Pietermaritzburg – An 82-year-old man has praised his dog for keeping him warm and alive at the bottom of a steep valley for two days and two nights.
Lewis Stone is recovering in the Pietermaritzburg Medi-Clinic after falling about 30 metres down a steep valley off Oswald Shearer Drive in Wembley at the weekend.
Stone was in a jovial mood on Tuesday, laughing as he narrated his ordeal in the open, praising his five-year old German Shepherd Misha.
â??I walked from the end of Villiers Drive into Ashby Road for about four kilometres and it was at about 17h30 when I decided to head back and it was dusk. I was walking behind the houses in the bushes and started looking for an open backyard gate so that I could walk through to the main road.
â??In one of the yards a young man couldnâ??t open the gate for me as he was a visitor at the house.
Slipped and fell
â??I kept walking along the three-metre-high electric wire, but there was no opening to the other side,â? said Stone.
He said it got darker and steeper and he slipped and fell down the embankment to the bottom of the valley.
â??I couldnâ??t climb up back to the fence again. As I got to the bottom of the gorge I walked along a small stream and I slipped again, falling down what seemed to be a waterfall, but I landed on my feet. A huge boulder came crashing down on to my head and I blacked out for a while.
â??That was my first night in the open with my dog. It was wet in the area but at no stage had I panicked, I remained focused,â? said Stone.
He said Misha was whimpering all the time, sensing that something was wrong.
â??As I was lying there through the night I knew I was going to survive and I fell asleep at the bottom of the embankment,â? he said.
On Sunday Stone was trapped in the thick bush and shrubs – bruised, hungry, thirsty and tired. He said he saw the police helicopter searching for him, but had no means of signalling his presence to the search team.
To quench his thirst he dug a hole in a wet area and drank the water that seeped in. He had managed to climb to the upper part of the waterfall. He said he had to sleep holding tight to a tree trunk to avoid falling back to the bottom.
// Shout for help
â??Several attempts to climb to the top of the gorge had failed and on Monday I tried again. It must have been for the eighth attempt on different sides of the gorge when I finally decided to shout for help. I had given up hope by then and this young girl [Hayley Graves] appeared out of the blue.
â??It was again getting dark and told her to go home and bring help the next day because I knew she would have to struggle to get me out of there. She just held my hand and said â??no waysâ?? was she leaving me there, and everyone came to my rescue,â? he said.
His son Nigel said everyone was beginning to lose hope on Monday and that he had gone his fatherâ??s normal trail but there was no sign of him. â??I felt defeated because he is my mate. Heâ??s never going back there again,â? said Nigel.
The family thanked everyone who was involved in the search.
Medi-Clinic spokesperson Reshnee Beekrum said Stone was under indefinite observation and was being treated for dehydration.
Strory by Chris Ndaliso, The Witness
Picture: Ian Carbutt, The Witness
Reprinted by kind permission of The Witness: www.witness.co.za