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 has suspended its regular destination episodes and, in their place, offering a daily round-up of the major coronavirus-related travel headlines.
00:37 Emerging travel trends
01:28 Shocking COVID-19 statistic
02:12 Stranded in Peru
05:10 Not looking for a free ride
06:25 The 19-year-old stranded in Argentina
09:55 The Facebook group for Australians
10:20 Next episode
“…so obviously as soon as the lockdown was announced, any flights that were going out that next day were just snapped up straight away. Yeah, and now there are no flights leaving anymore.” - Mhairi
“Right now, there's no talk about a flight from Argentina to Australia. I've been hoping and I've been trying as hard as I can to get in touch with politicians, and it's impossible at the moment.” – Max
Mhairi Thompson is trapped in Peru with her husband Jed Thompson and children Caleb and Isla.
Max Quick was holidaying in South America when he found himself stranded in Argentina.
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Kim: In this episode, the Australian stranded in South America, the shocking coronavirus statistic, and the launch of a carbon credit card.
Speaker 2: 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, and our daily COVID-19 episode, as the coronavirus continues to cause huge disruption across the travel industry, Phil.
Phil: How many Us were in huge then, Kim?
Kim: There were a lot, there were a lot.
Phil: It does, but online magazine Globetrender has identified several travel trends emerging now, post-virus, and that includes nature tourism with Yonder, offering travelers the chance to book stays in cabins and ranches across the US.
Phil: Video game maker Atari is opening a series of hotels, complete with e-sports studios and gaming playgrounds. Doconomy has launched the world's first credit card that monitors purchases by their carbon emissions and puts a cap on spending based on a user's impact on the climate. We've stopped talking about the climate, haven't we? While we're talking about this.
Kim: Well, we kind of have, but just a cap on spending generally would be great with a card. What else have you got for us?
Phil: Yeah, I'd find me one of those too. China has ended its lockdown of Wuhan. Wuhan, that was a woo-hoo. The original epicenter of the virus, but Chinese health experts have urged the public to continue to practice caution. Meanwhile, the number of deaths in New York has surpassed the 9/11 terrorist attack. I was just emailing a friend of mine who lives in New York today, and she was saying how weird it is there. And yeah, I was just hoping that she stays safe.
Kim: Yeah, I have a niece living there at the moment, and the same kind of feeling. That really is a shocking statistic, Phil. Well, next, we're going to hear a couple of stories from Australians stranded in South America.
Kim: Mhairi Thompson is trapped in Peru, with her husband, Jed, and children Caleb and Isla, with more than reportedly 300-odd other Australians ... in the whole of South America, not with Mhairi and family. Like many, they were traveling when the country went into lockdown.
Mhairi Thompson: We were, yeah. This was a bit of a trip of a lifetime, we've had planned for the last few years, and been saving really hard, and we left in December. We left Australia just before Christmas last year. So we're about three months into a nine-month trip. So we left before there was even any whiff of coronavirus in the news or anything like that, that we were aware of anyway. Yeah, and so we've just been traveling, we've been keeping an eye on Smartraveller as well, obviously, and been watching that quite closely. But it was really just in the last couple days before lockdown came in here in Peru, that everything just seemed to amp up quite significantly.
Kim: So why is it that you can't get a flight back to Australia? Because you've got children as well.
Mhairi Thompson: We do, yeah. So we've got Caleb, who's 12, and then our daughter Isla, who is eight years old. So when the lockdown was announced here in Peru, we were given 24 hours' notice of borders closing, no flights in or out, all of that sort of thing. Not allowed to travel anywhere, literally. You're in your either hostel, hotel, house, Airbnb, whatever it is that you're staying in, and you're allowed to leave to go get groceries, go to the bank, or go get healthcare. And they're the only reasons that you're allowed to leave. There's a curfew as well.
Mhairi Thompson: We had 24 hours' notice, and we were not in Cusco at the time, we were in the Sacred Valley, which is a couple of hours away. So we tried our hardest to get some flights. We traveled through in the early hours of the morning, as early as we could get a driver to bring us back to Cusco. I went straight to the airport, we're unable to get any flights. We were unable to enter the airport if you didn't have flights booked already.
Mhairi Thompson: Yeah, so obviously as soon as the lockdown was announced, any flights that were going out that next day were just snapped up straight away. Yeah, and now there's no flights leaving anymore. It's been quite difficult. And I think I can probably speak for a lot of the Australians that are here in Peru as well. It's been really difficult to sit here and see in the media and hearing through people that you've met as well that there are all these other nationalities, and their governments are coming and getting them out. And there is a cost as well, and that's obviously, no one's looking for a free ride.
Mhairi Thompson: But for example, I'm pretty sure that the Irish and their government have repatriated them, and I think it cost about 250 Euros. Israel came, and the Israeli nationals here, they left for free, it didn't cost them anything. I think even with America, there's Mexico, Germany, there's the UK, there's a huge number of different nationalities here, whose governments have all come to get them out. And there's been a small cost to them, but that's it, yeah. Whereas Australia, we've been advised to pay 5,000 for a charter flight or just sit and wait.
Kim: What's your reaction to that? Seems pretty harsh, doesn't it?
Mhairi Thompson: Yeah. To be honest, we're just dumbfounded. To me, it's a bit beyond belief, to be honest. I just don't understand how they can do that. As I said, no one's looking for a free ride. I mean, we're all over here, we all had tickets to go home, we're all expecting to buy tickets to go back home to Australia anyway. And yeah, everyone just wants to be on home soil. I'm aware of other people that are here that have come for a holiday that has kids at home. They're separated from the children right now and they can't get back to the children because of this.
Kim: So the government tells you to wait it out. Is that what you're going to do?
Mhairi Thompson: Well, to be honest, we don't have any other option. Yeah, so we've just got to sit and wait out this lockdown and see if any flights come up once it finishes, but if not, it will be the end of April. Unless the Australian government decides that they want to come in and help us, and help us get home.
Kim: They could've got on a chartered flight, Phil, but that would've cost more than 24,000 Australian dollars.
Kim: Meantime, Max Quick is 19-year-old Australian in lockdown in Argentina.
Max Quick: So basically, I'd been traveling in Argentina for about three months, and at the time when the pandemic hit, I was in the middle of nowhere actually. I'd hiked up into the middle of the mountains for about three days or so. When I walked back into town, there was nothing open, no one in the streets. It was crazy. I didn't know what was going on, and that was basically when it hit me that this coronavirus thing had gone crazy.
Kim: Until that point though, you were really enjoying your trip. I think you said you were surviving on five Australian dollars a day, just camping and hanging out with like-minded people.
Max Quick: Yeah, pretty much. I'd been traveling for three months, with a lot of hitchhiking, a lot of camping. I met so many amazing people, it was crazy. Got picked up by a guy hitchhiking who invited me to stay with his family for four days or something like that, and I helped him on his farm and got to stay with his kids and his wife and all of that. It's been an absolutely incredible experience, yeah.
Kim: Yeah, so sad to have that interrupted, but so many stories like yours, Max. Any chance that you can get back to Australia?
Max Quick: Right now, there's no talk about a flight from Argentina to Australia. I've been hoping and I've been trying as hard as I can to get in touch with politicians, and it's impossible at the moment. I had a hard time even getting to Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. So it's pretty impossible to get out of here right now, yeah.
Kim: So tell us that story. How did you get to Buenos Aires?
Max Quick: So basically, I was in a really secluded town when this pandemic hit. I met some French people and they wanted to get home as well, just like I did. We ended up forming a plan to buy some bicycles. Actually, they already had bicycles. They'd been cycling from [Oswai] all the way up to where I was in Belen. So I bought a bicycle, and the plan was we would get a lift to the border with Cordoba, and we would ride the last 200 kilometers to where we could catch a plane to Buenos Aires. We got to the first town and they turned us around, the police, they wouldn't even look at our embassy's letters, They wouldn't look at anything, they just told us to go home.
Max Quick: That night, the police called us and they told us that they'd found a way through. They wrote us up a letter and we drove through the next day, the whole way to Cordoba. Just to get where I am now, the crossing the provincial borders is insane, very much incomplete lockdown. And there's no commercial flights out of Buenos Aires. It's impossible to move.
Kim: Look, very frustrating for all those Australians and their families back home too. There is, by the way, a Facebook group you can join, Aussies Stuck in Latin America Due to Coronavirus. Says what it is on the back, yeah.
Phil: I was going to say. They spent a lot of time thinking that one up. Says what it is, well done. Look, if you're stuck as well, or you have a story to share you'd like to pass onto the travel community, email us at email@example.com.
Kim: Next episode, Amy's story. She's been separated from her partner because of the pandemic. Bye.
Phil: Lucky her. Bye.
Speaker 2: The World Nomads podcast. Explore your boundaries.