Wednesday, 11 February 2009 4:42 PM

Grateful Hiker Shares Experience

A very grateful Dries Stevens says the feeling of being found is hard to describe.

In a press conference today, Mr. Stevens shared the experience of being lost in the jungle and how he survived the whole ordeal.

Although fully equipped with compass in place, the heavy downpour had the experienced hiker detour to higher grounds.

Mr. Stevens, who was to take the northeast route, instead took the eastern direction.

He said flooding confused him as "small streams become big rivers."

"I came across many rivers and streams and decided to stick to one with the hope that it will take me out to the sea," he shared.

Still with visible bruises on fingers and feet, Mr. Stevens said trekking through the jungle was "fighting for every metres."

Asked on how he survived, Mr. Stevens said he had to be careful with food he had that was enough for only seven days.

"I had to be careful with what I pick to eat around me because while I know the plants in Belgium, here in Solomon Islands is a whole new environment for me."

He said finding his way around the jungle in the rain and dark had him "really excited" when sunlight finally broke through on the seventh day.

"The helicopter flew over me four times and although I could see them, they could not see me," Mr. Stevens told the media.

The hiker with the majority of his belongings green had to turn his tent inside-out so the white could attract the helicopter flying overhead.

"I had to make myself visible but all the stuff I had were green so the only option was to use my tent," he said.

Mr. Stevens said while he was expecting help, "these people did much more than their job."

Two locals, Samson Isik and Karasio Bofo from Mbambanakira, raised the alarm for the missing hiker after they reached Tinghe late Monday.

They then took to the skies in a helicopter for the first time in their lives to help PPF aircrew pinpoint his location at first light.

Mr. Stevens said despite the ordeal, "I will continue hiking but I will be more prepared because of what I have learnt."

His girlfriend, Stefanie Janssens, said she was very anxious as search continued over the past 13 days.

"I was calling every responsible authority and working closely with everyone involved in the search."

Ms. Janssens took the last flight in the chopper to see where people were searching "and it is really a huge and difficult place to search but I was really excited to see him."

Putting the whole thing behind, the relieved couple wishes to spend quality time alone before leaving the country for New Zealand on 17th of this month.