KATHMANDU (AFP) - A Taiwanese trekker who was rescued on a Nepal mountainside seven weeks after going missing marked his 21st birthday in a Kathmandu hospital on Friday (April 28), recovering from an ordeal that left his girlfriend dead.
Liang Sheng-yueh survived in the wilderness despite losing 30kg but his girlfriend Liu Chen-chun, 18, died just three days before a team rescued the couple in northwest Nepal.
A severely malnourished Liang was airlifted from the remote region after 47 days, during which he initially survived on potatoes and noodles, then on nothing except salt and water.
It was a sombre birthday celebration for the young hiker, who was served cake in the ward where he was slowly regaining strength.
"I'm sorry that everyone had to worry about me and be concerned for me. In future, I think I will consider being more careful. I will live my life when back in Taiwan," he told reporters in broken English.
The pair followed a river downstream after becoming lost, but became stuck after reaching the edge of a waterfall and were unable to climb back up.
Dawa Tamang, a local man who helped the search team, said he followed the river alone until he spotted some bags by the bank.
He called over rescuers after spotting the pair taking shelter inside a nearby cave, where they were using their tent as a blanket.
"I thought they were dead," Tamang said.
"I told others they were in there in a loud voice, and he threw the tent off and looked out like a frog. He joined his hands when he saw me.
"We asked how his friend was, and he said that she died (three) days ago."
Liang had explained how he placed salt on his tongue and drank water to last the cold stretch, Tamang said.
The area the pair was located was so steep and narrow a long line was needed to airlift them out.
Doctors treating Liang said that as well as his extreme weight loss, maggots had infested his right leg and he was extremely weak.
Liang's doctor Chakra Raj Pandey said his condition had improved since and he was walking Friday morning, but he was still deeply troubled by Liu's death.
"He is pained by the loss of his girlfriend. When he was rescued... he didn't want (to) come back alone," Pandey told reporters.