Perth’s Zavros family have detailed their fears for their children after being winched out of a remote part of the Simpson Desert to safety.
Kallaroo couple Ori and Lindsey Zavros had been in the midst of an around-the-nation trip in their camper truck when they were hit by wild weather and became heavily-bogged in the Witjira National Park. With essential supplies, including a satellite phone, dropped to them by police, they had planned to see out the storm and make their way back out despite the fact they could have been trapped for weeks.
But after being airlifted out by police helicopter on Tuesday and taken to safety in Coober Pedy, they admitted being worried about what effect and emerging heat wave would have on their young children, Zoe and Zane.
The experienced adventurers were also fearful of what could happen if they allowed their kids to go outside of their self-made truck some about 150km north-east of Oodnadatta.
“That was one of the more scary things,” Mrs Zavros told the ABC on Wednesday.
“Because we knew we were in the middle of nowhere, we didn’t want the kids to go outside and play and get stuck in mud or get hurt on anything because we can’t just take you to the hospital. We couldn’t afford to use water to wash them, so that’s why they were stuck inside — they would normally be out in the mud all day building mud castles and all sorts, but unfortunately we couldn’t do that.
“They knew we were stuck, but the hardest part for them was not being able to play outside. Then they were so excited to go in the helicopter, so they’ve had a rollercoaster of emotions as well.”
The children had been given an emotional boost when a pilot dropping supplies for the family also dropped down two teddy bears, which have since been named “Simpson” and “Desert”. The couple praised the response of emergency services, which had a plan flying over them with the phone just four hours after they had set off an emergency beacon last Friday.
Mrs Zavros said it had been a delight to be clean again after the ordeal and described the family’s emotions as “grateful, excited, exhausted”. Her husband said it had been a roller-coaster and the couple would “take it in turns to be emotional”.
“I was up-and-down and Lindsey would pull me through it,” he said.
The next day, she’d be down and I’d be like, ‘We’re all good, we’re all good’. So it worked really good and we actually worked as a team pretty well.
“We managed the water quite well in the end and survived.”
The Zavros family has travelled extensively and had previously camped through a cyclone. But they said the storm that hit on the first night in the outback was the worst they had experienced. They knew they were in trouble on the third day out on the mud flats, when their Mitsubishi Canter 4WD vehicle started to sink.
They also realised they did not have enough fuel to turn around and head back to Birdsville.
“We knew we either had to push forward or wait it out,” Mr Zavros said. “We probably made a few little decisions that were wrong, but once the truck started to sink down, I knew that we were in trouble.”
The family, who described themselves on their “Trucking Oz” Instagram page as a “Travel family – Travelling Australia in our truck and home built camper”, said the experience would not deter them from more outdoor adventures with their children.
“There’s definitely decisions we could have made different, but no regrets,” Mr Zavros said.
“The kids certainly get a lot of experience from our travels, so we wouldn’t change that for the world.”