Lost and found: faith in humanity

By Shepparton News

Apart from my Mum, reaching out to others for help has never been a strong point for me — I have never liked it and I most likely never will.

But on a recent solo trip to Tasmania, I had an unlikely situation that put me in a place where I was forced to seek help.

It was a fresh single-digit-degree day temperature wise where the fog was thick and the rain was patchy. Being the perfect weather to photograph waterfalls, I planned a visit to two falls that were somewhat close together and only an hour’s drive from where I was staying.

Planning to go to the one that was further away and the other on my way back, I punched in the location in the GPS and was on my way.

All was going to plan until I arrived at my destination to find nothing but the dense forest and no phone signal to google the minor details of where this waterfall might be hidden.

With not a sign, nor a person in sight, I figured I would drive further down the track, thinking I could be just metres off and not know. To my confusion, I was not successful.

After driving down multiple nearby tracks, I came to terms with the fact that I was not going to find the waterfall and called it quits. With the intention to turn around and head back to the falls that was 20 minutes back up the road, I began driving in what I thought was the direction I came from. One road led to another, which led to another before I was officially lost.

I found myself slowly chugging along some single rocky roads for up to 20 minutes before they would eventually turn into nothing and I would turn around and go all the way back to try another one. Being on a holiday I was pretty cruisey about it all and was fine to just soak up the forest views. But when two hours had passed, my cruisiness was slowly fading and frustration began to grow.

Eventually I was able to get to a point where the GPS said ‘‘drive to highlighted route’’ and from there it was apparently going to lead me out of this never-ending forest.

After a few wrong turns, I got to the highlighted route and the GPS informed me all I had to do was continue on the road for 1km before I would arrive at the main highway.

Suddenly just hundreds of metres on, the dense forest walls that had lined the tracks began to open, I was feeling good about this.

A little further on and I saw cars. I saw people. I saw a real road. And as I got closer, I saw a big fat boom gate right across my track. To say I was disappointed would be the understatement of the year.

With a closer examination I saw the gate was nicely secured with a padlock and my small glimmer of hope diminished before my eyes.

I turned back to the way I came from and began driving all over again. Until three hours on I found myself back at the gate reassessing.

At this point, I pulled out my phone and I dialled 000 — the only number I could call with no phone signal.

There I spoke to a policewoman from a nearby town who seemed to be helpful until she said they could come and get me, but they would have to leave my car there.

I thought ‘‘c’mon lady, you are a policewoman for crying out loud, if you cannot help me, who can?’’

After some time talking with her, her best advice was to go out to the road and wave someone down for help.

Unsure of how exactly that was going to help, I did as she said and I hesitantly attempted to stop one of the four cars that came around the bend moments later.

All four cars flew past me ... but as I turned around to watch them all disappear in the distance it was almost surreal to see the last vehicle stop and reverse its way back to me.

I opened the door of the van and inside was the nicest man in the whole of Tassie — Paul Starick.

As I went to tell him my problem, I burst into tears. And from that point I knew the right guy had pulled over. Although he was as clueless of what to do as I was to begin with, he was committed to doing whatever it took to get me out.

Long story, short — after a number of calls, Paul tracked down someone within a department who happened to have a key to the gate and an hour later I was on my way.

Although the idea of having to wave someone down and ask them for help was not my idea of fun, nor the day I had planned, it was an experience that restored my faith in humanity.

I only hope that some day I will be the Paul who is able to help someone by being in the right place at the right time and showing that I care just like he did — regardless of his busy schedule and the inconvenience it was to him.

Laura Briggs is a News journalist.