Couch-surf host helps rescue lost hiker
A CAIRNS man has become a "couch-surf lifesaver" after alerting rescuers to a German tourist who became lost in the wilds of the Northern Territory.
Edmonton resident Brian Phillips, who is a couch-surfing host, had a young German backpacker stay with him for a month before she headed off to explore the Top End.
On Thursday, Mr Phillips received a text message from the 21-year-old backpacker, who claimed to be lost in Katherine Gorge, and needed him to contact authorities.
He said he initially thought she had messaged him to let him know she was continuing to enjoying her travels across northern Australia.
"I was sitting down at work to have a smoko, and a message came through with this phone number, and she said she needed to be rescued - this wasn't a joke," he said.
"I rang the number for National Parks over there.
"They sent a search party to look for her, and found her a couple of hours later."
He said he was surprised his young guest, who had never visited Australia before, had rung him rather than 000, even when told her phone battery was low.
Nitmiluk National Park senior district ranger Andrew McPhee confirmed the department received a phone call from Mr Phillips alerting them to the backpacker's situation.
"A ground and air response was quickly activated, following information received from the Nitmiluk chief district ranger in Katherine, who had been speaking to the hiker on the phone before it went flat," he said.
"Prior to this, it is reported the missing hiker also sent a Google Maps location to a friend located in Cairns, who provided this to the district rangers to assist in locating her.
"She was located very quickly and returned to the Katherine Gorge helipad, where she was provided cold water to rehydrate."
He warned that hiking in the NT carried risks.
"The weather experienced across the region currently is very hot, and we encourage people to prepare by checking the weather forecast before you walk, and to carry plenty of water," he said.
Mr Phillips, who has hosted more than 70 couch-surfers in the past two years, joked that it was all part of his service.
"I didn't do too much other than took the phone call," he said.
"It could have ended up worse, I suppose."