The struggle for survival can bring out the best in some people. In others, it can bring out the absolute worst. For everyone, though, it pushes human beings to their limits and forces them to think in ways they never had before.
On January 24, 2006, Ricky was cruising down an isolated Australian road by himself when he came upon a group of stranded drivers. Unwilling to let the men trudge through the outback without any hope of finding help, Ricky picked one of them up. It was a decision that would change his life forever…
Thirty-five-year-old Ricky Megee was living in Queensland, Australia. It was January 2006, and though he had experienced some recent troubles, things were starting to look up. In fact, he was on his way to a new job opportunity, driving along the Buchanan highway, when he ran into a few more poor souls down on their luck.
As he drove down the highway, Ricky was flagged down by three Aboriginal men who seemed to have been wandering down the long, barren stretch of road all by their lonesome. Not one to leave a stranded traveler behind, Ricky pulled over and found out that the three men had run out of gas some distance down the road. Erring on the side of caution, Ricky let one of them in the car with him so he could drop him off at the nearest Aborigine camp.
It was a hot day in the Australian dry season, and since he had no idea how long the men had been traveling on the dusty road, Ricky offered to share his drink with his new friend. After they finished it, the man reached into the back and took out another drink for Ricky. Only, he added a little something extra to the soft drink: a sedative.
After a few sips, Ricky began to feel strange. He felt as if he were floating far away, losing control of his body. The hitchhiker grabbed hold of the steering wheel as the two careened to the side of the road. Before he could fight back for control of the wheel, things went completely dark and Ricky Megee passed out…
When Ricky came to around dusk he was sitting in the passenger seat of his own car. Using all of his remaining strength he jumped to the driver’s side and began to pull away from the voices he’s heard whispering outside. Before he could get far, however, one of the hitchhikers jumped on the back of the car. The last thing he remembered was crashing the car nearby, then darkness.
Ricky woke up wrapped in a plastic tarp. He was barefoot and could hear the sounds of dingoes pawing and grunting at the edges of the tarp as if they were trying to get in. He shouted with all of his might and heard the dingoes scurry off. He stood up but fell over again almost immediately. In his disoriented state, he came to several conclusions, the first of which: they’d stolen his bloody car…
Ricky was carless and shoeless in the deadly Australian dry season. He needed to find a water source, and quickly if the temperature reached over 40°C, he’d die of thirst in a matter of hours. He wandered for a bit before he finally realized that the hitchhikers had dropped him smack dab in the middle of one of the most inhospitable place on earth, the Australian outback.
Though he held out as long as he could, Ricky knew it was time to resort to desperate measures. In an effort to conserve what little water he had, he begrudgingly drank his own urine. It was sterile, which he knew, and would stave off thirst. His next big problem was hunger. It wasn’t until five days of wandering that he finally found food…
Need to Rest
After several days of walking in bare feet, Ricky was starting to become weary. His feet were badly cut and his belly was painfully empty. On the way to find a road, he’d happened upon and abandoned dam. This meant a consistent water supply and food. With few other options, Ricky took to eating bugs, flowers, lizards, leeches, even frogs to stay alive.
Ricky rested in the dam for about nine days while his feet recovered. He decided to move on after that and walked onward for another two days, passing out often from a combination of dehydration and heat exhaustion. At the end of the path, he found another, bigger dam, this one full of much cleaner water and surrounded by a huge supply of yummy insects…
Live off the Land
For six weeks, Ricky stayed near the second dam. Hoping that someone might come by to find him. He couldn’t risk walking back out into the wilderness if it took him away from his food and water supply. So, he built himself a makeshift home called a “humpy.” The overturned steel trough and mud would keep the dingoes out during the night.
As he made his new life in the wild, Ricky Megee pushed himself to keep going. He knew that despite how terrible things were, how awful the food was, he needed to survive. In the process, he learned things he never thought he knew about himself. However, a positive mindset can only take someone so far…
In the beginning, Ricky was so certain he’d be rescued. Yet as time pressed on, as desperation, hunger, loneliness, heat stroke, and dehydration began to take their toll, Ricky’s optimism waned. Still, he hoped that his sister and his parents, his friends, even his neighbors knew that something was wrong: that someone was looking for him.
The days began to bleed into one another. It was difficult to keep track of them, especially after losing so much time traveling through the outback. More disheartening than the struggle to survive was the boredom. It was difficult to pass the time with his own thoughts. And as his caloric intake waned, he was becoming progressively weaker…
Once Ricky had started dropping weight, it took him 10 minutes to get out of the humpy. Even fetching water and foraging for food were a struggle. In his off hours, as he waited for the sun to set, Ricky watched episodes of the Simpsons in his head. He thought about his life back home and how much it all meant to him.
Rescue at Last
Then one day, Megee heard the sounds of a car approaching his car. Two station hands from a local cattle ranch had been on a routine drive of the land when they saw an emaciated man emerging from beneath an old steel feeding trough. He survived alone in the outback for 71 days, but the toll it took on his mind and body were great…
Ricky Megee’s weight before he’d gone on his road trip had been a reasonable 231 lbs, but by the time he had been rescued he was down to a measly and dangerous, 105 lbs. Once he was brought in, he was put on a special diet. His weight had fallen so far from his normal weight that he spent three weeks in a Darwin hospital.
Not a Crime?
What is perhaps the strangest feature of Ricky’s amazing journey is the fact that the police have never been able to prove that it was, in fact, a crime. And while it’s true that Ricky Megee did spend an enormous amount of time in the outback, and nearly died from the experience, there is no proof that hitchhikers hijacked him. A fact which has stuck in Ricky’s mind since the moment he was questioned by police…
Despite everything, Ricky believes that what he lived through has made him a better person. “I found solutions to problems by confronting them,” says the survivor. “Always keep your mind active; don’t be afraid to try something just because it might not work; and perhaps most importantly, never abandon faith in your fellow man.”
Megee’s book, “Left for Dead,” chronicles the 71 days that he spent stranded in Australia’s nightmarish outback. In it, he talks about the experience as a whole and indicates his own displeasure at the policing system in the area who have as yet been unable to solve the case or locate his attackers: or find his bloody car.