Lost in the bush

IT'S every bushwalker's worst nightmare - being lost in dense bushland all alone at night.

And that's exactly what happened to Alissa Tanskaya, after bushwalk along the Never Never River in Bellingen to Gleniffer Falls went horribly wrong.

The 37-year-old decided on Saturday morning she would take the walk, and after speaking to local farmer Cliff Schofield about the route, she set out on her adventure dressed in a cotton tracksuit and armed with her mobile phone, two apples, two carrots, a water bottle, a raincoat and a hat.

All was going fine until Ms Tanskaya turned out of the river bed and to climb up a hill - and went too far.

"I looked through the foliage and I realised I was much too high to be in line with the falls."

Using her mobile phone as a clock, Ms Tanskaya knew she had to turn back if she was to make it home before dark.

She immediately backtracked, but realised she was not passing any landmarks she had previously.

"I still had two hours of daylight, and I was catching a
signal on my phone, so I rang (her husband) Scott. I said, 'Don't panic, but we're up for a bit of an adventure here. I'm lost and I don't think I can find my way back'.

"I just kept moving. When I came to a little creek I was very happy - I could hear the water. But then it came to a point where it was five or six metres of rock high either side, and below was a 20 metre drop off.

"There was no way I could keep going."

With about 15 minutes of daylight left, Ms Tanskaya found a position beside a boulder and settled in for the night - putting all of her layers of clothing on and her feet in her backpack to keep warm.

During this time, her husband, Scott Murray, had consulted with police from Bellingen and Coffs Harbour and the SES.

After failing light stopped the search on Saturday evening, it was briskly recommenced by 6.30am Mother's Day.

At 8.32am, Ms Tanskaya was found - weary and sore, but well - just 600 metres from where she had started.

"I wasn't frightened. I believe that every experience happens so you can take something out of it."

She said she realised how important her family was, and that there is always time.

"I was always rushing, but when you have 12 hours of darkness, you realise there is nothing but time."

The family would like to express their greatest thanks to the police from Bellingen and Coffs Harbour, and the SES volunteers involved.

"They are heroes. It was such a precious, treasured experience to deal with these people who expect nothing," Mr Murray said.

Ms Tanskaya said when she returns from work overseas she will be joining the SES.

"They're amazing. I did not know they were volunteers. I don't know when I will be back, but when I am I will try and join the SES. It's just great."

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