'I'm so happy to be out,' says Briton lost in the rainforest

After wandering around in circles for three days, chewing sugar-free gum for sustenance and covering herself with leaves to keep warm at night, Louise Saunders reappeared yesterday, three miles from where she went missing in north Queensland.

The 19-year-old English backpacker disappeared on a thickly wooded mountain near the sugar-cane town of Tully on Tuesday, prompting a big air and land search. She heard a rescue helicopter buzzing over, but she could not be seen through the dense bush. Eventually she found her way down, following a stream until she reached a municipal rubbish dump, suffering only sore feet and minor scratches.

Ms Saunders' family, who had been waiting anxiously by the telephone in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, were elated to hear she was safe and well. Her mother, Elizabeth, said: "It's amazing. I've spoken to her several times during the night and I'll give her the biggest hug of my life when I see her. I always believed she was alive."

Mrs Saunders said the family planned to fly to Australia to be with Louise. "The rescue people pulled all the stops out, we can't thank them enough."

Australian police were happy with the result, but hoped it was warning to others. "It was probably not a good idea to go up the mountain by herself, but I am sure she has learnt from her experience," Sergeant Kim McComb told BBC radio.

Fears mounted for Ms Saunders' safety after she failed to return to Tully. She had set out alone to scale 2,165ft Mount Tyson. She used her mobile phone that day to call a fellow English backpacker, Joanne Woodward, and sent her a text message telling her she was lost.

Ms Saunders told a press conference in Tully: "I followed a creek, but seemed to be going around in circles. I knew if I had not got out, I might never have made it. I thought I would never speak to anyone again. I'm just so happy to be out of there."

She said that after realising she was lost, at first she remained in one spot, hoping to be found. Then she walked to the top of a waterfall, where the terrain was clearer. "I thought if they were going to see me, they would see me there."

Eventually, she made her way into a gully, went down the mountain and was met by startled workers at the rubbish dump at 9.30am yesterday.

Ms Saunders, a trainee beauty therapist who was travelling around Australia with Ms Woodward, said she ate a banana during the first hour of her walk but after that was left only with chewing-gum. "I'm always going to thank chewing-gum for my survival," she said.

She said she had been scared, especially at night, when she imagined she could see the eyes of animals in the dense foliage. "I didn't really sleep," she said. "I kept waking. It seemed like I slept for 10 minutes at a time. It was just so cold. I had to cover myself with leaves to keep warm."

Police believe she could have walked in circles for 30 miles. She was wearing only shorts, a T-shirt and trainers. Although she is short-sighted she had left her glasses behind. More than 70 police officers and rescue workers, aided by military helicopters with heat-seeking equipment, had been searching for Ms Saunders.

Her banana skin was found on the hillside by Aboriginal trackers, with a fresh footprint and a message she had scrawled on a tree trunk with a red felt-tip pen. The message, in a reference to her Australian boyfriend, Stephen Wong, said: "Louise S loves Steven W for eva", illustrated with a heart.

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
Plans to decriminalise non-payment of television licence fees would cost the BBC £500m according to estimates drawn up within the Corporation
people
News
people
Life & Style
The new low cost smartphone of Motorola, 'Motorola Moto G', is displayed in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 13, 2013. The smartphone, with dimensions 65.9mm W x 129.9mm H x 6.0 - 11.6mm D is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with quad-core 1,2 GHz CPU, a 4.5-inch display and Android Operating System 4.3 and a suggested price of $ 179 USD.
techData assessing smartphones has revealed tens of millions of phones are at risk of being harvested
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as the troubled, melancholy Don Draper
tvAnd six other questions we hope Mad Men series seven will answer
Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Online Advertising Account Executive , St Pauls , London

£26K-30k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Advertising Account Executive - Online, Central London

£25K-28k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Senior Infrastructure Consultant

£50000 - £65000 Per Annum potentially flexible for the right candidate: Clearw...

Public Sector Audit - Bristol

£38000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have experience of ...

Day In a Page

Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

Politicians urged to find radical solution
Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

Ukraine crisis

How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

A history of the First World War in 100 moments
Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?