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Sand trap

Monday, 20th January, 2014

Backpacker Josh Stoner enjoys a glass of water after a harrowing night in the bush. Backpacker Josh Stoner enjoys a glass of water after a harrowing night in the bush.

By Michael Murphy

Two backpackers spent a harrowing night in the outback after their four-wheel drive got bogged in sand during a trek to Cameron’s Corner.

They were eventually found by a ranger who patrols along the Wild Dog fence east of Tibooburra.

The pair - Josh Stoner, 22, from England and Stef Forster from Germany - had been working various jobs in Tibooburra when they borrowed a Nissan 4WD on Friday for the trip to Cameron’s Corner, about 140km north-west of Tibooburra.

They made it to the corner, stayed overnight, and left about 12.30pm on Saturday.

When they did not arrive in Tibooburra on Saturday afternoon, the alarm was raised, and an initial search by police and landholders that night drew a blank.

“Concerns were held for their safety due to the extreme heat that was expected to continue for days,” a police spokesman said.

It was 43 degrees in Tibooburra yesterday.

“It was lucky that they notified someone of their travel plans, otherwise they could still be out there, and no one would have been actively looking for them,” he said.

Emergency services were about to launch a full-scale land search yesterday morning when the ranger found the pair in their car.

But it was after a tough night for the backpackers, stranded in the middle of nowhere.

“When we left Cameron’s Corner, we turned right instead of turning left ... that’s when we got into trouble,” Josh said yesterday afternoon, recovering at the Family Hotel in Tibooburra where he is staying and working.

He said they drove past a place called Whitecatch House, about 30km south of Cameron’s Corner, and then realised they were going in the wrong direction.

They travelled further down the road for about 15km, tried to turn around and got bogged in the sand.

The car’s battery went dead when they were trying to get out. 

“Stef stayed with the car because she was very dehydrated,” Josh said, adding that he set out on foot back towards Whitecatch.

“I didn’t quite make it though because it was a lot longer than I thought.

“After six hours of walking I decided to go back because I ran out of water.”

He ran into a boundary fence before turning back, and decided to leave the gates open there.

“I left the gates open so they knew where to find us ... it always says to keep them closed so I left them open and left plenty of tracks.”

Josh then walked all the way back to the car.

He busted one of his thongs, his feet were blistered, and he slept out in the scrub before making it back to the car.

He said he was scared “big time” and was “just too knackered to move” when he finally got back.

The ranger found them at 6am yesterday, and got them back to safety. The pair were taken back to Tibooburra Hospital for treatment before being released in the afternoon.

Josh said he would probably have a few beers after he gets checked out by the Flying Doctor on Tuesday, but he was very grateful of the people who helped him. 

“Everyone chipped in ... that is the reason why we survived.”

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