I closed my eyes, the sun shinning on my face. “I’m dead,” I thought. My whole body was shaking, still shocked after sliding downhill over 90 feet. My left foot was broken and my ass was frying on the hot sand and salt crystals of the hill I was sitting on. I was in the middle of the desert, two miles away from the nearest town and at least one mile from the road; still just half way down the hill, with a thousand feet to go to get to the ground. I was pretty much fucked.
I had come to San Pedro de Atacama to die. I mean spiritually, not literally. Being suicidal wasn’t one of my issues. I had enough already with my shit career going nowhere, my heart hurting after a bad break up and my sex life on hold, because I was failing miserably to get with the girl I wanted. I needed a change.
Got to town looking for some sort of enlightenment, a sign from the Universe, God or whoever that could tell me what the fuck to do with my life. Instead of that, I just got bored. So bored that I decided, the next morning, to go for a little walk in the desert. It was 11 in the morning, already 30 °C under the sun.
Should have know better. It was very obvious that climbing that hill, all alone and with no enough climbing experience, was reckless. Yet there I was, half hour later, about 500 meters -1600 feet- high, looking down to the sandy void around me. The view was stunning, but the heat at that time was too much. I had to go down.
It happened very fast, but felt so slow at the same time. While I was going down the hill, the terrain -basically dirt with salt crystals sticking out- yielded to my weight and I started sliding downhill. I held onto the scratching surface with all my strength, knowingly, even in my desperation, that rolling would have meant dying. Then I felt it, just when I had a free fall for a second. My left foot crashed against a rock and broke. Luckily, the pain was diminished by the adrenaline.
When I finally stopped falling, the blinding dust and deafening sound of rocks falling on and around me, gave way to absolute silence, where I could only hear my moans and my heavy breathing. I tried to stand up, but the pain on my foot was too intense. I sat and closed my eyes. I felt hopeless. Doomed. Dead.
“Spiritual journey my ass.”
Then, a realization: I couldn’t go like that! I thought about my family, my friends and that girl that wouldn’t date me, no matter how hard I tried. “Fuck this shit! This motherfuking hill is not gonna defeat me!” I said out loud. I refused to accept that was the end.
I couldn’t walk, but I crawled, sitting on the burning ground, scratching my ass and tearing my shorts on the pointy salt crystals of the surface. Finally on the ground, at the foot of the hill, my mobile phone got some signal. I called Emergency, feeling safe at last. I wasn’t, not yet.
I spent over 2 hours under the burning sun of the Atacama desert, while the Emergency people was trying to find me. No shade, almost no water left. Only a light jacket to cover from the merciless rays and the 40 °C thermal sensation of the afternoon.
By the time the rescue team finally found me, I felt I was born again. And, as a new born child, I didn’t care my scratched ass was exposed through my ripped shorts. I was even laughing and cracking jokes while they moved me on a litter to the ambulance. I was safe.
My life changed, yes, but not at all of how I expected. Didn’t get a mystical revelation nor a sense of purpose. Got instead a big hospital bill, eight steel screws inside my foot, plus two months crippled and unable to walk. Although, there’s a bright side to the story. All the good things that happened to me afterwards were only possible because of that fall. And, as bullshit as this sounds, if that was the price to pay for my current life, I’d do it all over again. Sort of.