A KIRKBYMOORSIDE man has died two weeks into a seven-week holiday-of-a-lifetime after being overcome by altitude sickness in the South American Andes.
Steve Mortimer, who lived in the town for more than 30 years, died at Machu Picchu in Peru on Monday, July 29, two-and-a-half weeks after he and his wife, Marion, set out on a trip that should have taken them across South America visiting Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil.
Steve, 68, and Marion – who met at sea when both were in the merchant navy – had been planning the trip for months and had talked about visiting Machu Picchu together for 30 years.
Marion, 59, has paid tribute to her husband as a “the kindest, most generous, fun-loving man”.
“You only had to be in his company for five minutes – he put everyone at their ease. He really was the life and soul of the party,” said Marion.
“We had the most amazing marriage, I am so lucky to have had him in my life.”
Steve had been feeling breathless for days before the visit to Machu Picchu, more than 2,000m above sea level. He collapsed and died in a bus queue waiting to visit the Inca site, after what the family think was a terrible reaction to the extreme altitude.
After her husband’s death, Marion was left stranded in Peru for more than a week as both their passports had accidentally gone through the hotel laundry.
She was turned away from the first flight she had booked to get home, and had to find emergency travel documents to replace her ruined passport, spending hours queueing in Peruvian immigration, before she could finally fly back to the UK on August 6.
She said: “It was horrendous, your worst nightmare.”
Marion has thanked the travelling companions on the trip who supported her, and daughter, Kathryn, who managed to organise her flights home.
“We were on an organised tour, and six young people in the same group cancelled the rest of their holidays to wait with me in Peru, so I wouldn't be alone,” she said.
A committal service was held in Scarborough on Friday. “El Condor Paso” by Peruvian Daniel Alomia Robles was played, as their tour had already taken them to Calco canyon to see Condor birds flying.
The family asked for donations to Living Heart Peru – a charity Steve had seen in action in Peru.
Steve, who had two older sons Jason, 45, and Daniel, 43, from a previous marriage, and a daughter, Kathryn, 23, with Marion, was a member of the merchant navy all his working life.
Originally from Hull, he joined at 16 and rose to be captain, before leaving and becoming a sea pilot in the Humber estuary and eventually retiring in 2011.
Since then Marion, who teaches at St Martin’s Ampleforth, and Steve have travelled the world visiting Indochina, China, Australia and much of North America.