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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Man Found After 43 Days Lost in Australian Desert




BROOME, Australia -- Alaskan adventurer Robert Bogucki was rescued Monday, weak but alive after 43 days trekking across 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,'' said the 33-year-old volunteer fireman from Fairbanks, Alaska, of why he decided to start the trek.


Bogucki left the Sandfire Roadhouse, 1,000 kilometers north of Perth, capital of Western Australia state, July 11, intending to bike and trek across the Great Sandy Desert to Fitzroy Crossing.


A search for Bogucki was launched July 26 after tourists found his bike and camping gear just a few kilometers along a track into the desert. Aboriginal trackers joined police planes and four-wheel-drive vehicles in the search.


Police called off the search 12 days later, but Bogucki's parents Ray and Betty refused to give up hope. They hired specialist U.S. trackers who resumed the search last week and found new signs f footprints at first, then Sunday a Bible, an empty water bottle, a notebook, a tent and a tarpaulin.


On Monday a helicopter carrying a television news crew found Bogucki bewildered in a maze of gorges in Western Australia's remote Edgar Ranges, 400 kilometers away from where he set off.


"I'm hungry, tired,'' Bogucki told the television crew that found him. "Enough of this walking around.''


Speaking later from a hospital bed in Broome, 1,600 kilometers north of Perth, Bogucki said he ran out of food a few days into his trek and kept himself alive by eating plants and flowers.


"I can't really say specifically what it was, but I do feel satisfied I've scratched that itch, whatever that was, that sent me out there in the first place,'' he said.


Bogucki lost 20 kilograms during the ordeal, but staff at Broome Hospital said his physical condition was remarkable.


The bill for the hunt is expected to run into tens of thousands of dollars.


State lawmaker Larry Graham said Bogucki should foot the bill himself, blaming him for endangering the lives of those who carried out the search.


There had been speculation that Bogucki was avoiding searchers, but police spokesman Sergeant Wally Woolf rejected idea.


"That's completely out of the question,'' Woolf said. "He was unaware he was being searched for.''


Bogucki expressed his gratitude to the searchers and apologized for the trouble he caused." I feel bad that a lot of people came looking for me, that there was so much spent and time and effort,'' he said, sitting in a wheelchair with a saline drip attached to his arm.


"I really appreciated it ? I'm sorry that people had to go to so much trouble.''