French tramper found off track in Pureroa Forest
A french hiker who spent the night in a Taupo forest after becoming lost says there were times she thought she was going to die.
"I'm just happy to be here and out of the bush," French tramper Louise Sisiaja said upon stepping out of the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter after spending a cold night in the Pureroa Forest.
"I did have times where I would panic and think I would die but I was able to get myself together and keep calm."
The 26-year-old was walking the Pureroa Forest Park tramping trails on Monday when she became lost as she took a detour around obstructions on the trails.
"I thought I knew where the track was going and thought I could find my way."
It soon became clear to Sisiaja that she no longer had her bearings.
"I was beginning to be angry with myself about 'why didn't you just look better and be careful'.
Now well off the trail, Sisiaja called 111 for help at 3pm on Monday.
"I got through to police but the phone had pretty bad reception. I called back often and think I spoke to everyone at the emergency centre.
"At 8pm they did tell me they had people in the area looking for me."
Three land search and rescue teams, one from Taupo, Turangi and Hamilton, were deployed to the area in the hopes of finding Sisiaja.
While they were able to find some trails, they had no luck finding her that evening and called off the search about 2am.
"As I am a backpacker I did not have a tent," she said.
"I did have a sleeping bag and three survival blankets. I put one of the survival blankets inside the sleeping and and two around me.
"Even with that it was very, very cold. I only slept one hour."
Sisiaja said she was able to keep calm through the night, because she knew people were out looking for her and she had plenty of food still packed for the hike.
"The next morning I decided to move to find better reception. I went to a place where there was a river and managed to put in a call.
"They said to stay where I was and they would come find me."
About 15 or 30 minutes later they arrived.
"Then I heard someone shout, 'Louise we're coming to find you' and I was relieved."
Sisiaja was long-lined up to the waiting rescue helicopter and was eager to get out to safety.
"I am just so amazed at the rescue team and all the work they did. It makes me feel good to know in New Zealand there are people to help you if you get into trouble and it is all free. I would happily of paid to be rescued."
Sisiaja said she has learned much from her ordeal and said all trampers should invest in a personal locater beacon or a GPS system to make things easier for rescuers.
Taupo Senior Sergeant Barry Shepherd praised the efforts of the volunteer rescuers in their search for Sisiaja.
"There was a lot of experience displayed by the volunteers," he said.
"It was a long night for them but they all did great."