British backpacker Jamie Neale has revealed he thought he would die in the Australian bush where he was lost for 12 days, and had written goodbye letters to his family.
In his first interview since he miraculously survived almost two weeks lost amid freezing temperatures in Sydney’s Blue Mountains, the 19-year-old from north London, who was found by bushwalkers last Wednesday, also denied his story was a hoax.
“I was thinking I might die on that mountain,'' he told "60 Minutes," a current affairs television program in Australia in an interview for which he was paid an estimated $200,000.
“I had actually written some goodbye notes and things to my family saying, my last walk, saying sorry, explaining how I'd got lost and different things like that.
“I’m not a particularly religious person but I started thinking about God and I was praying and saying, ‘Surely you can move a helicopter an inch and find me,’ and ‘Why won’t you just help me?’”
Neale returned to the location of his near-fatal bushwalk with the television crew after being released from hospital in Katoomba on Friday.
He posed for photos at the Narrow Neck Plateau near Katoomba where he had been discovered last Wednesday, and was then flown over the Blue Mountains by helicopter.
He said he had lost the notepad with his goodbye letters, and his digital camera, while trying to get out of the dense bushland.
His incredible tale of survival — where he endured 12 nights in freezing temperatures, eating kangaroo berries and geebung weed, and drinking from local streams — has attracted many sceptics questioning the veracity of his story.
However Neale remains adamant that he became lost after getting disorientated by the sun, and dismissed talk his disappearance was a hoax or a stunt to make money.
“I know what happened, and I know the people who were out searching for me,” he said in the interview, which was set to air in Australia on Sunday night and will be broadcast in the U.K. on Sky.
“They know that it happened and that's good enough for me. People can say what they want because I'm not lying. It's the truth.”
Neale and his father Richard Cass hosted drinks in Katoomba on Friday night for some of the scores of volunteers who searched the rugged bushland looking for the lost backpacker.
Cass, who had flown to Australia from the family home in London to help search for his son, returned to England on Saturday.
Neale will now travel by train to Perth to stay with relatives as he cannot fly for eight weeks due to air bubbles on his lungs.