Veteran abandoned in third-world country surviving on snakes
A VETERAN who risked his life to extract United Nations diplomats in Fiji is stranded in the Philippines, killing snakes and eating chicken intestines to survive after two flights home cancelled.
Ryan Hodson, a 37-year-old Gold Coaster, who suffers post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), says he is starving, broke and frequently fighting off deadly king cobras with a shovel.
"I served in the Australian Army infantry (1RAR) Townsville and extracted UN diplomats from Fiji in 2007 when there was a threatening coup," he said
"I find it ironic now I'm the one need saving in a pandemic and I'm told I should have known better."
Mr Hodson travelled to the Philippines in February to spend a month with his girlfriend, who is now four months pregnant.
"It was March 20 when I first saw a warning to return to Australia but the airport shut here on March 15. I'm registered with Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and their advice was to stay put."
He's currently stranded in Digos City, an hour from Davao del Sur, a province in the southern Philippines island of Mindanao.
"My visa has expired. My passport has been stolen. My mental health is bad and as a result of distress my physical health is always in question," he said.
"I have a shed roof with electricity but no refrigerator, we cook on a fire, wash in the river and fish for food. We have a large (50kg) sack of rice that I bought with my remaining money.
"I need medication for my PTSD. I have had to kill pythons for food and eaten many other terrible things including chicken feet, fish heads, chicken intestines and frogs.
"Three big king cobras have come into the house and they stand up with their wings out and all I had was a shovel.
"I have had to make rafts from banana tree trunks because of floods to my waist to save kids. I've been in several earthquakes and stung by bees in the face and bitten by dogs.
"Being stranded here for more than eight months, I am tired."
The Broadbeach construction worker is one of an estimated 27,000 Aussies stuck abroad as airlines cancel flights because of a 6000-person cap per week on how many people can return to Australia.
Mr Hodson said the Australian Embassy organised a repatriation flight home for him but he was hospitalised at the time with a severe flu so he couldn't board it.
"After that I was able to afford two flights but they were both cancelled; one just the day before the flight," he said.
"I wanted to walk in front of a bus or truck but lucky at that time I spotted a bathroom to wash my face and stare at my soul in the mirror for a long time. I decided to bury my defeat down deep and it's still there waiting until I return.
"I guess I'll deal with the emotions when I get back."
Mr Hodson said he couldn't understand why there wasn't a co-ordinated response between DFAT, the embassy and the State and Federal governments.
"It feels personal, like we are being blamed for not coming home immediately. I was planning on getting married. My partner is four months pregnant. I'm keen to get back and get working again," he said.
"My message to the State Government is don't leave behind those who once protected you so that you may sleep easy at night and now they cannot."
Originally published as Veteran abandoned in third-world country surviving on snakes