The autobiographical novel by Nando Parrado, with Vince Rause, is nothing short of captivating. ’72 days on the mountain and my long trek home’. If you want to put things into perspective, if you’re lacking motivation, or if you’re feeling stuck in a rut and not entirely thrilled with life – with your life – then, this is the book for you. It will wake you up by slapping you in the face with the chilling, true story, of an amateur sports team’s ordeal, when their plane crashes in the freezing cold Andes mountains.
The book is very well written as Nando takes you on a journey from his carefree life in Montevideo, Argentina; where things were simple, happy, and warm. A place most people can probably relate to. The fact that the rugby team that Nando writes about, was made up of young men, some the age that my son is today, meant it was easy to visualise the people: the fun, the banter, and the joy. So much taken for granted as everything seemed to tick-by as it should, with no major up’s or down’s. Just another rugby tour, accompanied by friends and family. Then – to the frightening plane crash over the Andes, and all that followed. The heartbreak. The pain. The courage. The cold. The bitter cold. Honestly, I felt cold reading parts of the book. The writing is so honest and raw that you physically feel cold.
What is truly remarkable is the determination of Nando and many others, to survive, against incredible odds. What drove him to do what he did to save himself and his friends is a miracle – hence the name of the book. He scaled mountains without the necessary equipment or supplies. He and his good friend made it. They made it far enough down the mountain, to reach some farmers who were able to call for help. 72 days later. How they did it, nobody knows. To this day – the trek is regarded as impossible for anybody to have survived, without advanced equipment and experience. Nando did it in a pair of rugby togs.
He then writes about the reality of being saved. Returning home, to a life that would never be the same, but at the same time was very ‘normal’. Everybody going about their lives, as I guess all survivors do. Carrying memories and feelings that one cannot be fully appreciated by anybody who was not there. Nando writes so beautifully about every single person on that plane – those who survived and those who did not – with such respect and care. With love. With appreciation for what others did for him; with such humility.
Having had the opportunity to hear Nando talk live, and having met him and chatted with him – albeit briefly; what I can say about Nando Parrado is that he is a warm and gentle man. Very tall in stature, with kind eyes. The CEO of many successful businesses. A former international rugby player. A race car driver. A loving husband and father. Strikingly warm, gentle and humble. In complete contrast to what he endured in the Andes mountains as a young man, barely in his 20’s. An unwilling hero, primarily responsible for saving the remaining survivors through is determination (mad determination) to live. To live the life he’d dreamed of having. Nando’s lesson, after suffering such a cruel torment, is that the opposite of death is not life. It is love. Without love, nobody can draw meaning from anything – not from suffering, nor the joy.
“As we used to say in the mountains, “Breathe. Breathe again. With every breath, you are alive.” After all these years, this still the best advice I can give you: Savor your existence. Live every moment. Do not waste a breath.”
Book cover photo taken by Alison.