Hikers survived on ‘trickle of water’, muesli bars after days lost in Mount Buffalo bushland

Hikers survived on ‘trickle of water’, muesli bars after days lost in Mount Buffalo bushland

By Carolyn Webb and Simone Fox Koob

March 12, 2019 — 11.44am

Missing hikers in Victoria’s Alps have been found

Missing since Friday, police say Trevor Salvado and Jacinta Bohan have been located safe and well at Mount Buffalo in Victoria’s high country.

A couple who survived four nights lost in rugged bush, in often near-freezing conditions, say they survived on “a trickle” of water from a stream and a few muesli bars.

Looking remarkably fresh despite their ordeal near Mount Buffalo in northern Victoria, Trevor Salvado and wife Cindy Bohan said they felt “terrific”.

Ms Bohan, 58, had some nasty cuts to her lower legs from pushing through brambles and said she was looking forward to a shower.

But otherwise she and her 60-year-old husband looked well and were upbeat as they faced the media outside Wangaratta hospital on Tuesday afternoon, having reunited with their three children, Nathan, Isaac and Rachael.

Grave fears were held for the couple, and police and volunteer searchers combed as far as 12 kilometres away from where their fawn-coloured Skoda Yeti was found on Saturday morning.

But about 11am on Tuesday, the couple walked out of the bush, 25 kilometres south of Myrtleford, found a track they recognised and flagged down a minivan full of TAFE students going canoeing.

Outside the hospital hours later, flanked by their children, Ms Bohan explained how on Friday morning, a few hours into her and Mr Salvado’s planned three-hour loop walk from Reservoir Track car park, near Mount Buffalo ranger station, they lost the track.

“The track disappeared,” Ms Bohan said.

“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.”

Missing hikers: Night ends search for ‘fit’ Melbourne couple missing on Mount Buffalo

Mr Salvado said they had actually spent three days at one spot, near fresh water.

“It was a trickle of water, but water was the important thing to keep us healthy and alive, and that was where we stayed.”

The couple had packed lunch for the first day, but after that, they survived on a few muesli bars. However, they had run out of food by Tuesday.

‘We needed to get out’

Ms Bohan said on Tuesday they realised they “needed to get out”.

They had to find their way down from atop a 250 foot rocky drop to the shores of Lake Buffalo.

Frustratingly they had seen and heard rescue helicopters, saw speedboats on the lake, campers, cows and lights.

“We knew we weren’t far away from people and help but we had about a 250 foot drop in front of us. It took a few days to have a look at it, work out if we could get down there and we decided, yes we could get out,” Mr Salvado said.

Ms Bohan added: “I really believed that we would get found, but we knew that we had to think about our mindset. And we knew, if there was too much longer and they hadn’t found us, ‘oh my God’, so we thought, ‘Today, we’ve got the energy, let’s go.’ “

They had thought, “people are probably really worried that we’re injured, and we weren’t. It wasn’t great, but we were really comfortable.”

They are experienced hikers, and Mr Salvado said they didn’t panic about being out overnight.

“Serenity, it was lovely,” he said.

As Ms Bohan put it: “We basically got lost, that was all that happened. And then we stayed in one spot for four nights. And then this morning we were out, we needed to get out.”

Couple reunited with children

Mr Salvado was rapt to be reunited with his three children, who had kept vigil for much of the search. “Any parent would feel the same,” he said. “It was just great.”

But he never felt their lives were in danger. “Absolutely not. We were sensible, we kept calm, we kept rational, and that’s what helped us out.”

Their kids drew up a list of things their mum and dad must and must not do in future, such as carrying an EPIRB emergency beacon.

They considered barring them from going camping again.

Ms Bohan told her children that, alas, they would be going bushwalking again. “Of course we are. The outdoors are beautiful. We won’t hopefully do that again, that was just one of those random moments.”

‘A significant ordeal’

Mr Salvado, a retired pilot, and Ms Bohan, a teacher, were planning to spend the Labour Day long weekend with friends camping in Bright.

They were last seen by friends at a caravan park about 9.30am on Friday when they left for a bushwalk at Mount Buffalo. They were expected to return about 12.30pm, but didn’t appear.

Victoria Police Inspector Kerrie Hicks said the couple had been through “a significant ordeal”.

She thanked the more than 100 police, emergency services and volunteers who searched for the couple.

“As police commander, I couldn’t be more proud of the team and the work that they’ve done, and the way they’ve come together.

“And it’s just such wonderful news to see everyone is OK and to be able to tell the family.”

Experienced hikers on Mount Buffalo say it is important to stick to the tracks.

Soon after the couple was found, Ms Bohan’s sister, Anne Ditchfield, said the family were “ecstatic”.

“It’s a fantastic result. We’re just elated, relieved,” she said. 

“They walked out,” she said.

“Cindy refused to get in the ambulance. That’s Cindy for you, she just wanted to go straight to her kids.”

‘It’s quite a rugged area’

Mr Salvado is a cyclist and paraglider, while Ms Bohan who is one of nine children also enjoys stand-up paddle-boarding.

The couple has spent the past eight years visiting the Ovens Valley with other couples and their children.

Sergeant Trevor Schultz of Wangaratta police said the couple was found at Yarrabula Creek Track, south-east of Lake Buffalo, about nine kilometres downhill from where there car was found. 

“It’s quite a rugged area. It’s very rugged going,” Sergeant Schultz said.

“It’s a really good result. We were always hopeful. We’d had the positive view that we’d find them because it’s unusual to lose two people.”

Ms Ditchfield thanked all the rescuers involved in the search, and said it was a relief the pair had been found.

“We’re all exhausted but we’re fine,” she said.

Mount Buffalo remained below 10 degrees for most of the night, dropping in the early hours of the morning to 4.3 degrees. There were also strong winds, but it remained relatively dry.

Trevor Salvado and Cindy Bohan’s son Nathan and Ms Bohan’s sister Maria spoke during a police press conference on Monday  afternoon.

The couple’s family made an emotional plea at the search site after they had been missing for three days.

“Cindy and Trevor are super fit, they’re very healthy, they’re used to being out for hours … they spend a lot of time outside,” Ms Bohan’s sister Maria said on Monday.

She said their hopes and “good old-fashioned prayers” were buoyed by the emergency services’ commitment to the search.

Their son Nathan, who learnt his parents were missing via a text message from family friends at the Bright camping ground, said he just wanted them to be “warm and safe”.

“They’re pretty responsible walkers; they know what they have to do to survive.”

Hikers survived on ‘trickle of water’, muesli bars after days lost in Mount Buffalo bushland

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