Monday, August 23, 1999 Published at 23:33 GMT 00:33 UK
American found after outback odyssey
Robert Bogucki survived the Australian outback by eating plants and sipping muddy water
A 33-year old man from Alaska has been rescued from the Australian outback after a trek lasting 43 days.
Builder Robert Bogucki was weak when he was found in a creek in one of Australia's harshest deserts.
"I just wanted to spend a while on my own, just nobody else around, just make peace with God I guess," Mr Bogucki said. But he promised he would never do anything like it again.
He left the Sandfire Roadhouse, 1,000km (610 miles) north of Perth, the capital of Western Australia, on 11 July, intending to ride his bike and trek across the Great Sandy Desert to Fitzroy Crossing.
An earlier search was launched on 26 July after tourists found his bike and camping gear just a few kilometres along a track into the desert. Aboriginal trackers joined police planes and four-wheel-drive vehicles in the search.
Police called off the search after 12 days, presuming that Mr Bogucki had perished or had hitched a ride without alerting authorities that he was safe.
But his parents Ray and Betty refused to give up hope and they hired a team of specialist US trackers who resumed the search last week with dogs, and found new signs - footprints at first, then on Sunday a bible, empty water bottle, notebook, tent and tarpaulin.
On Monday a helicopter carrying a television news crew found Mr Bogucki in a state of bewilderment in a maze of gorges in Western Australia's remote Edgar Ranges, some 400km (250 miles) away from where he set off.
Plants and flowers
Speaking to reporters later from a hospital bed in Broome, 1,600km (1,000 miles) north of Perth, Mr Bogucki said he ran out of food a few days into his trek and kept himself alive by eating plants and flowers.
He added that he felt that he had "scratched the itch" which sent him there. He had reportedly told his American girlfriend, Janet North, that he intended to find "spiritual enlightenment" in the desert.
The Alaskan lost 20kg (44 pounds) during the ordeal, but medical staff at Broome Hospital said his physical condition was remarkable.
Kimberley region Health Service General Manager Ern Hulbert said he would have expected to see severe sunburn, blistering and some effects of exposure. But the only injuries were some scratches on his feet and back and weight loss.
Although Broome police will not bring charges against Mr Bogucki, they did describe him as irresponsible for setting off without telling officials what he intended to do.
Police officials said their search had cost about US$22,000, and that Mr Bogucki's parents also would have to pay about US$50,000 to the Miami-based 1st Special Response Group.