A woman missing in the northern outback for almost a fortnight says she drank water from a cattle watering hole to stay alive and is "worried to death" about her companions.
Tamra McBeath-Riley, 52, was rescued late on Sunday afternoon, but her companions Claire Hockridge, 46, and Phu Tran, 40, remain missing in punishing terrain south of Alice Springs.
The trio tried for three days to free their ute after it became bogged, Ms McBeath-Riley said after being released from hospital on Monday.
"We tried many times to try and get out, but just couldn't get out, so ventured forth to try and find some shelter and some water," she said.
"During the day it's just really hot so we dug ourselves under the car during the day into the sand."
After leaving their vehicle where it became bogged in the bed of the Finke River on November 19, the three drank from a cattle watering hole and ate biscuits and beef noodles before splitting up.
Ms McBeath-Riley said she was "worried to death" about her two friends who had intended to go towards the Stuart Highway, about 22 kilometres from where they separated.
When she was rescued, she thought the pair - who had a GPS and compass with them - would have earlier reached the highway .
Earlier on Monday, police said they had found a set of footprints they hoped would lead to Mr Tran and Ms Hockridge.
Alice Springs Superintendent Pauline Vicary said the trio had left a note inside their vehicle to indicate the direction they were heading.
The group walked about 1.5km west, where they found puddles of ground water from unseasonal showers that had fallen over the dry river system in the past fortnight.
For one desperate week they stayed together, gathering the dirty water, boiling it when they could and using a shirt to strain out the sediment, Supt Vicary said
Supt Vicary said the terrain in the area was diverse.
"There's sandy dunes, there's hard clay, there's areas of dense trees, but there are also rocks and rangers in the area," she said.
Ms McBeath-Riley suffered from dehydration, exposure to poor quality water and temperatures that nudged 40C in recent days.
She was rescued after a local station worker noticed tyre tracks and alerted police to an area that was not previously searched.
Authorities found the ute and from there tracked to the group to the Finke River site where they found water, locating Ms McBeath-Riley there without her friends.