A couple who were saved from looming death after they became stranded in the Australian outback earlier this month have told of their miracle tale of survival.
Jose Merlos and fiancee Nicky Wong were driving through a remote part of northern South Australia with their dog Loki when their 4WD became bogged in sand.
Unable to move the car, the couple spent two days walking for 65km in scorching heat – and unable to eat – as they searched for the nearest town of Innamincka.
Mr Merlos was forced to drink has own urine and muddy cow-trough water in a battle to stay alive as temperatures soared to almost 40C and heat exhaustion set in.
‘It was so hot and we were scared, I thought we were going to die,’ Mr Merlos said.
Jose Merlos and Nicky Wong (pictured) were driving with their dog Loki along a remote stretch of South Australia earlier this month when their 4WD became bogged and they were forced to walk searching for help
The couple scrawled handwritten notes, including the one above, and left them along the road in the hope someone would read them and find the pair
‘We hardly spoke while we walked because our mouths were so dry. We had little food left but we couldn’t eat it because we had no saliva and couldn’t swallow.
‘I was worried my fiancee Nicky wouldn’t make it as she was needing more and more breaks to rest, and I had to beg her to keep walking.’
The phone reception cut out and several attempts to contact emergency services proved fruitless.
‘My phone said SOS only, and I kept trying over and over again to call for help but the call wouldn’t go through,’ Mr Merlos said.
The couple left handwritten notes scattered along the way and also wrote ‘SOS’ in giant letters in the sandy ground so the distress sign could be seen by aircraft.
‘Need help, got stuck… low in supplies,’ one note read.
‘We have been walking for about 60kms. We hope to find people or campsites or emergency call reception.’
Mr Jose was certain the couple were going to die in the outback – until by chance a field worker from the oil and gas company Santos, who the couple knew only as Craig, happened upon them.
The couple walked 60km in two days without food or water desperately trying to be saved. Pictured, a note left by the couple
The stranded couple also etched SOS (pictured above) into the dirt in an attempt to be rescued
‘Craig told us he only took that road once every six weeks, and we had another 25km to walk to get to Innamincka,’ Mr Merlos said.
It was so hot and we were scared, I thought we were going to die
‘If he hadn’t found us, we would have perished.’
Craig drove them to his work base camp, where they were given food and water.
Mr Merlos, from France, and Ms Wong, from Hong Kong, were then taken to Innamincka to be treated by the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
‘They were in remarkably good physical condition,’ RFDS nurse Chris Belshaw said.
‘A bit emotional as it was dawning on them just how at risk they were.
‘Luckily for them, the temperature was lower than usual for this time of year, and only in the mid to high 30s.’
Mr Belshaw said the average temperature in the area in January is 45C.
The couple were driving home to Adelaide from Cairns and had planned to travel through New South Wales but they were forced to go via the South Australian Outback because of Covid-19 border restrictions
Innamincka (pictured above) is a remote area in South Australia, where conditions are harsh all year round
‘If it was the normal temperature then I believe they would have perished,’ he said.
The couple and their dog were returning to Adelaide from a holiday in Cairns.
They had planned to drive through New South Wales but due to Covid-19 border restrictions imposed by South Australia, they were forced to travel through the remote section of north-eastern of their home state.
‘If we had to travel in the outback again, we would buy a satellite phone, and make sure the authorities in the town ahead knew to expect us,’ Mr Merlos said.