Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Mountain rescue improves the diet

Desmond Kuik didn't pack safety gear for his brief trip into the Ureweras. Then the nightmare began

Desmond Kuik. Photo / Supplied
Desmond Kuik. Photo / Supplied

After facing the prospect of drinking his own urine to stay alive, a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs never tasted so good for Desmond Kuik.

The 42-year-old hunter was rescued on Wednesday afternoon after three freezing nights lost in the dense bush of Urewera National Park in the central North Island.

On Sunday afternoon, Mr Kuik set off on what he thought would be an easy one-hour hunt.

Because he did not plan to be away long, he didn't take his emergency equipment - a decision he came to regret and one that could have cost him his life.

Yesterday, he said he somehow managed to get on to the wrong track and found himself lost on a ridge as night closed in.

He hunkered down in a tree hollow and tried to sleep.

"The first night was pretty tough, it was quite a windy and cold night so I just tried to keep myself warm and dry.

"I didn't have a lighter to start a fire, I didn't have anything."

The next morning he fired three shots into the air in the hope that his hunting companions would hear, but because of the wind and his position they didn't.

"I should have stayed where I was, I shouldn't have gone anywhere, but I thought I could find my way out."

He tried to retrace his steps, leaving fern leaves as markers so searchers would be able to follow him, and came to the Kouanui hut, where he stayed the night.

A map in the hut showed him he was only a few kilometres from his companions' camp, so he left a note for searchers and decided to try and trek out.

"I should have stayed in the hut another night but ... I was quite confident I could get out."

He told himself he would turn back to the hut if he couldn't find the camp within four hours, but he got lost again.

"Unfortunately the weather became nasty and the day was getting dark quickly and I couldn't make my way back to the hut."

It was freezing cold that night and the only shelter he could find was a pig hole, just large enough to fit him.

"That was the worst night because it was very cold - zero degrees - and there was a hail storm."

In an effort to stay warm, he urinated into a plastic packet he had in his backpack and used it as a hot water bottle.

His rations consisted of one chocolate bar a day and very limited water. He had contemplated drinking his urine if he didn't find a water source soon.

"At the end of the day I had no choice and if I was short of water that would be my last drink," he said.

The next morning he felt hopeless so he decided to pray.

About two hours later he heard gunshots in the distance.

"I made a long call 'help' and they heard me."

A search team, which included one of his hunting companions, found him and gave him a "big hug".

"They did a very good job, I can't believe it."

Mr Kuik said he had decided to talk to media so he could pass on a message to young hunters: "You have to have the right gear if you're going to go into the bush, always keep a set of dry clothes in the bag, always, and an emergency locator beacon."

Mr Kuik was travelling to Auckland yesterday to be reunited with his wife and children.

- APNZ

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