12 weeks later,
A thousand questions, one to be answered. What happened?
On 2 May we crossed the border between Chile and Argentina via Paso de San Fransisco and then had a break in Fiambala, Argentina, at the hot springs.
On 4 May we drove to Tinogasta, the goal was the Ruta 40, then North. Our next big goal would have been Bolivia because we had missed going there earlier due to the rainy season.
A few days earlier we discussed the route and opted for a shorter access road from Tinogasta to the Ruta 40.
At the entrance of Tinogasta, in Catamarca province from the west, on the left is a trail into the Serra de Zapata. This trail climbs a small ridge and then hits the Route 40.
This track is a Category 2 and was also used by the Dakar Rally. The way through the Serra is absolutely no problem, when it is dry. Then the track moves to the right hand side into the mountains. It is an ancient Inca Trail, the north-south route to Cusco.
The trail in the mountains is quite narrow and winding, but not a problem for us. We had crossed quite a lot of Andean passes and were very experienced with these kinds of trails.
The Cuesta de Zapata, a canyon, is a typical pass, on one side a slope on the other a mountain. The right side of the vehicle was the mountain side, there was an edge in the rock wall and Ingrid said, stop for a moment, “I’m not sure if we can pass with the top construction.”
Since I could not get out with the canyon on the left hand side and no space to walk, Ingrid got out to instruct me. She said, no problem, 1 meter backwards and 1 centimeter to the left, then it’ll work.
Sweetie stood about 15 meters in front of Arminius, facing me. As I changed gear I had a quick look downwards, to make sure I got the lowest gear.
At that moment as I looked to the front again, I died inside.
I saw Ingrid at that very moment falling off the road edge into the canyon. Going backwards she did not realize how close she was to the abyss.
Coordinates of the accident site S 27° 53’ 38.3” W 067° 22’ 18.3”
She fell 50m deep, vertically, and ended up lying on a ledge. This shit canyon is about 200m deep.
I lowered myself to her, she was still alive. I think she had waited for me with all her might and then died in my arms. In this nightmare, I thank God for this 1 minute of clearly saying “Good-bye”.
At 4:05pm our world ceased to exist, there is no US anymore, and I do not exist anymore, I became someone different.
Then something very emotional happened, Ingrid took control. At that moment I started to work.
We were in complete solitude and at such times you need help. But since there was no one, I realised what Ingrid would have done now. I accepted her help 100%. Today I know that Jörg was incapacitated at this very moment
Thank you my darling, for your assistance, you are the stronger one!
I was technically not able to recover her. Therefore I climbed back up again. Standing back up on the edge a decision was needed. I wanted nothing more than to be with her. This is still true today. But I have chosen to live.
Now it was very hard. I had to leave Ingrid behind to get help. I felt like a deserter who leaves his comrades alone in a hail of bullets.
I drove to the police station in Tinogasta and tried to explain the situation. First of all they put me under investigation but finally sent a rescue team. The whole team of the police and fire departments were very helpful. Thank you very much.
At this point I would like to thank Marcella and Monique, two young women from this region. Both speak fluent English and made it possible for me to keep my promise within 1 week. I promised Ingrid to take her home.
17 long hours we drove in an ambulance to Buenos Aires while I was sitting next to Ingrid’s coffin. Most of it during night as there was no cooling system.
This idea was pure horror at the beginning. Today I have to say that I’m infinitely grateful for these hours. We had enough time to say “Good-bye” to each other. There were so many things to say which make it nowadays easier for me to live.
We flew together to Germany with Lufthansa on 10 May 2012 4:40pm.
Ingrid and I loved to be at airports. It always meant adventure or new projects. Now I sat at the gate and watched the workers loading the wooden box into the hold. This was the shittiest departure ever.
I also want to pass on my thank you to the crew of flight LH511, very sensitive young people.
We arrived 11 May in Frankfurt, the moment I stopped functioning at all. My family was there. On 25 May 2012 I said good-bye to the love of my life.
At this point it is the same with writing or in reality. I do not know what to do. Somehow something has ended, that shouldn’t have an end.
My mind acknowledges a single event that can be understood.
My soul does not accept this event.
I miss Ingrid every day, every day a bit more. We were together for 15 years, 24/7. Each door I’m opening is “Ingrid”. It takes infinite energy to endure this; on the other hand these memories are a treasure and are very comforting. I hope there is a time where these memories do not hurt so much, then life will go on.
She is the greatest happiness in my life. We were a perfect team. She has given me the most beautiful, most exciting and happiest 22 years of my life. Thank you Sweetie!
In our lives there were no “would haves”, no, we “have” and this to the fullest.
Yesterday I read in a very nice book (thanks Silvia), the only preparation for death is to really live. There is nothing more to say.
The tremendous wishes of condolence, especially by internet, changed the unbearable pain into tears and therefore removed the load from my soul. Guys, thank you a lot for this. You have helped me through the darkest moments.
When I think of myself, I have no idea how life will go on. I had to read a few books and had a few talks, to make sure that I am not insane.
This experience is so deep. You are confronted with feelings, you do not know. What I can say, without criticizing anyone, only people with the same fate can somehow nearly understand you. To meet these people is a blessing, thank you Birgit. Otherwise it feels like to be on the ocean and slowly dying of thirst.
I started work as a harvester which helps to have a break regarding my thoughts and to alleviate the distress. I am also surprised that the world continues to turn. This is so unfair and yet it is immensely reassuring.
The next big fight coming up is to bring the third team member back home, Arminius is still missing. At the moment I am not able to do this, these are 7.5 tons of pure emotion. Maybe time is helping here also a bit.
The pictures are back in the Gallery, for everyone to see. Please enjoy them on the website.
Every now and then I will let you know about my movements.
I also will try to answer as many emails as possible.
Please think of us from time to time, only those who are not remembered are really dead.
Very deep thanks to Malcolm, who has this written shortly after Ingrid's death.
On the Passing of Ingrid
May 4, 2012 4:00 pm
The World we have lived in is infinitely virtuous,
awesome, far beyond any sensory saturation,
When we are saved from a brink we thank
our lucky stars,
our guardian angels.
We use adrenaline charged words like
Can any of us be aware of every brink?
I began to see her more clearly once,
she told me
that she never felt more alive
than when she trekked the barren wilderness
the Red Sea and the Nile.
I think of her now
since that is what is left to the living.
I imagine the multitude of women through the ages
who have passed through great difficulty and distance
out of fear or need
rather than living through a cherished life
of great adventure and beauty.
Think of the billions who choose the safe interior
because the outside has always been so dangerous.
When I place the gravity of Ingrid’s love of the awesome
and her fearless life spent in pursuit of what her world could be,
against all those weary lives used up in quiet desperation,
she could easily be the guiding angel in their most transcendent dreams
and her one misstep
Malcolm Graeme Childers Palisade, Colorado, May 7, 2012