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Travellers try to catch one of the last planes leaving Peru


“All flights have been cancelled. The British Embassy in Lima has closed its doors. The emergency helpline it put out on social media rang through to no one”


I’ve always wanted to visit Peru. I just wasn’t banking on quite such an extended stay... Following a ten-day trek in the Andean mountains and a bucket-list visit to Machu Picchu, I was back in Cusco raising a cold Cusquena with my guide to celebrate a trip well done. Two hours later, a phone call informed me that I had until midnight the following day to leave the country or that was it: stuck here, in lock-down, for 15 days.


I didn’t make it out. Frantic calls by tour operators to try to find new flights – any flights – were to no avail; I was advised not to bother dashing to the airport – photos showed it was bedlam, with huge non-moving lines and people turned away. Though perhaps it might have been worth a punt – some did make it out. Confusion reigned. There were rumours that extras flights were being put on. Or that even scheduled flights were cancelled. A traveller with a pilot friend said some planes were leaving unfilled, but online searches showed no seats to be had. Some boarded flights to Lima, but didn’t manage to fly out anywhere else before the midnight cut-off so were simply stuck there.


Then there were the alternatives. An Australian couple opted to book a private car for a dash to the Bolivian border. From there, they planned to make the long drive to La Paz where – for the time being at least – international flights were still operational, hoping to make it to their final destination. I don’t know if they did – last I saw, they were nervously waiting for their vehicle, booked an hour or so before but yet to arrive.


I was offered a Bolivian bolt myself, but so many what-ifs? If I didn’t reach the border on time, a two-week sojourn in a bit of Peru I didn’t know? If the Bolivian regulations changed,
I might end up with a long stay there instead – a country less developed than Peru. And would I be able to fly out of La Paz anyway? Plus, with the FCO now advising against all but essential travel to Bolivia, I would have no protection from insurance. At least in Peru – also now on the no-go list – the advice changed after my arrival, a slightly better position to be in as my policy is still valid.


So here I am. Confined to a house, only allowed out to pop to the shop or pharmacy (the streets being policed), with little official support. Helpfully, as the Peruvian government announced its restrictions, the British Embassy in Lima closed its doors. The emergency helpline it put out on social media rang through to no one.


Sarah''''s view for the foreseeable future


Paul Cripps, owner of Cusco-based tour operator Amazonas Explorers has been fielding cancellation after cancellation, and is having to make tough decisions over refunds and staff, his whole business turned on its head. For the guides and porters, who should be busy on the trails, it’s a disaster – they are freelance, with no wages or employment benefit to fall back on, and no hope of finding other similar employment as the whole industry suffers.


This potentially has wider reaching consequences. During the recession of 2007/8, some locals who lost their jobs in tourism turned to alternatives to survive such as illegal logging and mining. Anything to make ends meet. “Tourism maintains so many people doing good things,” says Cripps.

这可能会产生更广泛的影响。在2007 - 2008年的经济衰退中,一些失去旅游业工作的当地人转而寻求其他谋生之道,比如非法伐木和采矿。人们会做任何事来维持生计。“旅游业保证了让很多人做好事,”克里普斯说。

He adds: “It’s the end-of-the-line person who is going to be shafted. The poorest people are going to suffer the most.”