‘People probably thought I was dead’
THE student lost in Gold Coast bushland for five days has spoken out for the first time, explaining how she survived days without food, shelter and shoes in the torrential conditions.
Bond University student and Chinese national Yang Chen, 26, disappeared while walking in Tallebudgera Valley last Wednesday with a friend.
Due to a torrential downpour and rising floodwaters authorities were forced to call off searches numerous times.
She was found tired and hungry sitting on a cliff face on Monday morning.
In an open letter of thanks Ms Chen said she wanted Australia to know how lucky she feels.
"I have been overwhelmed by the public interest in my story. I'm quite a shy person, but I wanted to write a letter of thank you to everyone who was involved with the search, rescue and medical attention I received," she said.
"I am very grateful. And I want to say thank you to my friends and family, and that I'm sorry for putting them through so much worry."
Ms Chen said an Australian friend who is not her boyfriend had invited her on a hike to see a waterfall.
The pair had embarked on the bushwalk to see a waterfall which they believed would be flowing after the recent rain.
Adventurous and in love with Australia Chen, who had been in the country for two years, said she is always very interested to see and do new things and "experience all the wonderful things Australia has."
Ms Chen said she believed the walk was only going to last a couple of hours so she dressed lightly in shorts, a shirt and sandals.
It was not raining when they had begun their journey.
"We had been hiking for almost two hours. It was very beautiful, my friend was taking photos along the way and the rain was not heavy at that time," Ms Chen said.
"I was a lot slower than him so I fell behind. 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.
"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 she found bottles of water which were wrapped in a big white plastic bag with rope.
"I drank the water and thought the bottles must have been left for people who walked there," she said.
"Then I could hear the helicopters so I knew people were looking for me. I could see the door of the helicopter open, and see the people inside looking for me. They felt so close. I yelled out and waved but they could not see me under the trees.
"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. I saw a really pretty blue lobster or crayfish in the water and walking around on land a couple of times, I even took a photo of it but I lost my phone.
"I walked around desperately looking for a way out but there were no paths, no signs. At night, I could hear some things in the bushes but I would just close my eyes and my sleeping was okay if it was not raining. I wish it had been sunnier because it was so cold at night."
Chen said she used the plastic bag to cover her legs at night so that the insects did not bite.
"I lost my shoes and it was hard to walk.
"I did see some little snakes, but I was not worried as they were brown and 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. I am happy I did not know that at the time!"
Ms Chen said she was "so happy" when she made contact with Lyn Cook.
"I was so, so happy. I cannot tell Mrs Cook and all of the people who kept looking for me how grateful I am."
Ms Chen thanked the police search teams, doctors, nurses, paramedics and neighbours in the area who kept searching, "when people probably thought I was dead."
"I loved being adventurous and discovering all the new things in this wonderful country but did not realise this walk was dangerous," she said.
Ms Chen apologised for the worry she caused.
"It has been really hard mentally, and my legs are still very sore but I am starting to feel better."
"I know I am lucky to be alive. I think I would have died if I was out there for one more day.
I have been very tired and sleeping a lot. I am looking forward to seeing my friends and now I just really want to return to a normal life."
"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!
"I thank everyone and I will be forever grateful."