A Guest Post By Monica Nepo
In the South of Argentina where I grew up, I used to go on summer camps with my university. During an excursion with one of these camps, I had a brush with death …
I was hiking in a group of twenty students along the base of a mountain, traversing a narrow walkway that trailed the edge of a lake. In order to avoid falling into the water, twenty students and our guide hiked in single-file along the walkway, admiring the spectacular view.
It was a long walk, and our group stopped to rest intermittently. It was on one of these rests that we noticed a little while flag on a pole. Nobody in the group thought much of the flag — we assumed it had been left there by a previous hiker to mark an accomplishment of some sort.
But out guide knew something we didn’t. “Enough resting we have to keep going now,” he said, suddenly nervous.
The group started to complain, asking for a few more minutes to rest, but the leader became insistent: “No! Enough resting! We have to get out of here — now!”
Just as the guide began leading us back, we heard people screaming from afar in the direction of our group. “What the hell are you people doing?!” It was a worker yelling at us, and he was swearing and agitated. “Didn’t you see the white flag?! This mountain is about to be detonated!”
No signage. No warnings. Just a single white flag to mark a detonation zone. (This is typical in Argentina.)
People in my group began running — we were all in shock. When we were all a safe distance away, the workers made us sit down while they pushed down the detonator, exploding dynamite that had been planted to forge a new road.
The explosion was an amazing sight — it brought down the whole side of the mountain. Boulders and debris sprayed into the lake right in front of our eyes, showering the spot where our group had stopped to rest just moments before.
If the worker hadn’t come by to survey the area one more time before pressing the detonator, we would’ve been blown up with the rest of the mountain and pinned under boulders on the lake bed … forever.
Now, decades later, to think of that moment and how close I came to death still gives me escalofrios — chills.
“Death is terrifying because it is so ordinary. It happens all the time.” — Susan Cheever