Emergency services have attributed the survival of two Melbourne hikers, who “basically got lost” for four nights on Victoria’s Mount Buffalo, down to their experience in the bush.
Trevor Salvado, 60, and Jacinta Bohan, 58, flagged down a minibus of TAFE students about 11.10am at Buffalo River in the state’s north east, nine kilometres from where they started their hike.
“We basically got lost. And then we stayed in one spot for four nights,” Ms Bohan said.
“The track disappeared or we weren’t good at spotting the track and we think we followed an animal track rather than a marked track and we just got to the wrong spot.”
The Essendon couple had been missing since Friday after failing to return from a bushwalk at 12.30pm.
The pair knew they were not far away from help and survived on their rations, which included a packed lunch and some muesli bars.
“Where we stayed we could hear speed boats on Lake Buffalo, there were campers down below us, there were cows, a dog and there were lights as well,” Mr Salvado said.
“We knew we weren’t far away from people and help, but we had about a 250-foot drop in front of us.
“So we took a few days just to look at it and work out if we could get down there and decided, yes, we’ll walk out.”
MISSING HIKERS FOUND: the couple were found by a kayaker at 11:10am near Buffalo river road (red arrow).. It looks as though they have walked right through Mount Buffalo where they first went missing and came out the other side #7newsmelb pic.twitter.com/A3MJURldil
— Teegan Dolling (@tdolling) March 12, 2019
The pair flagged down a passing minibus to get help.
Asked if he felt he was in danger, Mr Salvado replied “Absolutely not”.
“We were sensible. We kept calm, we kept rational and that’s what helped us out,” he said.
“[We kept thinking] people were probably really worried that we were injured and yet we weren’t.
“It wasn’t great, but it was very comfortable.”
The couple stayed close to a small stream so they had fresh water.
“Water was really the important thing to keep us healthy and alive so that’s where we stayed,” Mr Salvado said.
Ms Bohan had some scratches on her legs from walking in the bush.
Ms Bohan’s sister Maria Bohan said the couple’s three adult children rushed to see their parents, who were doing “amazingly very well” after their ordeal.
“We’re incredibly relieved, especially last night, the fourth night, most of us were awake, even though the police told us to think positive, we were thinking dark thoughts,” she said.
Experience helped them survive
The pair were taken to Wangaratta Hospital for a check-up but were reportedly in “very good spirits”.
“If you get lost you stay put, so they’ve sat on a rock for two days, but this morning they’ve decided to try and walk somewhere else,” Maria Bohan said.
Hundreds of people were involved in the search for the pair, including police, the Country Fire Authority, the State Emergency Service and a number of volunteers.
Senior Sergeant Damien Peppler said the teams of people searching for the pair were elated they were found.
“A fantastic result, everyone is overjoyed that they’ve been found safe and well,” Senior Sergeant Damien Peppler said.
“If it wasn’t for their knowledge of bushwalking and their skills in the bush, it would have been much more difficult for them.
“They stuck to the rules and they’ve come out successfully on the other side.”
‘It’s so exciting’
Dozens of searchers joined members of the couple’s family at Mount Buffalo after they were found.
“They were talking up to 250 [searchers] at different times depending on the time of the day and lots of local bushwalkers, stunning police,” Maria Bohan said.
Horses and aircraft were also used in the search, which was made more challenging by rugged terrain, including a large number of gullies, crevasses and boulders.
Police yesterday said weather conditions for the search had been favourable, and they remained optimistic about finding the couple, who were experienced hikers and were familiar with the area.
Maria Bohan said the couple were likely to get a telling-off from their children for not using an emergency locator device.
“You should hear what their children are getting ready to tell them,” she said.
“We’ve all made an incredible list of things, rules, that Cindy and Trevor are going to have to follow for the rest of their lives, so they’ll hear that every time we go camping.”