Kiwis return after ferry ordeal

Two Kiwi tourists who survived an 18-hour ordeal after a ferry sank in Indonesia are due back in New Zealand today.

Golden Bay couple Gaylene Wilkinson, 53, and Tony Lawton, 52, had to cling to the hull of the sinking wooden boat for 11 hours after it capsized last Saturday night.

They then had to swim in scorching heat to a desolate volcanic island, where the lack of fresh water forced them to drink their own urine to survive. They were later rescued by passing boats.

The New Zealanders had been among 20 foreigners on the fateful ferry trip between the islands of Lombok and Komodo.

Ms Wilkinson's mother, Ngaire, said the couple were due to fly into Auckland from Bali this morning. They would then fly to Nelson.

She said she would be relieved to see her daughter and Mr Lawton again.

"They've just got to get home now. It was pretty horrible, alright."

The couple might go back to Mrs Wilkinson's home, or continue on to their home in Takaka, Golden Bay, where they had animals to tend to.

Mrs Wilkinson said the couple had been "pretty traumatised" and had only just survived the ordeal.

"It was pretty touch and go. Tony's quite badly burnt with sunburn, and his eyes were very sore," she said.

"To survive, they had to drink their own urine. They landed on that remote island, a volcanic island ... there was nothing there, no water or anything."

The couple had lost everything on the ferry, and were left with "only what they were swimming in," Mrs Wilkinson said.

Their insurer had given them money to buy clothes and toiletries, and the embassy had assisted with temporary passports and accommodation.

They were staying in Bali, where they were "trying to recuperate".

The couple, who are both search and rescue volunteers, had always been quite adventurous, Mrs Wilkinson said.

Ms Wilkinson had just retired as a teacher at Golden Bay High School last year.

"It was her birthday, the day they left, so Tony thought, 'Oh well, we'll go and have a holiday for her birthday, and have an adventure.' Well, it turned out some adventure, didn't it."

The couple had been having a really good time until the ferry incident.

"They'd been biking and scuba diving and riding the tubes and the waves and that, surfing."

They had been due to finish their six-week holiday at end of the month. Now they just wanted to get home, Mrs Wilkinson said.

- By Matthew Backhouse of APNZ

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