Two US students that had become lost in the wintery New Zealand wilderness for 9 days were able to walk out on thier own after bumping into rescuers on a road.
Both Alec Brown and Erica Klintworth were a part of a foreign study program, from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, that had gone to Christchurch.
The 21-year-olds decided to go on a hiking and camping trip that was to last just a few days at a national park on the South Island’s West Coast. However, during the trip that started June 1st, they became trapped when heavy rains and then a snow storm made it impossible to cross back over a river they needed too, in order to make it back home.
In the Sothern Hemisphere, the seasons are the opposite of what they are in the Northern, so as summer begins in the North, Winter is beginning in the South.
“Unfortunately it rained and rained, day after day, and snowed,” Alec Brown wrote in an email to The Associated Press Monday.
Knowing they were going to be stuck in the wilderness for a while, the two began to ration what little supplies they had left in order to survive as long as possible. Brown said they ate a biscuit, and some jelly a day and sometimes less. He said at night rain, and sleet would pound down on their tent, coupled with the roaring river, it would keep them from getting any sleep.
The couple didn’t take much food — some carrots, rice, peanut butter and trail mix, according to Police Sgt. Sean Judd, who coordinated rescue attempts. He said that after three days, a steady rain started.
“Then on Wednesday the snowstorm hit and it got progressively worse,” Judd said.
Brown added that nearby hot springs provided warmth, by soaking themselves in the warm waters when they began to get cold.
Eventually, the river began to calm down and this past Sunday the two made a decision that it was safe enough to try and cross. “We then left and crossed the icy waters only up to our waist,” Brown said. “We were climbing the mountains under the dense tree cover when we first heard the helicopter we assumed was looking for us. The copter never saw us and we walked out just fine and met up with the search and rescue by the road.”
Brown later said he relied on past hiking and camping trip experiences to keep the couple alive, though he said next time he will make sure he is a little more prepared.
“I believe when you go into the bush you take your life into your own hands and need to be prepared to handle whatever conditions occur,” he said. “We could have been more prepared, but in the end, we were prepared enough to walk ourselves out.”