September 22, 2011

BRAZIL: Intrepid British Adventurers Lesley Norris, 64, and Bruce Scott, 62 rescued in Amazon

LONDON, England / The Daily Mail / News / September 22, 2011

* They were stuck for more than 48 hours before calling home to Eastbourne
* Falmouth Coastguard contacted rescue services in Brazil who sent helicopter for the intrepid pair * They have been travelling in South and Central America for five years

By David Wilkes

Their motorhome had plunged into a ravine in the Amazon jungle, hundreds of miles from civilisation, and they had not seen another motorist for 48 hours.

But intrepid Lesley Norris and Bruce Scott did not panic. Instead, they instigated an extraordinary trans-Atlantic rescue mission by ringing Miss Norris’s brother-in-law 5,125 miles away in Eastbourne, East Sussex, on their satellite phone.

He took down their GPS co-ordinates so they could be traced, then alerted Dover Coastguard who in turn contacted their colleagues in Falmouth, the co-ordinating station for international alerts, who duly raised the alarm with rescue services in Brazil.

Nightmare adventure: Bruce Scott and Lesley Norris are stranded in the Amazon

A helicopter was scrambled to pick up the pair, who have been travelling in Central and South America for five and a half years in their Mercedes Unimog – an off-road adventure vehicle adapted to include a double bed and porcelain flushing loo.

Badly shaken, the couple had to spend a night under the stars in the sweltering rainforest, which is home to vampire bats, poison dart frogs and black caiman crocodiles, before the helicopter arrived.

Neither of the pair, who are both originally from London and gave up their jobs for a life on the open road in 2006, was injured during the drama.

Still stuck: British traveller Lesley Norris who, along with her partner Bruce Scott, is currently being rescued from the Amazon

Miss Norris, 64, used to live in the suburb of Teddington and was a British Airways stewardess for 20 years. Mr Scott, 62, who sold his studio flat in West Kensington to invest in the Unimog, was a professional photographer who has also trained as a bus driver.

On a website about their trip, on which Mr Scott is pictured looking debonair in a pith helmet and white tuxedo with his arm around a uniformed Miss Norris, they described how they have visited Mexico and were attempting to drive the length of South America.

On her last blog entry before the accident, Miss Norris said life was getting tough in Brazil, with ‘unseasonably hot’ temperatures of up to 40c making it unpleasant to sleep in the truck.

Stranded: The couple's UNIMOG has got stuck down a ravine in Brazil after a bridge they were on collapsed.

And then Bruce got a cold,’ she added, so they went to visit a ‘butterfly lovers’ paradise’ called Pousada Ecologica Rio Grande Rancho to relax.

The Latest from Manaus:  Amazonas em tempo

But their journey came to a grinding halt on Tuesday when a bridge collapsed and the motorhome hurtled 30ft down the gully before turning on its side in a remote spot 200 miles south west of the nearest city, Manaus.

Last night Miss Norris’s sister, Jenny, 62, whose husband Ken answered their call, said the couple managed to haul themselves out of the vehicle and ‘feel lucky to be alive’.

‘Bruce helped Lesley to climb out and then went back down and got a couple of chairs for them both so they could sit on the roadside,’ she said.

‘He went back down and got some tarpaulin and they slept on the road, hoping to be rescued.’

She added: ‘When Ken got the call he just rang the Coastguard straight away.

‘The first thing I heard about it was when I got home two hours later as he did not want to worry me. I am so glad he picked up the phone because I would not have known what to do.’

Miss Norris and Mr Bruce were picked up by a Brazilian army helicopter yesterday and flown to Manaus, a popular tourist destination because of its proximity to the jungle. Last night they were recovering in a hotel after being treated for exposure and cuts and bruises.

UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokesman Fred Caygill said: ‘It’s not the first time we’ve assisted people across the world.

‘This is a bit unusual for us as it’s not of a maritime nature, but there are no boundaries in search and rescue.’ The Foreign Office was informed of the couple’s plight and offered consular assistance, while the Brazilian army last night said it will recover the couple’s vehicle.

Second-hand Unimogs cost at least £10,000 without being modified into motorhomes, while new ones cost up to £70,000.

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