Going hiking can turn into a nightmare if you get lost and don’t trace your tracks. One must be very responsible before he or she finds themselves stuck in the middle of the wilderness, with no food or water. Just alone in the ark. Amanda Eller made a few wrong turns and found herself stuck in the middle of a Hawaii forest.
And there was only one thing for her to do – survive. After hours and days going by, two weeks flew and Amanda got a second shot at life thanks to a rescue team who almost gave up hope on finding her alive and well. When they did it was quite hard to believe.
The experience was no less than traumatic for the yoga instructor, who had her loved ones worried about her. They already assumed the worst happened. She somehow managed to live without food or clean water all those days and was able to get out and tell her story for everyone to hear. This would be an event that she would never forget.
A traumatic ordeal
When was the last time you went for a hike? Whether it was last weekend or a few years ago, there’s a high chance that you have taken yourself away from your home to embrace the natural wonders of the world at least once in your life.
After all, hiking can be a truly beautiful and eye-opening experience for those who decide to don their hiking boots. Although most hikers make their way to these trails without experiencing any problems, every once in a while, they find themselves in trouble. One woman realized this for herself when she went through a traumatic ordeal that she would never forget.
The woman in question
Of course, to truly understand this story, we need to learn a little more about the woman in question. Amanda Eller is an American native who is originally from Mechanicsville, Maryland. As a doctor of physical therapy and self-employed yoga instructor, Amanda has always been in love with the natural world.
She has often found herself searching for beautiful destinations across the globe, and in 2015 she made the life-changing decision to move to Hawaii. She went in search of peace, beauty, and a place to meditate on her life and career.
Going for a hike
As a keen hiker, Amanda often used her spare time to her advantage. She would make her way into the Hawaiian jungle and explore the beautiful waterfalls, and she would take in the magnitude of her new home.
On May 8, 2019, she drove to the Makawao Forest Reserve with the intention of going for a hike through the forest. She wanted to spend a few hours by herself, and she wanted to go on a spiritual journey that would bring her closer to nature. She wore a thin shirt and yoga pants, and she made the decision to leave her belongings in the car.
Leaving them behind
Because Amanda didn’t want to carry her possessions with her on the hike, she opted to keep them in her Toyota RAV4 instead. She kept her wallet and cell phone hidden, and she stashed her keys under the driver’s side front tire to keep them safe.
She knew that people rarely made their way to the area, but she wanted to ensure that she could keep her hands free of unnecessary hiking items, while also keeping her belongings safe. When she was satisfied with her decision, she set off on her hike. This was around 10:30 am.
Taking a break
Although Amanda was thoroughly enjoying her hike, she decided to take a rest around midday. She wanted to take a moment to rest her legs and meditate in the peaceful surroundings, so she took herself away from the main trail.
This wasn’t the first time that she had done such a thing, and she had no doubt in her mind that she would be able to make her way back to the trail. All she wanted to do was take some time for herself and to clear her mind. To her, it seemed like an everyday occurrence.
Back on track
After taking the time away to meditate and embrace the beautiful Hawaiian jungle, Amanda decided to resume hiking. She wanted to continue along the trail, and she wanted to continue stretching her legs and seeing what Mother Nature had gifted her with.
However, the yoga instructor soon realized that things weren’t going to go to plan. She had lost her bearings when she made her way off the main trail, and she soon realized that she had no idea where she was. It was a big jungle, and she was lost in the middle of it.
Listening to her gut
The yoga instructor knew in the back of her mind that it would be the right decision to go back in the direction that she came. However, Amanda has always been a firm believer in her gut instinct, and her instincts were telling her to walk in a completely different direction.
She didn’t want to ignore what her body was telling her to do, and she believed that her gut would propel her forward towards her end destination and eventually back to her car. After all, her gut had never failed her before.
Not what she expected
Amanda’s head and gut were telling her two different things, but she eventually decided to follow the path of her gut instinct. She tried to tell her mind that her gut was correct and that they were walking in the direction of her car.
She forced herself to believe that she had made the right decision and would soon laugh about the confusion she felt after her meditation session, and she continued walking in an attempt to prove herself right. Unfortunately, Amanda’s gut was not right on this occasion, as this was the complete opposite of what happened.
Deeper and deeper
In fact, Amanda found herself walking deeper and deeper into the Hawaiian jungle. The trees were getting closer together, the foliage was getting thicker, and she soon realized that the trail was disappearing before her very eyes.
As the yoga instructor realized that this was the case, she began to worry about her safety. She knew that she was lost, and she knew that the chances of her making her way back to her car in one piece were slim. However, she continued to tell herself that if she wanted to live, she had to “keep going.”
Because she was not used to walking in such a dense area of the jungle, Amanda had no idea of the threats that lurked beneath the shadows. She walked over tree roots and plants, and she lost her footing on numerous occasions.
Unfortunately, things were soon going to go from bad to worse. As Amanda made her way off the beaten track, she yelped as she fell 20-foot down a cliff. She didn’t know it at the time, but she had actually fractured her leg and torn the meniscus in her knee during this fall.
A huge amount of pain
The shock of the fall numbed the pain for a while, but the yoga instructor soon felt the full force of her injuries. She was in a huge amount of pain, and she knew that she needed to be seen by a doctor.
However, she was also conscious of the fact that she was in the middle of the jungle. She knew that she needed to keep going in order to find her way back to her car, but Amanda struggled to walk with her injuries. The yoga instructor was clueless to the fact that she would actually have to cope with these injuries for the next 17 days.
Surviving in the wild
Without any form of communication, food, or water on her person, Amanda had to resign to the fact that she would need to survive in the wild. To do this, she foraged for wild berries and mushrooms, and she even started eating moths when she became unbearably hungry.
Alongside this, Amanda tried to find any fresh water sources that would hydrate her quickly-dehydrating body. When the nights became darker, and Amanda knew that she had to find shelter, she covered herself in leaves to keep warm, and on one occasion, she even slept in a wild boar den.
In an interview after the whole ordeal, Amanda noted that she felt completely lost and alone during her time in the jungle. She felt as though all hope had gone from her life, and she went through moments of wanting to give up and give in to her deteriorating body.
In the end, she knew that she was faced with two options. She could either push to survive her traumatic ordeal, or she could give in and allow the elements to take her life away from her. Amanda pondered over these thoughts as she sat alone in the jungle, and eventually realized that she wanted to fight.
Beginning to worry
Amanda had moved to Hawaii on her own, which meant that her family was still in Maryland. Although they did not live in the same state and had a giant expanse of ocean between them, Amanda and her family were extremely close.
They talked every single day, and they always kept each other up to date on their whereabouts. Because of this, her family began to worry when the hours passed, and they still hadn’t heard from her. In fact, her boyfriend alerted the authorities to her disappearance the next morning.
Finding her car
Amanda’s boyfriend, Ben Konkol, reported her missing to the police in Maui, and they immediately made their way to the Makawao Forest Reserve. They wanted to check out the scene and see if they could find the yoga instructor in person.
Although they spotted her car with her belongings still inside, there was no sign of Amanda. This worried the authorities, and they began to suspect foul play. Her boyfriend even began to wonder if she had been abducted or taken against her will, and it was an extremely worrying time for everyone involved.
A lie detector test
The police began to question those close to Amanda, and they even brought her boyfriend in for questioning. They wanted to rule out every possibility, so they even asked Konkol to take a voluntary lie detector test.
They couldn’t force him to do so, but Amanda’s boyfriend was more than willing to prove his innocence. He opted to take the lie detector to rule out any involvement in her disappearance, and he passed with flying colors. With this out of the way, the police could look down other avenues in search of the yoga instructor.
Instead of looking to those who could have potentially harmed the yoga instructor, the authorities decided to get the Maui Fire and Rescue team involved to search the jungle for her. They began to play with the idea that she had got lost amongst the trees, and they made it their mission to find her.
They spent the next 72 hours making their way through the jungle, searching for any clues that the yoga instructor had been there, but they came across nothing. All hands were on deck, but as those 72 hours came to an end, the authorities knew that they had hit a wall.
Going over the limit
According to the rules and regulations of the Maui Fire and Rescue team, they had reached their missing person limit when the first 72 hours were over. They no longer had an obligation to search for the missing yoga instructor, and they decided to call off the search.
The scale of the operation was just too large, and they couldn’t afford to spend any more time or money on it. This upset Amanda’s family, as they were committed to finding their beloved daughter and girlfriend. They weren’t going to give up, so they decided to keep searching.
A Facebook page
When they realized that the authorities would no longer help them, Amanda’s family realized that they would have to take matters into their own hands. They flew out to Hawaii, and they set up a Facebook page in the process.
They wanted to alert people to her disappearance, and they wanted to round-up volunteers to help them find up. They had a feeling that their daughter hadn’t passed away, and they knew that she was somewhere in the jungle. All they needed to do was find her.
The family’s search efforts were very unorganized to start with. They found old maps of the Makawao Forest Reserve and circled areas of interest, and they made their way into the jungle with a clear idea of where they were going so they didn’t get lost themselves.
They even tried to ask locals for help, but they had yet to build up a buzz surrounding Amanda’s disappearance. However, it didn’t take long for her story to make her way across Hawaii and the United States as a whole, and before too long, their search efforts were taken up a notch.
Examining their strengths
Thanks to their efforts, volunteers soon got in contact with Amanda’s family and offered their services. They were able to set up a yurt in a parking lot, and they were greeted by around 150 volunteers every single day.
These people wanted to take time out of their day to offer their services, and they wanted to try and find the missing yoga teacher. To make their search as effective as possible, Amanda’s father, John Eller, decided to examine these strengths and place them accordingly.
All walks of life
The volunteers that made their way to the parking lot came from all walks of life, and they all had strengths that could come in handy. Experienced hikers who knew the Hawaiian trails offered to walk in search of the yoga teacher, nurses were on hand if Amanda needed any medical assistance when she was found, and there were even rock climbers ready to scale to new heights.
As if that wasn’t enough, John Eller used his telematics knowledge to introduce a search interface that would help them cross off their search areas.
Using analysis tools
As if that wasn’t enough, the search party also decided to use GPS mapping and analysis tools that would allow them to look at the bigger picture. They could see the park from above, and they could look at various points away from the trail that could have looked appealing to the yoga teacher.
John Eller hoped that his daughter would find solace in an open area, as this would make her easier to find. Working on this assumption, they could map out these areas and search these promising areas first.
Although the search and rescue volunteers had all hands on deck, they knew that they would struggle without the help of eyes from the sky. So, her family decided to hire helicopter pilots and search coordinators who would be able to fly above the park and look at the bigger picture from above.
They knew that this was the only way to really narrow down their search, so they asked these pilots to scan the forest canopy and look towards the waterfalls for a sign of life. They hoped that this would work in their favor.
Telling them to give up
As the weeks passed, the search and rescue team began to lose hope. They couldn’t imagine that anyone would survive such harsh conditions, and some people even began to tell them to give up. However, Amanda’s family were committed to their search.
They knew that their daughter was still out there, and they knew that she was in desperate need of their help. So, they decided to keep going. It was this perseverance that eventually worked in their favor because on the 16th search day, they eventually spotted her.
A thin figure
As one of the helicopters made their way into the air and looked down below at the Makawao Forest Reserve, they saw a thin figure below them. The pilots had spent weeks looking at pictures of the lost yoga instructor, and they knew that they had found the person they were looking for.
Although she looked frail, she had lost her shoes, and her clothes were extremely dirty, there was no doubt in their mind that they had stumbled across another hiker. They had found Amanda, and she was waving at them from the ground.
In a bad way
Even though they were fairly far away from the yoga instructor, they could see that she was in a bad way. She had survived in the jungle without proper food and water for 17 days, and she had fallen down a cliff in the process.
She had dealt with a fractured leg, blisters on her feet and ankles, intense dehydration, and incredibly raw sunburn. It had been a tough time for Amanda, but she was over the moon to see the helicopter above her. Both Amanda and the pilots knew that the search could come to an end.
Telling her parents
The helicopter touched down in a safe space in the jungle so they could get to Amanda, and she couldn’t believe that she had finally be rescued. The men who found her decided that the first port of call was to let her parents know that she was safe, so they all sat down on the bed of a creek, and they handed Amanda a cell phone.
They wanted her to let everyone know that she had been found, and they wanted her to be able to hear the voices of her parents after what must have seemed like an eternity.
An emotional reunion
As Amanda heard her parents’ voices for the first time in 17 days, she could help but let the tears flow. She began to wonder whether she would ever be found, and she couldn’t believe that she had been rescued after such a traumatic ordeal.
She was incredibly relieved, and she was over the moon to be able to talk to her parents. The relief wasn’t, though. The Eller family felt as though they were broken, but talking to their daughter made them realize that all of their hard work had been worth it. Amanda was safe.
Taken to hospital
Eventually, Amanda was flown out of the jungle and to the hospital. It was clear to see that her body had taken a beating over the course of the 17 days, and everyone knew that she needed to be checked over.
Many of her injuries were obvious, but it was also clear to see that she was completely exhausted and needed to be pumped with fluids to maintain her hydration and deal with her malnourishment. Although Amanda wanted to go home, she also knew that this was the right decision.
After being treated for her fractured leg and other ailments, Amanda was eventually released from hospital. She was allowed to make her way back home, and she was allowed the chance to truly reconnect with her friends and family.
It was here that she was able to thank each and every one of the volunteers that had put their own lives on the line to try and find her. She truly appreciated their efforts, but she also wanted to apologize to them. After all, she knew that she needed to say sorry.
Releasing a video
By this point, Amanda’s story had gained traction across the world, and she wanted to apologize to everyone as a whole. So, she decided to release a video from her hospital bed, and let the whole world know that she was irresponsible.
The yoga instructor knew that she should have taken her cell phone with her on her hike, and she knew that she should have been more prepared. It was silly of her to walk into the jungle without water or any kind of tools for survival, and her experience certainly taught her that.
Not her intention
Within this video, Amanda also noted that it was never her intention to get lost on the hike. She had fully intended to stay true to the trail, but in an attempt to follow her instinct and enjoy her meditation session, she opted to ignore what her head was telling her.
The yoga instructor confessed that it was this decision that led to her downfall, and this decision that created a dangerous, expensive, and time-consuming rescue effort. Despite this, she was amazed to see the community pull together and work as a team to find her.
Many people have called Amanda out for her actions and asked whether she was under the influence while hiking. Although she has denied these claims, she noted in one interview that her ordeal had been an “extremely spiritual one.”
This did not go down well with those who criticized the yoga instructor, as they believe that she still does not understand the severity of her actions or the consequences of her actions. However, Amanda has tried to quash this criticism, stating that she will forever be grateful for everyone involved.
Out of harm’s way
Whether you agree with the critics or not, there’s no doubt about the fact that this is an incredible story. After straying from the hiking trail and surviving in the jungle for 17 days, Amanda was finally able to make her way back to her family and her home in Hawaii.
While it was a traumatic ordeal for the yoga instructor, we have a feeling that it has also been a huge learning curve for her. Of course, she will forever be thankful for the fact that she was able to survive what was meant to be a beautiful hike.