Rescued hiker ate eucalyptus to stay alive
A MISSING hiker who was missing for five days has been found alive in the Grampians.
Julio "Lester" Ascui told reporters at the scene that he drank water from a rock pool and ate eucalyptus while he was missing.
He also said he slept under a rock overhang and used his lighter to start a fire.
After he was rescued, Julio told media he had simply lost his way.
"I'm really fine," he said.
"It was amazing (when they found me) because I was really thirsty."
A Victoria Police spokeswoman said emergency services had found Mr Ascui alive and were currently in the process of "extracting him safely".
"Police are currently speaking with Julio and working towards extracting him safely," Leading Senior Constable Lea-Taylor Bolton said.
"Police would like to thank everyone involved in the search for Julio whose efforts have resulted in this successful outcome."
Police will release more details as they become available.
The 50-year-old from Keilor Downs was reported missing after failing to contact family members since his last Facebook post on December 29.
His car was found by family members at a car park on the corner of Stoney Creek Road and Rosea Track in Halls Gap at 5pm on New Year's Eve.
Mr Ascui's family thanked emergency services for their efforts in finding the missing hiker.
"He (Julio) just said 'what is everybody so worried about'," his son Joshua told media gathered at the scene.
"He looked perfectly fine, other than having lots of scratches and grazes.
"He looked like he could have kept going another five days.
"But we are confiscating his keys as of today.
"As soon as I saw him tears fell down my face. Big hug. I don't think I have ever grabbed him and shown my dad so much love as I just did.
"He has a lot of ambition and motivation. My dad has got a 'never say quit' attitude.
"Even if he is down he will get back up and keep going and going.
"I think ultimately that is what has got him through these past five days and four nights.
"We were dreading this Saturday, with 45 degrees predicted. We are overwhelmed."
Mr Ascui's daughter is getting married in April.
"We were thinking my sister was not going to have her father to walk her down the aisle," Joshua said.
"Words can't explain what it will mean."
About 25 family members and more friends gathered at the scene as the search dragged on.
"My dad is the heart of the family and everybody just loves him," Joshua said.