Stray dog saves life of Welsh explorer lost in Andes after fall

  • Video report from ITV Wales' Dean Thomas Welch

A Swansea explorer walking across the Andes says a stray dog who followed him saved his life after he fell down a gorge.

Navigating seven countries, Oliver Treviso is walking 8,000 miles across one of the world's highest mountain ranges to raise money for charity.

The 28-year-old told ITV Wales that hundreds of miles from civilisation he was approached by a stray dog.

Despite several attempts to lose the company of the dog, Oliver says the four-legged friend, he’d later name ‘Sandy’, refused to leave his side.

Oliver has previously walked from Lands' End to John O'Groats for charity Credit: Oliver Treviso

“On the first day of my hike into Chile a dog started following me,” Oliver told ITV Wales. 

“Four days in, after I had scaled glaciers and waded through rivers waist-high, he was still there.

“We got to two and a half thousand metres and I hadn’t seen anyone in days, so I ended up calling him ‘Sandy’.” 

Oliver’s trek from Argentina to Chile was going as planned until he lost his footing at the side of a gorge.

It was at this moment the explorer from St Thomas feared his life was in danger.

“I was coming down a side of a mountain and the terrain was steep, there were gorges everywhere. I lost my footing and I was left hanging onto a boulder with my pole jammed into the ground.

“I’ve never been so scared in my life. The boulder gave way and my head smashed against a rock in a stream at the bottom of the gorge. I remember Sandy was looking down and going nuts.

"I began to panic as I was four days away from help from the north and south.

“I tried pushing on but I was looking at my GPS and I was miles away from where I was supposed to be. I was concussed and I was delirious.”

Travelling in the wrong direction and running out of supplies Oliver recalls deciding to follow Sandy, rather than trying to decipher his GPS. It was his last hope at reaching help. 

“There was a hospital 60 kilometres away, but I was 2,000 metres up. Time was getting on and I was flapping, thinking I’m really on my own. I followed Sandy and he kept finding the paths for me, it took us hours to get back, but he led the way.

“It’s bizarre that he was still there, it was reassuring to have him barking when I fell.

“Eventually, we got to a town, it was dark and I was wrecked. I’d lost so much weight and my clothes were ripped to shreds. Sandy was brilliant, he was still dancing around, and I was dreading having to leave him. The next day I was taken into the city and we parted ways.

“I still think about him, I wish I could have taken him. He saved my life, he was much more use than my GPS.”

Oliver recalls deciding to follow Sandy, rather than his GPS. Credit: Oliver Treviso

Oliver is currently recuperating in Argentina while he recovers from his head injury and a chipped bone in his ankle. 

However, he plans to set off again in the coming days as he aims to raise money for Mind Ystragunlais. 

Travelling through seven countries, Oliver is carrying only a change of clothes, minimal supplies and a tent to sleep in.

He’s already walked the length of Wales and the UK, as well as sailing across the Atlantic Ocean raising funds for numerous charities. 

Oliver is trekking from Argentina to Chile. Credit: Oliver Treviso

Now he wants the money from this exploration to help other people suffering from mental health challenges to experience the benefits of being active outdoors.

“I’ve struggled myself in the past,” Oliver admits. 

“Being outside and communicating with strangers has helped me so much, and I believe in it. It’s the reason I get out of my tent every morning.

“Mind Ystragunlais is a very small branch of the charity that was recently on the brink of collapse, so I’m raising money to help them survive.” 

Oliver is facing more dangerous legs of his Andes trek and is keen to receive support in the form of food, kit and guides when he reaches Peru.

His friend has also flown out to accompany him on the rest of the challenge.

As for Sandy, “I’d love to go back and get him one day.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know…