A Czech woman found alive in a remote mountain cabin in New Zealand has told police she spent a month there alone after her partner fell and died on a hiking trail.
The woman was found on Wednesday in a hut on the famous Routeburn track which winds through a spectacular gorge in the mountains of Fiordland national park in the South Island.
According to police the couple started the walk on 24 July and the woman’s partner fell down a steep slope on 28 July. The woman said she climbed down the slope and reached her partner but he died shortly after.
Since then, the woman said, she had been living in Lake Mackenzie Hut, a government-run facility with 50 beds about halfway along the 32km track.
Despite the harsh winter conditions she was found in good health on Wednesday by a search and rescue team after concerns were raised with police that the couple had not been heard from since late July.
Experienced trampers and guides familiar with the track raised questions about the woman’s story, calling the incident extremely odd and even unbelievable.
This is a highly unusual case, said Inspector Olaf Jensen, the Otago Lakes central area police commander.
It is very unusual for someone to be missing for such a long time in the New Zealand bush without it being reported.
I appreciate there are a number of unanswered questions – however until we can piece together exactly what has happened we are unable to say anything further.
The Routeburn track usually takes intermediate walkers between two and four days to complete. It is officially closed during winter but numerous people still walk the track as it is well marked and the huts remain open.
The New Zealand department of conservation’s website says facilities on the track are greatly reduced in the winter months when there are also additional safety hazards to consider.
Walking the track during this time should only be attempted by fit, experienced and well equipped people, it says.
Through the months of July and August numerous tourists posted pictures from the Routeburn track on social media.
Ian Sime, a spokesperson for Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club, said he had never heard of a tourist being lost on a major tramping track for such a length of time and he found the tale unbelievable. I am flabbergasted, I don’t understand how this could happen. Even in winter there are teams of people walking parts of the track and staying in the huts.
Sime said the track was not known for being particularly dangerous and even during the winter it was usually easy to find.
Sime said that if the woman had broken into one of the warden’s huts she would have had access to food and even a gas heater.
Noel Saxon, general manager of Ultimate Hikes Queenstown, said the woman’s survival was an incredible feat.
I have been very surprised by this story – she must be a hardy character to have stayed out there so long in these conditions, he said.
I do find it unusual that no one else walked through during her time in the hut but it is not out of the question. In certain conditions it could be difficult to go anywhere and potentially that is what has happened here.
During the summer Saxon guides groups of tourists of average fitness along the Routeburn and from the start of the track it takes them a day to walk to Lake Mackenzie Hut.
News Source TheGuardianNews