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Maui hiker details how she survived 17 days in the jungle

Hiker shares survival story
Maui hiker shares harrowing tale of survival 02:06

A woman who got lost in a Hawaiian forest for more than two weeks spoke with reporters on Wednesday. Amanda Eller admits she should have taken her cellphone with her along with other supplies.

"Every single step was 'I choose life'," Eller said. "That was the only thing that kept me going."

The woman who gained national attention after being lost in the Hawaiian jungle for 17 days finally told her story in her own words. Eller said one of her darkest moments was dealing with a flash flood just one day after injuring her legs.

"I was sitting in a foot of water on hard rocks that I knew were digging into my skin but I didn't have a choice," Eller said. 

Hawaii-Forest Rescue
Amanda Eller, second from left, poses after being found by searchers, Javier Cantellops, far left, Helmer and Chris Berquist. Troy Helmer / AP

She said her ordeal began when she went into the forest to run and meditate.

"I laid down on a tree and i was looking at the sky and when i got up and I tried to go back the way that I came, which I had a sense of direction at that point, the path was not leading me back to my car," Eller said. "And I tried all these different paths and then I was like 'oh shoot, these are not bike paths, these are not walking paths, these are boar paths.'" 

Lost, the 35-year-old physical therapist and yoga instructor hiked for seven days until she reached a waterfall.  Eller lived on insects, wild berries, stream water and slept in the mud.

"Which I don't recommend ever doing that," Eller said. "It's very cold and it doesn't warm up."

After more than two weeks of suffering, a volunteer search team spotted her from a helicopter.

"I'm seeing these guys come over me in a helicopter and I can't tell you, like, my heart just fell through my feet," Eller said. "I mean I just collapsed. I had a plant in my mouth that I was planning on eating for dinner."

Monday night, she had an emotional reunion with those who kept up the search. "These guys were not going to give up on me! Thank God!" Eller said. 

While Eller's spirits are high, she still has a long road to recovery ahead. Her legs were heavily bandaged and her feet are so swollen, she still can't walk. Inside the press conference, she also said a prayer for a man who went missing in the jungle last week.

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