Page last updated at 17:05 GMT, Wednesday, 15 July 2009 18:05 UK

Tourist lucky to survive wilderness

A view of the "Ruined Castle" and "Narrow Neck" in the Blue Mountains

By Nick Bryant
BBC News, Katoomba

As treacherous in parts as they are beautiful, the Blue Mountains have long posed a challenge to adventurous Brits.

Towards the end of the 18th Century, in the decade following white settlement, new arrivals in nearby Sydney were of the belief that lush farmland lay on the other side of this craggy and forested mountain range, but that it lay beyond their reach.

It both tantalised and taunted them.

The Blue Mountains - or Carmarthen Hills, as they were originally called - were considered impassable and insurmountable.

The first official crossing came in 1813, and the intrepid explorers Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Charles Wentworth were rewarded with parcels of land at the time, and thereafter with roads, buildings, statues and even the honour of having parliamentary seats named after them.

Richard Cass (left) visits his son Jamie Neale in hospital
Jamie Neale is understood to have got lost in the wild after going for a walk

Much of the wilderness in this popular tourist spot is pretty much as it was then: dense, rugged, extremely cold in the winter and notoriously difficult to survive in if you have ventured out unprepared.

Off-track it is easy to get lost, and easy to get disorientated. It is a vast expanse of land, much of it untamed.

These were the challenges facing Jamie Neale, who had left his youth hostel with a small day-sack and not much in the way of warm clothing.

He survived by eating seeds and vegetation, a leaf which his father said resembles rocket lettuce. Bushtucker, the locals call it.

His shelter, according to his father Richard Cass, was a log, and his attempts to chase down a wild horse, which he looked on as a potential source of food, ended in failure.

'Near miracle'

Locals, who know how cold it can get here in the winter - close to freezing overnight - are describing his re-emergence from the bushland as a near miracle.

My son is the sort of person who could run to the North Pole and back wearing only his underpants
Richard Cass
Jamie Neale's father

When I spoke to police this morning an hour before he was found, they were about to call off the search.

His father was about to board a flight back to London.

Before leaving, he had created a makeshift memorial for his son, etching his name into a rock and burying a red rose. Perhaps one day they will visit it together.

His dad always said that if anyone could survive this, it was Jamie. And so it proved.

Speaking to me outside the hospital in Katoomba tonight, he spoke of his resilience and said, rather memorably, that his son was the sort of person who could run to the North Pole and back wearing only his underpants.

Watch this space.

Map detailing the Blue Mountains, where Jamie Neale went missing

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