Mother, daughter survivors: 'My mum kept me alive'

Carolyn Lloyd and Rachel (Newshub.)
Carolyn Lloyd and Rachel (Newshub.)

US mother Carolyn Lloyd and her 22-year-old daughter, Rachel, only planned a day hike, but ended up being trapped in the Tararua Forest Park north of Wellington for four nights.

Rachel's mother was here visiting her daughter, who had been attending Massey University.

"I wanted to give Mum the New Zealand experience," Rachel told Newshub.

The pair originally wanted to do the Alpine Crossing hike, but the shuttle wasn't running because of bad weather conditions, so the Kapakapanui Track was the closest hike to Massey.

Police began a search and rescue operation on Friday after the pair's vehicle was found at the entrance of the Kapakapanui Track.

Mother, daughter survivors: 'My mum kept me alive'


The crossing should have taken six to eight hours, but the women lost track of the orange markers after reaching the summit and began following blue markers, which stood for possum traps.

"Then it got really treacherous and crazy. There was no path, it was very thick but we still kept going because we wanted to get down," says Carolyn.

"It was going to get dark and there was clearly no path and that's when it started getting scary and very steep and we literally couldn't have gone back up the way we came."

Darkness fell, and the pair slept in a tree the first night, which hung around 200 metres above a giant waterfall and stream with rapids and rocks, Rachel says.

"I just held her all night. I was so worried that if we fell asleep one of us would roll and that would be it," says Carolyn.

The next day their main focus was to get down the mountain by following the stream and to try and find the orange markers again.

Rachel had lost all mobility in her legs at this point, hindered from previous injuries, and had fallen into the water multiple times. Her clothes were soaking wet, but they never found those orange markers again.

"My mum kept me live; she kept me alive," Rachel says.

For the second night they stayed overnight in a grassy knoll, but didn't sleep because of how cold they were.

"I was dizzy; I couldn't see. I was starting to lose my senses; every sense was starting to go," says Rachel.

Carolyn ended up putting her backpack on her front and piggy-backed Rachel for the next day, but the stream got too narrow and the rushing water was "really dicey".

"We ended up coming back upstream and found a spot that was sunny just to warm her up, and that's where we stayed," Carolyn says.

They stayed there for Thursday and Friday nights, finding dead dry ferns for bedding, and tried to suck the moisture out of their clothes.

"Friday when I woke up the first thing I did was try to make the help signs," Carloyn says.

"The only person that really knew where we were going was my husband."

Carolyn had sent him a text message the morning before they began the hike, and Rachel's flatmates didn't know about their change of plans from the Alpine Crossing to Tararua Park.

Mother, daughter survivors: 'My mum kept me alive'


On Friday, the rescue helicopter found the pair and they were transported to hospital.

"I was just on the ground, screaming and waving my hands," says Rachel.

"They told me in the ambulance that I would have only made it a couple more hours. They told me I had hypothermia and severe dehydration."

Carolyn and Rachel only had enough food packed for one day, and had to ration out trail mix and crackers.

"My thoughts were I didn't want my mum to see me die. I could see it in her eyes the whole bunch of pain I was going through," says Rachel.

"It was honestly our faith in God and our total committing to him and not doubting him that kept us alive," says Carolyn.

Rachel says they're strong Christians and "we believe God can do the impossible".

But it was not only their faith that helped, but the generosity of Kiwis.

"I just want to thank the whole of New Zealand. They've been so good to us, so overwhelming -- way more than we could ever expect," says Carolyn.