Desert wanderer looks for smoking cure, not God
SYDNEY - A man who camped alone in the Australian outback for six months after driving off in a fire truck said on Friday he hadn't been looking for enlightenment but was simply trying to give up smoking.
"I was turning into a chain smoker and I had ulcers," Edward Furtak told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio.
"I really needed to have a holiday, needed to get out in the middle of nowhere where I just couldn't have a smoke," he said. He told his wife and mother he would return when he was ready.
But police, who began looking for Furtak after his family reported him missing three weeks ago, called him selfish and were angry he had driven off without any means of contact.
Furtak, 43, ended his sabbatical late on Wednesday when he drove his truck into the Western Australia state desert town of Forrest, 1,150 km (714 miles) east of Perth, to phone his mother and wish her happy birthday.
He left his Sydney home and his job as a courier in November and was last seen filling his truck with water at a tiny railway hamlet hundreds of kilometres (miles) away. He bought the second-hand fire truck before he left and fitted it out for the trip.
"I did make it clear to everybody I would not be ringing," he said. "I would be anything from three months to six months ... if it was nice, I'd stay the whole six months."
But his family started to worry after three months passed without word and they finally reported him missing three weeks ago.
"It's just very inconsiderate and very selfish," Eucla police Sergeant Robert Taylor told the ABC. "If he'd come to grief, if he'd been been bitten by a snake or injured himself, he had no way of raising the alarm."
Taylor organised the search from Eucla, which has the nearest police station to Forrest.
Furtak told ABC his trip cured him of smoking.