(Reuters) - A Czech woman who spent nearly a month alone in a warden’s hut on a remote New Zealand hiking track after her male partner was killed in a fall spoke of her harrowing ordeal on Friday.
Pavlina Pizova said she heard Ondrej Petr’s last breath and spent two freezing nights beside the body before leaving to find shelter at a hut at Lake Mackenzie on the country’s South Island.
“As you can imagine the last month was very harrowing for me,” a pale and emotional Pizova told a news conference at Queenstown’s police station.
The pair had become disorientated when heavy snow covered markers on the hiking track before her partner fell to his death.
“The conditions were extreme,” she said. “During this time I got extremely cold, exhausted and my feet were frozen”.
Pizova said she made a few attempts to leave the hut in the past month but exhaustion and avalanches on the trail convinced her it was safer to wait and hope for rescue.
“Pavlina made the right decision to stay put and wait to be rescued,” said Inspector Olaf Jensen of the district police.
She was only found because a consul for the Czech Republic, Vladka Kennett, spotted “a random Facebook post” from fraught relatives in the Czech Republic and informed the authorities.
Pizova expressed her gratitude to the New Zealand Land Search and Rescue, local police and the Department of Conservation for their efforts.
Pizova urged travelers intending to trek through the New Zealand mountains to be informed of the extreme winter weather conditions prior to starting their journey.
“I’m aware we made a few mistakes - not leaving our intentions with somebody, not carrying a personal locator beacon and underestimating the winter conditions,” said Pizova.
A coroner’s inquiry is underway into Petr’s death. Television New Zealand reported he was 27 years old.
(This story corrects location of police station in third paragraph)
Reporting by Zoe Cooney