A Near-Death Experience: Todd’s Dispatch from Colombia
While filming Dangerous Grounds in Colombia in search of their best coffee beans, our intrepid travel host Todd Carmichael had a close call when his Jeep rolled off of a cliff. Thankfully, he survived with barely a scratch. Read Todd’s firsthand account of surviving Colombia’s dangerous mountain roads.
Today it was a tree that changed everything.
The roads – if they can be called that – leading up the Sierra Nevada Mountains (North Colombia) are ones for the books: steep, deeply rutted, muddy, criss-crossed by rivers and carved in the side of the mountains. If you fear heights, then you fear these roads. This goes triple for the one leading up from the Villedupur side.
Coming down from 8,000 feet on that road, I was sure we had enough time to crawl the rig down to a cleaner one by nightfall – but the gods of the mountain were not on our side. Rain clouds rolled in and split open, dropping flash flood rains hours into the trip. Within minutes the truck sat paralyzed in deep mud, high centered in a ditch. Hollywood (my cameraman) and I sat for some time, considering our fate. But within a few hours the rain stopped, and as night fell, the road seemed dry enough to travel. Re-engergized we dug the truck out with our hands as a dense fog rolled in. Unable to see the road, Hollywood walked ahead with a light, wearing a bright yellow slicker as I hung my head out the window, inching down the mountain. Digging the truck out a half dozen times, we were both covered in mud, but by 2:00 AM, we both thought we were out of the weeds. The fog cleared, Hollywood jumped in and we began to make distance, that is, until on one hairpin turn the road crumbled away, and took the truck with it.
Time slowed as we rolled off the mountain, and with every nanosecond another idea flashed through my mind. I remember seeing Hollywood below me in the dark as I fell toward him, debris floated as if gravity had been lifted, but then, the world shifted and he fell toward me, his arms twisted oddly behind him. I waited for the first of my bones to snap and wondered which one it would be. The wait was endless – but instead of a bone cracking, I heard the crack of trees — trees, as it turns out, that saved our lives. The truck came to a stop on its top, well below the road, but hundreds of feet above the gorge below.
The feeling is pure and wonderful at times like these; life and friends and family and the wonder of it all rings the clearest. Sure, we had to hike out in the darkness on a road not known for its hospitality, but the trees had stopped our fall, life was clear and I had Hollywood to talk to. We were both fine.
Catch Todd on Dangerous Grounds Tuesdays at 9|8c!