born 1873 – died 1945
It was bitterly cold, and in the dark of the night the weirdest images flickered through my feverish imagination.
In his diary “Von Valparaiso nach Buenos Aires”, the author describes his experiences crossing the Andes in August 1902 on foot, on horseback and with mules. It was winter in the Andes.
As an independent merchant, he’d gone on a business trip to Valparaiso and taken a steamer around Cape Horn – the southernmost tip of South America. But his business affairs look longer than expected, and his proposed return journey was delayed.
To avoid a three-week wait for the next steamer, he took the overland route from Valparaiso to Buenos Aires. That meant crossing the Andes – a 150 kilometre trek at heights of more than 4,000 metres – and then completing his journey by train. That’s equivalent to a 93 mile trek at over 13,000 feet.
Ignoring all the warnings, he risked a race against time despite armed gangs of robbers, the cold, snow, and physical and mental exhaustion – and ultimately reached his goal.
By European standards this is hardly a leisurely walk in the park – that’s probably beyond dispute. The situation actually became even more alarming when, in place of peaceful countryside folk, less and less trustworthy-looking individuals appeared and shot us sullen, threatening looks as we departed.
As we reached the heights, we soon came across quite large numbers of gangs consisting of part-Indians and dishonest Chilean riff-raff. At first, they were surprised to see our cart rolling along at great speed. But then they set about coming up with a plan to block our way, or prepare a barrier, so we might fall victim to them all the more easily.
We saw one such gang spread out, with individual figures leaping from rock to rock like mountain goats in an attempt to overtake us. Their gestures, the glint of their weapons and their numbers, which were far in excess of our own, increased our sense of unease – all the more so, since nobody on our side had weapons of any kind.
All depictions: © Gerhard Seitz, Das Deutsche Tagebucharchiv e.V.