A couple and their dog have been rescued after spending two days stranded in the outback, which happened after border closures saw them take a massive detour through remote South Australia on their road trip from Cairns to Adelaide.
José Merlos, 29, and Nicky Wong, 32, had hoped to cruise on through NSW with their Dalmatian Loki. But that was before a bunch of states snapped their borders shut, forcing the couple to rethink their route.
On January 3, their Toyota RAV4 got bogged in sand on a remote outback road. After trying for hours to get the car unstuck, they eventually decided to walk to the tiny South Australian town of Innamincka, which is little more than a couple of buildings by a creek.
“It was so hot, and we were scared, I thought we were going to die,” Merlos said.
The two had to walk in the sun while the temperature was in the high 30s – thankfully low for this part of the country.
“My phone said ‘SOS’ only, and I kept trying over and over again to call for help, but the call wouldn’t go through,” he added.
With no way to contact the outside world, the couple ended up writing SOS into the sand, 40km away from where they had left their car.
Along the way, they also left behind hand-written notes begging for help.
By this point, Merlos had turned to drinking muddy water he saw dripping from a solar panel, and he even tried to drink his own piss, Bear Grylls style.
“We hardly spoke while we walked because our mouths were do dry,” Merlos continued.
“We had little food left but we couldn’t eat it because we had no saliva and couldn’t swallow.”
After two days without food or water, a remote worker known only as Craig spotted the couple’s notes and SOS sign.
When he finally caught up with them, he gave them a drink of water, something to eat, and a ride to Innamincka.
“Craig told us he only took that road once every six weeks, and we had another 25 km to walk to get to Innamincka. If he hadn’t found us, we would have perished,” Merlos said.
He joked that he might even call his future son Craig.
The couple were later treated by a nurse from the Royal Flying Doctor Service who said they were in “remarkably good physical condition”.
In a statement to The Sydney Morning Herald, a spokesperson for the service said people should always have physical maps, tools to unbog your car, extra water and a satellite phone when driving through the outback. On top of that, it’s important to stay put in your car if you do end up stranded.
“A vehicle stuck in mud or sand is easy to see from the air in the station choppers, you have more chance of being rescued alive if you stay put,” they said.
The couple now feel like they’ve been given a second chance after surviving such an insane ordeal.
“I just feel like we need to be kinder to everyone,” Wong told The Advertiser.