Lost British backpacker says he was 'total idiot'
ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA — A British teenager who was found dehydrated and freezing after 12 wintry days lost in Australia's wilderness said he wrote farewell notes to his family and expected to die of starvation.
Jamie Neale, 19, told Australia's "60 Minutes" television program Sunday that he was "a total idiot" to venture unprepared into the Blue Mountains, 60 miles (100 kilometers) west of Sydney.
"In the U.K., you can walk for a day and you'd end up in a pub," Neale said. "Out here, you can get lost so easily. You should respect the fact, be more prepared and think about what you are doing a lot more."
Neale said he set off for a hike on July 3 with only two bread rolls and a small bottle of water. He wore light clothing, did not carry his cell phone or a safety beacon and told no one where he was headed.
"I had overconfidence and I didn't respect the seriousness of the situation, and I made mistakes," Neale acknowledged to the program, which paid him 200,000 Australian dollars ($160,600) for his story.
Temperatures in the Blue Mountains were about 55 Fahrenheit (13 Celsius) during the day and fell to nearly 32 F (0 C) at night while Neale was lost.
"It got really, really cold. My feet were burning," Neale said on camera as he walked with a reporter through the thick trees and plants in the area where he was lost. "(I was) trying to move my toes because I was scared that I might get something like trench foot or gangrene. Then, where it was also moist I kept getting attacked by the leeches."
He said he ate seeds and weeds, and kept warm at night under strips of bark. He waved his blue shirt at circling helicopters, but the forest was so thick that he was not seen. One day, he fell into a stream and then pushed on in wet clothing. On the day he realized he was walking in circles, he began to fear he would never be rescued.
"The lowest thing that I thought was going to happen would be that I would starve to death, which is something I really didn't want to happen," Neale said. "I didn't want a long, drawn-out thing and that did terrify me."
He had a notebook with him and began to write farewell letters to his family.
"(I) had actually written some goodbye notes and things to family saying, my last walk, saying sorry, explaining how I'd got lost and different things like that," Neale said.
Two hikers happened upon Neale last Wednesday. He spent two days in the hospital for treatment of dehydration and
exposure. Doctors said his lungs were not in good enough condition for him to fly home, and he plans to spend a few weeks with family in Perth.
Neale and his father, Richard Cass, threw a party for rescue workers when he was released from the hospital on Friday. Cass has said that any money earned would be donated to the searchers.
"The Blue Mountain rescue service — we'll be in touch with them," Cass told reporters before he flew back to England on Friday.