The World Nomads Podcast: COVID-19 Travel News, 26 March

In this episode, a traveler sent packing by a Russian poet in Uzbekistan, a prince diagnosed with coronavirus and how to go bird watching in Columbia from the comfort of your sofa.

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Person in Hazmat suit Photo © A flight attendant en route to Munich from Uzbekistan

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The World Nomads Podcast: COVID-19 Travel News

As governments around the globe impose lockdowns and people self-isolate, coronavirus (COVID-19) has hit the travel industry hard. The World Nomads Travel Podcast is suspending its regular destination episodes and, in their place, offering a daily round-up of the major coronavirus-related travel headlines.

What’s in the episode

00:48 Travel headlines

01:46 How to buy Cheetos when you’re in lockdown

02:22 Ashley’s 2020 travel plans

04:40 The start of a great story

07:49 Hunkering down with fellow cyclists

09:38 Bird watching from the sofa

Quotes from the episode"

...we started getting a little bit nervous about Corona near the end of February, beginning of March. We were in Azerbaijan, which the Visa, we had a 30-day e-Visa and we had plans to take the ferry across the Caspian Sea to get to Kazakhstan. And we were kind of feeling the pressure to get into central Asia because, at this point in time, central Asia had no cases." - Ashley

Coronavirus: Travel restrictions, border shutdowns by country. In alphabetical order here

Who is in the episode

At the time of recording Ashley and her partner, Quentin was in the middle of an epic cycling adventure around the world and stuck in Uzbekistan with their bicycles.

Their site En Selle documents their journey from France to Indonesia, capturing simple moments and stories of a remote minimalist lifestyle on bicycle and horseback.

"People
Since recording Ashley and Quentin have been repatriated to Munich

Resources & links

Did the dog return home with the Cheetos?

Go bird watching in Columbia from the comfort of your sofa.

A message to our nomads.

What is the COVID virus and how you can protect yourself?

Travel safety alerts.

In self-isolation? You can put your time to good use practicing your travel writing skills

You can get in touch with us by emailing [email protected].

We use the Rodecaster Pro to record our episodes and interviews when in the studio, made possible with the kind support of Rode.


Kim: In this episode, a traveler sent packing by a Russian poet, a Prince diagnosed with Coronavirus and how to go birdwatching in Colombia from the comfort of your sofa.

Narrator: Welcome to the new daily World Nomads podcast. We'll be keeping you up to date with travel alerts, information about Coronavirus and sharing some uplifting news infused to inspire you and keep you smiling.

Kim: Hi, it's Kim and Phil with you sharing the latest travel headlines related to COVID19. And stories of your adventures in self-isolation or lockdown, including Ashley stranded with her boyfriend and their bikes in Uzbekistan. And Phil, they really were sent packing by a Russian poet, but like everything, there is a story behind that and we'll hear it shortly. But Phil, let's kick off with some headlines.

Phil: Again, at the time of recording, there were more than 400,009 cases of Coronavirus across 169 countries and there've been sadly almost 19,000 deaths. The death toll in Spain has overtaken that of China and of Italy as well, so that's the new epicenter. And you may have heard that Prince Charles the air to the British throne has tested positive to the virus and is now in isolation. I love Heather saying in his residence in Scotland, I think they're made in a castle, right?

Phil: Norwegian Air has asked all its creditors to forego payments of interest and installments until the end of June. They're desperately trying to stay afloat like lots of airlines. Morocco has announced a state of emergency and South Africa is in a three-week lockdown. On a lighter note, website Bored Panda has put together a compilation of everyday struggles in isolation and they've included a Mexican guy who is craving a pack of Cheetos. So he sent his dog to the shop across the road with a note attached to its color. It said, "Hello, Mr. Shopkeeper." It probably said hola shopkeeper. But anyway, "Please sell my dog some Cheetos, the orange kind not the red ones. They're too hot. She has $20 attached to her collar."

Kim: I like that. There are heaps of those, but to find out if the pooch came back with the Cheetos, we'll put a link in show notes. Now Ashley and her boyfriend are on a cycling and horseback expedition. Stalled now due to the virus, which we'll hear about. But first, let's find out what their plans were.

Ashley: Yeah, so basically, it's a long backstory because we left France in 2019 in January. I and Quinten, who is my boyfriend, left France on a bicycle. We said we will cycle from France until Indonesia for two years. And the reason it will take two years is that we planned to use bicycles to go to regions where we dreamed to ride horses, is actually at the heart of it all. I'm a horseback rider and we wanted to travel by horseback. Traveling by horseback is really complicated when you have to cross borders. So we said, okay, we'll find a happy medium here and we'll do bicycle plus horseback. So that's how we found ourselves traveling. And we're now in Uzbekistan. We planned everything kind of around this second big horse trek across central Asia. So from Kazakhstan, then Kyrgyzstan and into the Eastern Tajikistan, which was meant to kick off the 1st of April.

Kim: So you found yourself in Uzbekistan and it was the day after the first Corona case there. So, pick up the story for me.

Ashley: Yeah, so actually we started getting a little bit nervous about Corona near the end of February, beginning of March. We were in Azerbaijan, which the Visa, we had a 30-day e-Visa and we had plans to take the ferry across the Caspian Sea to get to Kazakhstan. And we were kind of feeling the pressure to get into central Asia because, at this point in time, central Asia had no cases.

Ashley: So we made it to Aktaw, Kazakhstan which is on the other side of the Caspian Sea and still no cases. But we said, okay, look, it's probably already here, but they haven't tested it yet. And so we took a train into Uzbekistan. So instead of cycling 300 kilometers in the desert, we said, okay, let's just get into Uzbekistan, 30-day Visa and it's a little bit more to explore. And we'll see how things develop.

Ashley: So we were actually already in... I think the first case in Kazakhstan came up we were in Buka in Uzbekistan, and we still were like, yeah, this is fine. It's not in Uzbekistan. Keep pedaling. And we spent three days in the desert cycling, no wifi, camping. It was amazing. Beautiful deserts, spring, and we showed up in Samarkand and that's when kind of things went haywire.

Kim: Well, you've got the start of a great story here. The Russian poet offered to hostess during a pandemic. So what happened once you made it there?

Ashley: So we're still in Samarkand when the first case showed up and basically I think the same day or the next, within 12 hours, they slammed all the border shut. So we said, okay, we're not in the Capitol, let's call our embassy, let's see what's going on.

Ashley: We called the embassy and they said, "Yes, we're trying to organize a flight. It might leave within four hours of my leave within 12 hours." This was a week ago. And you need to come up to Tashkent. And we said, well, we don't want to go. We want to stay in Uzbekistan. They said, "Well, come up to Tashkent anyways because they're probably going to restrict movement between the regions."So we said, okay.

Ashley: So we came up to Tashkent and actually in Uzbekistan if you're a tourist, you required to register in a hotel or online with a host every three days at least because if you're camping, they understand. So every three days you have to have basically a little slip or a little receipt that says you registered as a tourist being housed somewhere. So we came up to Tashkent and we didn't really want to stay in a hotel. We traveled by bicycle, we're traveling on a budget. And so we looked around for something that would be appropriate to kind of sit it out here for two weeks and see how things would go.

Ashley: And we met through the Tashkent Women's Empowerment Club, a Russian poet, who over the past 20 years has slowly been buying up kind of this old block. They were kind of squats, but now they're... She's totally redone the house into one longhouse and it's a very Soviet-era, beautiful wooden furniture. And she's taken all kinds of different inspiration from things that made women feel like they had power and an important role in life between the Soviet Union and now. Because during the 90s it was kind of a horrible period here.

Ashley: But within three hours, actually the neighborhood military watch called her and said, "Do you have foreigners in your house?" And she said, "What's it to you?" And he said, "Well, do you?" She said, "Maybe. I can have people over for coffee." And he said, "Well, you need to come down here right now." Basically they told her because it's a state of emergency, we cannot be registered to stay with her. And if she insisted, they would send us all to quarantine outside the city.

Ashley: And so she said, "Okay, you have to go and you can only go to hotels that are approved by the state." So that's how we got kicked out of that Russian poet's house.

Kim: Where are you now? And what's going to happen to you?

Ashley: So at this point, these problems seem to be multiplying. There are rumors flying around that the Uzbek government might cut off the internet or they might force you to stay inside. So we contacted our embassy again and we said, what's going on with that flight? Because we really don't want to go back to Europe at this point in time. They said, "Well it hasn't gone yet so we can put you back on the list." We said, okay, yeah, put us back on the list.

Ashley: And we went to a hostel that was allowed to stay open near the airport. And in this hostel, we found ourselves with seven other cyclists. No, it was five other cyclists. So we're seven cyclists in total that now more or less need to be repatriated back to Europe. Just to be clear, all the embassies in Europe are working together to get one flight back to Europe. Two days ago they sent us an email, to all the nationalities, that said come to Uzbek Airlines, which is the only airline being allowed to fly in and out. Buy your ticket. It's going to cost $400 and it will probably go to Munich and it's leaving tonight or it's leaving at 7:00 PM.

Ashley: So come at 10:00 AM, buy your tickets, be ready to leave at 7:00 PM. And as soon as the ticket counters close, all the cyclists, we're all back at our hotel trying to cram our bikes into boxes and make sure everything is the right weight limit because we want them to accept all our baggage. We get an email that says as soon as the ticket counters closed the Uzbek authorities notified us that their pilots are in quarantine for three days. So the flight will definitely be delayed for three days and you all need to go to this one hotel by the airport. And that's the last news we had.

Kim: I'm just loving listening to the smile in your voice as you're telling these stories. This is really an adventure, isn't it?

Ashley: It's a bit ridiculous, but the thing is it can only get weirder from here I guess.

Kim: You can't be bored. You've got so much to write about and I appreciate you sharing it.

Ashley: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for having me. I know that it seems to be weird all over the world right now, so at least in our case, we're grateful that we're all together as cyclists. We find a bit of solidarity in that and we're in a hotel where just kind of hanging out, waiting.

Kim: And Phil, when we return to business as usual, we will have an episode coming out dedicated to cycling. But in the meantime, back to the sofa.

Phil: Sure. I'm missing my bike. I'm not riding them. I might have to go take a spin on it. If you're looking for something to do from your armchair or sofa to coincide with the release of The Birders. A feature-length documentary made by WhereNext, my friends there Gregg and Julian. You can identify more than a hundred Colombian bird species, both resident and migratory ones online. Go there. We've got the link in the show notes.

Kim: How cool is that? Now to share your story email [email protected] We will see you tomorrow when we hear from Jim who's stuck in Lima exercising and exploring exotic Peruvian fruit.

Phil: Is that a euphemism? [inaudible 00:10:16].

Kim: Bye.

Phil: Bye.

Narrator: The World Nomads podcast, explore your boundaries.

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