Retired AA mechanic Geoff Keys was lucky to survive after spending two days stranded without food in the Jardine National Park, in northern Queensland.

The Brisbane Times reported that lone traveller Mr Keys had been camping with two families in the park when he set off on a 2km walk to go for a swim beneath a waterfall. He swam along a creek, but when he failed to find the Eliot Falls he made what he subsequently described as “one of the stupidest decisions ever.”

Writing about the incident on his blog, Mr Keys said: “Instead of turning round and swimming back upstream I decided to take to the bush and cut across to the track. It was nearly dark. I had no shoes. What was I thinking of?”

Barefoot, and wearing only shorts, T-shirt and a hat, Mr Keys quickly became lost as night fell. The next day he heard police rescue helicopters searching for him, and when he found a sandbank he scrawled the message ‘Help’, followed by the date, and an arrow indicating his direction of travel.

The next day his message was spotted by the search and rescue co-ordinator, Senior Constable Brad Foat, just as he was on the verge of directing the helicopter pilot to a different area. When they subsequently saw Mr Keys waving at them from the middle of a creek he was so exhausted that he could hardly move, and had to be winched to safety.

He later wrote: “It’s safe to say that I’m very grateful to everyone involved in my rescue. Their skill and professionalism is incredible. I feel stupid but lucky.”

Police have estimated that the rescue operation cost around A$800,000 (£370,000).