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Quarantined

Updated: Apr 2


Day 1 - I’ve been pondering the amount of time & effort I put into planning for about half a year a trip to Peru, only to find myself in a small hotel room in Sydney, wishing I could open a window. Lack of fresh air seems to be the main complaint from people being restrained in our city hotel. Or so I’m told by Andrew, the friendly police-person at hotel reception, so well-trained in PR.


Having taken a cheap flight to Peru in early March, I managed to stay in Lima for 3 weeks before taking the first expensive commercial ’repatriation’ flight out to Sydney on Sunday, March 29. The flight organised by Chimu Adventures and flown by Chile’s Latam airline, was recommended by the Australian Embassy in Peru.


(Postscript: The Australian Ambassdor in Peru has just this morning - April 1, Australian time - put out a call for all Australians in Peru who want to return home to register for a possible second flight by sending their details to consular.lima@dfat.gov.au).



I’d had one fabulous outing - I’d visited Larco, a museum specialising in erotic art exhibits and one of the most beautiful restaurants in the world. Surrounded by enormous banks of crimson, orange and white bougainvilia, I was thrilled to be able to sample a classic dish, causa, made from a smooth creamy yellow potato, the country’s national pride. Along with a chocolate mousse to die for. I only hope I won’t have to.


After that delight it was down to the business of getting in stores before the official military lockdown, Peru’s approach to protection from the spread of coronavirus, which was still showing very low numbers of people infected. Empty shelves in some supermarkets, just like in Australia, included where toilet paper used to be, and even a run on bananas.


What was different than in Australia were the impressive early declarations by the President who showed his concern to buy in thousands of extra COVID-19 test kits and insist that people could not congregate nor even drive without a special permit to do so. Our household was in serious lockdown, rubbing down with alcohol any package delivered and insisting that you were either 100% in or 100% out - there’d be no going back and forward to work every day. This lockdown was for the duration - at least for the first 15 days announced, but who knew how long an extension might last?


Would I get back to family in Australia before Christmas? More detail on the negotiations to get a ride back home in a later blog ...


This week, after reading reports that some other returnees to Sydney, ‘inmates’ shall we call ourselves, had been put up in Sydney’s poshest inns and treated like princesses, I thought I’d feel more like a model on assignment. Not prepared to get out of bed for less than $1000 (or is that $1000 an hour?), focussed on pampering my skin with moisturisers and unguents, and alert to any flaw that might appear on my toenails’ ‘Ruby Tuesday’ glossy surface.


Well, that may still happen - but all that’s occurred so far is that I’ve been run off my fingertips replying to friends’ messages of concern, and slept through the afternoon and then the evening news from jetlag before getting a second knock on the door. This time it was for the presentation of a cold, light salad dinner in a pristine brown paper bag. As a vegetarian, I’d knocked back a chicken sandwich for lunch and was later given a salad replacement. You’ve got to give a little leeway, I say.


What I do think has been my greatest revelation is a slight feeling of uneasiness, a fear about not making it back home, the smallest measure of that horrific feeling that most refugees must feel: the state of homelessness. Can you imagine what horror it would be to have to tramp hundreds of kilometres with your children to the very uncertain safety of another nation, the experience of a Rohingya mother in a Bangladeshi refugee camp, or a gentle, well-educated young Iranian who finds herself on Manus Island? With no prospect of release ...


I felt just a twinge of guilt when it was announced, as our flight was about to take off for home, that two people had been rejected by the Australian Government for travel. Australia didn’t want them. What, are they criminals, or suspected criminals, I wondered? I don’t have any answers in this hotel room. I hope someone outside can find out ...


Tomorrow’s instalment: a fond look back at the plane ride home ... and anything else of note that might be happening in my mini temporary home on the 9th floor.


Sent from my mobile phone ... my connection to a humdrum world we all used to share but didn’t appreciate. One wayward traveller’s opportunity to emote via her daily diary ... Copyright Christine Williams.

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