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Mum survives six weeks in the bush living on bugs and plants

Shelley Crooks became lost in the bush after the “biggest mistake” of her life.
Shelley Crooks

Shelley Crooks survived a six week ordeal in the West Coast bush, after becoming disorientated and suffering injuries not long after setting out on a planned four day hike.

The mother-of-four had set out to walk the Punakaiki trek after spending a night at the Punakaiki Camping ground just before Christmas, but realised after a few days in she’d become lost and “was going in a cirle,” she told NZME.

“I was immobilised for weeks after I’d run out of food and done damage to my legs.”

Crooks told NZME she had three tins of baked beans with sausages, three packets of dried noodles, a small tin of condensed milk and 10 sachets of soup. She’d managed to make this last about two weeks.

After that Crooks, who is experienced in bush craft, lived off bugs and plants.

Her ordeal ended after she was found in a distressed state on the bank of the Fox River by English conservation volunteer, Alex Morley, last Sunday. Her clothes and shoes were in tatters, and her voice was barely above a whisper.

She told Morley – the man whom she thought to be an angel – her search beacon had washed away during a river crossing, along with her sleeping bag.

Shelley Crooks drew on her survival skills to endure her ordeal. Photo: Facebook

In her interview with NZME, Crooks explained that she’d been dropped off by friends at the start of her walk on the Punakaiki track. She’d arranged to contact them once she’d finished the expected four day trek.

After hiking for 2 1/2 hours she set up camp but was told by a conservation worker heavy rain was expected so she returned to the Punakaiki Camping Ground where she spent the night.

The next morning, she set out on her hike again only to realise that at some point she’d been walking in circles and had made a grave error in not letting friends know she’d changed her plans.

“My mistake was I should have let my friends know that I had come out and was going back in.”

Crooks apologised for the problems she caused and her family have issued a statement thanking all those who helped in the rescue efforts.

The family also met with Alex Morley this week and gifted him a special pounamu, walking with him to the banks where he found Crooks.

“The meeting for us can only be described as emotional,” the family statement said.

“Thanks to what Shelley described as what she thought was an angel. Alex is the man who saved her life.”

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