A HIKER who was lost on a mountain has described how he survived on river water before being rescued.
James Esbester was found yesterday after five days lost in rough terrain on Mount Luna, in the Kahurangi National Park, New Zealand.
A search had been launched after he went missing last Wednesday and his worried father Mark, who was on holiday in Australia, flew to New Zealand as rescuers tried to find him.
The 30-year-old, a former student of St John’s College in Southsea who lives with his father in Clanfield, was finally found at 8pm local time on Tuesday with only minor cuts and bruises. His father was waiting for him at the search and rescue command centre.
Speaking from his hotel room, James said he got lost after becoming disoriented and going the wrong way down the mountain. ‘I’m pretty exhausted at the moment. I suppose it will take a few days for what happened to sink in,’ he said.
‘I followed the river downstream for a few days and got to a point where it was clearer and there was good visibility and just pretty much hoped and prayed someone would find me.
‘I actually felt quite calm through most of it, almost resigned to whatever was going to happen to me. I tried to push on downstream really and tried not to think too hard about anything.
‘The search and rescue team have been amazing. I feel incredibly grateful to them. I probably wouldn’t be alive if they had not found me today. I probably could not have survived more than a day or two more than I have. When I realised they spotted me I felt overwhelming relief. It’s not something I can put into words just yet.’
The alarm was raised when a group of hikers discovered James’ possessions in a mountain hut.
A huge search and rescue mission was launched by New Zealand Land Search and Rescue.
Mr Esbester senior, an optician, said: ‘I’m delighted, just so happy. I was taken into the control centre and they showed me everything they were doing to try and find Jamie. The search team were incredible.’
James has been in New Zealand since November cycling and hiking. He added: ‘When I saw dad there waiting for me it was the best sight I’ve ever seen.
‘I could not believe he had come all this way. I don’t think it’s really hit me yet.
‘It’s not going to stop me travelling though but I will be more careful, that goes without saying.’