for a brief moment and got the message from Maria telling that Melinda had reached the entrance.
We immediately dropped off our search and looked up the shortest way to the entrance. We were still about 5 kms away so I messaged back that we would take an hour to reach back and then started our long and slow walk back to the entrance. By the time we reached the entrance, it was past 9 pm and the sun had already gone below the horizon. Hristo had already walked about 38 kms and I about 30 kms so we stopped at the entrance for a while to recover a bit and figure out what had happened.
Eventually, after checking out all the details etc, we figured that Melinda after stopping at the lake for about 10 min started her walk but instead of walking towards the entrance had immediately turned back along the path where we had come from. Then she had reached the junction where Hristo had gone up the hill and thinking that was the route to the park entrance had climbed the hill, then figured something was wrong since she didn't see any of us had turned back ans retraced her steps back to the entrance. This was why Hristo too had not seen her on his way down since she never went to the 2nd half of the trail. After a few minutes, we trudged our way back to Coyhaique, extremely tired but very happy that everyone was fine. It had been a worrying experience and the lessons learnt were for all of us to have an offline copy of the maps and if any of us didn't know how to read the maps then never lose sight of the others. To have our phones and power banks fully charged on the night before the treks. These came in quite handy later in the trip as well.Read more