More than a dozen people disappeared including five children after going on it, a spiritual leader who says she could organize a meeting with God or the Virgin Mary for them because the world was about to come to an end.
Rosa Garcia, 57, is told to have initially persuaded as many as 40 people in the Tachira town of La Grita to join on her trip to Juan Pablo Penaloza National Park on August 22, according to La Nacion newspaper.
Authorities in Venezuela are looking for a group that allegedly went on a 'spiritual journey in the Andes mountains.
García allegedly told the group that they would be having a spiritual encounter with God or the Virgin Mary at an unknown site in the park that is located along the border of the western states of Tachira and Merida.
According to the relatives of missing persons, there has been no contact with these persons since August 22 and no message has been received from them.
A local administration official said that the number of missing people could be between 16 and 20, but according to local media, it's more than 20.
Drones and dogs are also being used to search for missing persons in mountainous areas.
Neighbors of the missing persons told the local newspaper "La Nacion" that they had taken food and camping equipment and set off for the mountains, saying they were going on a four-day "spiritual journey".
Approximately 160 members of law enforcement agencies and search and rescue teams are working together to find the group, including the spiritual leader. They disappeared on August 22.
Some of the people dropped left the group when García began behaving erratically, La Nacion reported.
García told the group that they could no longer worship the Holy Christ of La Grita, that they were not to look the Virgin Mary in the eyes, and that they were to discard their cellular phones.
Authorities told Wednesday that nine of the people missing are from the same family and that the group is traveling in two vehicles.
On Monday, authorities discovered an abandoned farm where some of the people who are still unaccounted for discarded several clothing items and left food behind.
Locals told García dropped out of a neighborhood prayer group and formed her own, called 'Following Jesus.' The group would continually get together to hold prayer sessions for people battling illnesses.
Others recalled that García's group 'switched from a religious practice to fanaticism' and noticed that group members 'spent their time beating their chests' while promoting their religious ideas.
Since March , none of the group members were allowed to watch television and had to start praying at 3 am every day, digital news outlet Impacto Venezuela reported. Women were also urged not to do their hair and could not show their faces when they left their homes.
During a mass held Sunday at the La Grita Minor Basilica of the Holy Spirit, Father Jesús Mora warned the congregation to be aware of people like García who could do more harm than good.
'You have to be afraid of fanatics because a fanatic can do a lot of damage,' Mora said. 'God doesn't want us to be fanatics.'
Garcia is not married and has operated her station in a food stand owned by his sister Teresa Garcia - one of her 13 siblings.
She allegedly was able to influence Teresa to join the retreat along with her husband, two children, son-in-law, and grandson.