Lost in the Australian wilderness for twelve days, 19-year old Jamie Neale seems to have turned a vacation from the UK to Australia into a survival adventure.
Jamie is currently resting with relatives in Perth, after nearly two weeks lost and wandering in the Blue Mountains of Australia. It might be 80 degrees as I'm typing right now in Southern California (by the ocean), but down-under, it's winter.
According to Jamie, who is enduring criticism that he accepted $200,000 Australian dollars to appear on the Australian edition of "60 Minutes," he left for a hike on July 3rd carrying two rolls and a small bottle of water. He did not take his cell phone, apparently no backpack, wore only light clothing, and had no other survival equipment. Jamie then proceeded to wander around the Australian mountains encountering leeches and other nasties, and eating bugs and seeds, for the better part of the next two weeks.
First off, the Blue Mountains are a tourist area, and do have villages, attractions and accommodations. Located in New South Wales, the mountains are approximately 50-60 miles from Sydney. The backcountry looks pretty spectacular, with gorges, a blue haze that gives the mountains their name, and numerous rivers and forested areas. It looks like the Blue Mountains are a great place for backpacking, hiking and canyoning ("canyoneering" to us in the US). In Australia, they call it "bushwalking," tramping or trekking.
Things were pretty cold for Jamie, with temperatures in the low 30's (Fahrenheit) during his days in the wilderness. Mostly, it seems, Jamie's challenges were due to the lack of food, and his lack of appropriate clothing, as it seems he must have been able to locate enough water to get by. Of course, if Australia's backcountry water is anything like it is here, Jamie probably picked up some giardia and will lose a little more weight before he starts building his health back up again.
It should go without saying that two rolls and a small water bottle aren't equivalent to Chris McCandless' 10-pound bag of rice, rifle, and other, admittedly inadequate equipment. The Blue Mountains also don't sound as daunting as the central Alaskan wilderness at any time of year.
So, Jamie got $200,000 Australian dollars for telling a similar story to being lost in the Sespe for 12 days, I'm guessing. He's lucky to be alive - but by the same token, he is neither Chris McCandless or Aron Ralston. Aron is the climber and backpacker who got his hand stuck under a boulder in Blue John Canyon in Utah in 2003, and who saved himself by amputating the hand with - I think - his utility tool that was pretty dull by the time he did it. As to Jamie - he was lucky to have been found by two hikers with supplies by the time they did locate him and get him to safety.