Marooned trampers rationed food, ate worms to survive

CHARLOTTE SQUIRE
Last updated 13:00 24/04/2013

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Trampers stranded in a Kahurangi National Park hut ate worms as their food supply dwindled.

Guy Verschuur, 51, of Golden Bay, Finnish tourist Jenny Rautio, 26, and American Kristine Mattiace, 22, were rescued by helicopter on Monday night after being stranded by poor weather in the Anatoki Forks Hut for a week.

The trio set out from Anatoki, near Takaka, in the late afternoon on April 12 at the start of a planned three-day tramp. They saw the rain and clouds but thought they would be OK.

But it turned into a 10-day ordeal after sickness, poor weather and incorrect directions threw their plans into disarray.

Although they told friends of their plans, the police were not informed that they were missing until they had been away for a week. By then there were grave concerns for their safety due to extremely heavy rainfall in the area.

Plans started to change for the group during the first two days, when Mr Verschuur experienced abdominal pain.

"I started feeling abdominal cramps, I felt sick and nauseous. I had said we had the water purifier and we needed to boil the water to kill any parasites and bacteria. At one point I lay down feeling really dizzy," he said.

The three discussed whether to continue on or turn around. They decided it was wiser to head to the Anatoki Forks Hut because the map indicated it was closer.

They later realised the map they were referring to was misleading.

They eventually reached the hut, which would become their home for the next seven nights, as the rain pounded down.

"We knew we had extra food, and two of us knew about wild edibles," Mr Verschuur said.

He said food was carefully rationed during their ordeal.

"Well, let's say we got creative. I always have three extra days of food with me, if not more. There were some emergency supplies there of food. We got down to where we weren't eating much. We were eating wild foods."

The two women tried eating worms, though Ms Rautio declined to say how they tasted.

Mr Verschuur said he did not try the worms "but I saw that they felt they wanted to do it and I respected that. I have hypoglycemia, so I watch that",' he said.

He made fishing poles and hooks out of nails from his knowledge of bushcraft in Canada and the United States, but his fishing attempts were unsuccessful.

Ms Rautio was cautious about discussing what happened and was angry about television crews confronting them.

Mr Verschuur said he meditated a lot during their ordeal.

He said they were "all joyous" when the rescue helicopter arrived at 5pm on Monday.

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"We had set up an SOS together. We did an interesting artistic job of that," he said.

Ms Rautio said she had checked a five-day weather report before they left, and it mentioned stormy weather, but not the heavy rain that marooned them at the hut.

The third tramper, Kristine Mattiace left Golden Bay last night and could not be contacted.

- The Nelson Mail

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