U.S. Students Survive New Zealand Bush
Surprise winter storm strands unsuspecting campers for 9 days
This is what happens when lack of preparation meets backcountry ingenuity. A pair of U.S. college kids studying abroad in New Zealand trekked safely out of the wilderness earlier this week, but only after a 9-day stranding that required them to survive on two days' worth of rations.
Alec Brown and Erica Klintworth, both 21-year-old students of the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, planned to hike, camp for a weekend and study for finals near a backcountry hot springs in the South Island's Arthur's Pass National Park. They traveled a little too light, though—carrying only meager supplies of rice, carrots, peanut butter and trail mix—and didn't anticipate an early winter storm that dumped rain and snow on the park, flooding a river that blocked their return.
That's when their survival instincts kicked in. Rather than trying to cross the swollen river (a good way of losing gear or, worse, your life), the pair accepted that they were stuck and settled in for the long haul, rationing their food and regulating heat and energy loss by taking regular dips in the hot springs (sounds like torture, right?). "A biscuit and jelly one day," Brown, wrote, "and even less another."
It was eight days before a friend realized the pair was missing, and alerted authorities. A search-and-rescue team was deployed, but encountered the couple hiking out, slightly worse for wear, but relatively unscathed.
"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," said Brown, who is an environmental studies major and seasoned camper. "We could have been more prepared, but in the end we were prepared enough to walk ourselves out."