Hiker Rachel Lloyd said she was on the verge of dying when search and rescue crews found her and her mother five days after they got lost in the New Zealand wilderness.
The North Carolina natives set out on a day hike Tuesday but soon became lost in Tararua Forest Park in New Zealand. Rachel, 25, became injured and could no longer walk.
Her mother, Carolyn Lloyd, 45, used branches to spell out “HELP” in two clearings of the forest. That’s how rescue helicopters found the pair days later.
The Lloyds began their hiking adventure on the Kapakapanui Track of Tararua Forest Park on Tuesday. The track takes about six to eight hours to hike and is known to have one of the best viewpoints in the Tararua Range.
Though experienced day hikers, the pair became disoriented on the course. Instead of following the orange trail markers, “we saw blue markers and thought this must be another track to go down the mountain,” said Carolyn.
Actually, the blue markers were in place for opossum tracking.
The women were in dire need of rescuing. During their hike, Rachel slipped in a creek and knocked her head on a rock. She was unable to walk and her health deteriorated each day.
“At this point I was on the verge of dying,” Rachel Lloyd told CNN affiliate TVNZ. She recalls going over her dying wishes with her mom.
The duo weren’t equipped to withstand the temperatures of the park that dipped in the 40s during the night. Soon their food supplies became limited.
“We didn’t sleep at night because it was so cold,” said Carolyn.
Unbeknownst to the women, a search and rescue mission began to look for the missing Americans when they failed to return their rental car. The car was finally located Thursday at the base of the track.
“We were there at the mercy of everyone, hoping someone would rescue us,” said Carolyn.
Amalgamated Helicopters, a company that offers range of helicopter services, aided in the search and spotted a hopeful sign on Saturday.
“‘HELP’ is a message that needs no explanation, and this is exactly what pilots JD and Jamie saw when on a search for the two missing American women on Saturday,” the company posted on Facebook.
The women were rescued and taken to a hospital to recover.
“They told me I had hypothermia and if it would have been a couple more hours I probably wouldn’t have made it,” said Rachel.