A British tourist on an ‘adventure before dementia’ trip around Australia has had a very narrow escape from disaster in the bush.
Full details of how Geoff Keys, 63, was rescued after spending 48 hours barefoot and without food or water while lost in Cape York last month are only just emerging.
Queensland police say Mr Keys was trying to take a shortcut back to his camp when he got lost, and was only rescued when a search helicopter spotted the desperate ‘SOS’ he had written in the sand of a riverbank.
The solo traveller had been camping in remote Jardine National Park, when he reportedly set off for a two kilometre walk to go for a swim beneath a waterfall. Writing in his blog at motopangaea.com, Mr Keys said he was barefoot and wearing just shorts, a t-shirt and a hat, when he became lost while swimming along a creek in search of Eliot Falls
It was then that Mr Keys confesses that he made ‘one of the stupidest decisions ever’.
“Instead of turning around and swimming back upstream I decided to take to the bush and cut across to the track,” he wrote. “It was nearly dark. I had no shoes. What was I thinking of?”
Mr Keys wandered in the bush until 2am when he decided to sleep until daylight. Given he had no shoes, he spent the next day working his way through rivers in search of a familiar landmark.
Meanwhile, two families who Mr Keys had befriended at the campsite raised the alarm and a desperate search for the missing traveller was under way.
When Mr Keys came across a sandbank and made a decision that probably saved his life.
“It seemed a good idea to help myself as much as possible so I got out of the water, found a stick and wrote a message in the sand, just in case the helicopter came down that way. HELP. 2807. –>. Help, today’s date and my direction of travel,” he wrote. “I thought this would be enough to get any helicopter that saw it looking in the right place.”
After continuing to stumble around fighting fatigue and the effects of a lack of water and food, and spending another night alone in the bush, Mt Keys was eventually spotted from the air.
“I leapt off the bank into the creek but by the time I’d done so it had gone. I stood in midstream, yelling at the pilot to come back,” he wrote. “He circled me once while I jumped up and down waving my hat. He came around again while I continued to jump up and down like a lunatic and this time someone waved to me out of the window. My ordeal was over.”
Mr Keys was taken to hospital suffering from exhaustion and cut feet, but was basically fine.
And he apologised for the trouble he had caused.
“It’s safe to say that I’m very grateful to everyone involved in my rescue,” he wrote on his blog. “Their skill and professionalism is incredible. I feel stupid but lucky.”