A woman rescued after being lost in the Gold Coast Hinterland for more than five days says she will “cherish her life” and has thanked everyone involved in saving her.
Yang Chen, a 26-year-old student at Bond University, became lost during a heavy rain last week while walking with a friend near Gorge Falls in Tallebudgera Valley.
She was found alive on Monday in a remarkedly good condition, with cuts and bruises to her legs and some exposure issues.
“People have asked what I was thinking when I was alone in the dark? I thought: ‘If I can get out, I will cherish my life – just my normal life!'” she said in a letter released last night.
“I know I am lucky to be alive. I think I would have died if I was out there for one more day.”
Ms Chen’s mother has since described her daughter’s rescue as a “miracle”, while Queensland Police’s Acting Senior Sergeant Mitch Gray said it was “the most difficult land search I’ve been involved with”.
‘I knew I had to stay calm’
Ms Chen said she planned to go on a short walk with her Australian friend who lives in the Tallebudgera Valley area and that it had not been raining heavily beforehand.
“I love Australia, and I’ve been living on the Gold Coast for nearly two years and am always very interested to see new things, do new things, and experience all the wonderful things Australia has,” she said.
“He said he had been on this walk before and the rain would mean the waterfall would be flowing.”
Ms Chen said they had been hiking for about two hours before she fell behind him and got lost.
“I then tried to find my way out and got lost. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I had to stay calm,” she said.
“I did have a phone but I could not get service, so I kept trying to go higher to hopefully get a phone signal. But I could not get one.”
Ms Chen said the river was too dangerous to walk down but she eventually found bottles wrapped in a plastic bag with rope.
‘I could hear the helicopters’
Ms Chen said she could see helicopters with doors open and people inside “looking for me”.
“They felt so close. I yelled out and waved but they could not see me under the trees,” she said.
“I tried to find food and found all different kinds of berries. I tried them, one kind was better than the other two but they didn’t taste right.”
Ms Chen said she had numerous encounters with wildlife including a “really pretty” blue crayfish before losing her phone.
“I walked around desperately looking for a way out but there were no paths, no signs,” she said.
“At night, I could hear some things in the bushes but I would just close my eyes and my sleeping was OK if it was not raining.
“I wish it had been sunnier because it was so cold at night.”
Chen ‘forever grateful’, looks forward to ‘normal life’
Ms Chen was eventually found within 300 metres of where she was last spotted, about 30 metres above a waterfall.
She said she saw little brown snakes but “I thought it was only the coloured ones that were poisonous”.
“Since I was rescued I have been told brown snakes can be dangerous, so I was lucky,” she said.
Ms Chen was found by members of the police dive squad and nearby landowner Lyn Cook, who volunteered to help officers search the area.
“When I saw Mrs Lyn Cook, I was so happy! I was waving at her,” she said.
“I cannot tell Mrs Cook and all of the people who kept looking for me how grateful I am.”
Ms Chen said “it all became a bit blurry after that” but said “everyone has been so kind and very thoughtful”.
“I loved being adventurous and discovering all the new things in this wonderful country but did not realise this walk was dangerous,” she said.
“I am very sorry for the worry I caused everyone.
“It has been really hard mentally, and my legs are still very sore. But I am starting to feel better.”