An English tramper rescued after spending five days in rugged bush west of Nelson says he was beginning to lose hope of being found and wished he had remembered his map.
James Esbester, 30, went missing in the Wangapeka area of Kahurangi National Park last Thursday. He had water but no food.
He was spotted waving at a search helicopter about 8.10pm on Tuesday night and flown to safety.
Mr Esbester says he had left his map by mistake at the hut where he was staying and two days into his ordeal had to take out his contact lenses and manage without being able to see properly.
The tramper says he became disoriented and took the wrong route down on Thursday after climbing Mt Luna.
He stayed in a bush clearing for the past three days, becoming weaker from lack of food and was overjoyed when he was spotted by the helicopter.
Mr Esbester was treated in Nelson Hospital for mild hypothermia and a cut to his left arm suffered after a fall.
He thanked his rescuers, saying he would have died without their efforts.