German tourist Julia Jahn, 20, kept telling herself she was too young to die as she struggled for five hours to keep her head above water after her kayak became trapped on a New Zealand river, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.
"I was thinking I want to survive. I'm still young. I don't want to die, so I had such a big will to live," Jahn, from Bavaria, told the Dominion Post as she talked about Friday's ill-fated kayak trip in the wilderness of the North Island's Whanganui River.
She fought to stay alive as fellow tourist, Jack Marsden-Mayer, 29, from England, unable to free her, paddled his kayak 30.5 kilometres down the isolated river to a hiker's hut with a radio to call police for help, dpa reported.
Jahn, suffering hypothermia and slipping in and out of consciousness, was rescued by three local farmers with a jet boat and a rescue helicopter flew her to hospital.
"I had so many angels and so many heroes and I'm so glad I'm alive," she told the paper.
Jahn, who is 1.5 metres tall and weighs 42 kilograms, said, "I didn't know how long my little body could survive. It was getting quite late - I thought I had maybe another hour."
One of her rescuers, farmer Richard Steele, said she must have had iron determination to survive, alone deep in the wilderness. He said Marsden-Mayer's paddle down the river to get help - which he made in half the usual five hours - was "awesome."
The Englishman said leaving the German, who he had met only that morning as they set out on their trip up the river, was awful. "I had to deal with knowing that I didn't have enough strength to get her out, but I had no idea if I'd made the right decision," he said.
The pair met again after she was discharged from hospital. "He's my hero," she said. "I'm so grateful. I had so much luck - that the water was not cold or never got higher. And that Jack was so fast with his paddling."