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July 20, 2009

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British teenager says he was a 'total idiot'

A BRITISH teenager who was found dehydrated and freezing after 12 wintry days lost in Australia's wilderness said he wrote farewell notes to his family and expected to die of starvation.

Jamie Neale, 19, told Australia's "60 Minutes" television program yesterday that he was "a total idiot" to venture unprepared into the Blue Mountains, 100 kilometers west of Sydney.

"In the UK, you can walk for a day and you'd end up in a pub," Neale said.

"Out here, you can get lost so easily. You should respect the fact, be more prepared and think about what you are doing a lot more."

Neale said he set off for a hike on July 3 with only two bread rolls and a small bottle of water.

He wore light clothing, did not carry his cell phone and told no one where he was headed.

"I had overconfidence and I didn't respect the seriousness of the situation, and I made mistakes," Neale acknowledged on the program, which paid him A$200,000 (US$160,600) for his tale.

Temperatures in the Blue Mountains were about 13 degrees Celsius during the day and fell to nearly zero degree at night while Neale was lost.

"It got really, really cold. My feet were burning," Neale said on camera as he walked with a reporter through the thick trees and plants in the area where he was lost.

"(I was) trying to move my toes because I was scared that I might get something like trench foot or gangrene."

He said he ate seeds and weeds, and kept warm at night under strips of bark.

"The lowest thing that I thought was going to happen would be that I would starve to death, which is something I really didn't want to happen," Neale said. "I didn't want a long, drawn-out thing and that did terrify me."

Two hikers happened upon Neale last Wednesday.


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