Covid 19 coronavirus: Kiwi woman's long trek home to sick relative helped by strangers
A Hamilton woman based in South America is embarking on a gruelling five-day journey to be with a terminally ill family member.
Vikki Blundell, who has been living in Cusco, Peru, for three years running a tour company, received a life-changing call from an immediate relative almost two weeks ago.
The family member had been diagnosed with a terminal condition and Blundell immediately started making plans to get home to be with them.Vikki Blundell in Cusco, Peru June 2020. Photo / Supplied
Blundell said she didn't even know how to leave as Peru has been in lockdown for more than three months and she needed permission to travel around the country.Advertisement Advertise with NZME.
But Blundell had been blown away by the help from other expats who gave her advice about how to leave and helped her arrange a bus where she would travel 22 hours before catching an expatriation flight from the air force base in Lima to Miami in the US.
She would usually catch a quick domestic flight between Cusco and Lima - but this was not an option as the airport was closed.
She has begun the long bus ride which started with the her and the three other passengers getting tested for Covid-19 in Cusco before they started on the trip.
After arriving in Lima, she then flies to Los Angeles via Dallas when she will finally board an Air New Zealand flight to Auckland landing on Saturday.
Blundell said she was looking forward to that flight as that would mean she was nearly home.
The mother-of-three and grandmother will then spend another two weeks in a managed isolation facility before she can be reunited with her family member.
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Blundell had been blown away by the help from friends and strangers in her time of need.Advertisement Advertise with NZME.
She only managed to secure a flight this week - the first one in 10 days - after Eastern Airlines contacted the other passengers and a stranger agreed to forfeit their seat for her.
A family friend had also offered to lend her an empty house in Cambridge if they needed it.
"It has been amazing how his complete strangers and the family have just rallied around until I get home."
"Thank goodness I'm getting out of the country and can get to the family member and have time with them ... At the moment we don't know what we are dealing with. I just know I have to get home."Hamilton woman Vikki Blundell is grateful a passenger gave up their seat for her so she could fly from her home in Peru to be with a sick family member. Photo / Supplied
Blundell said Peru has been in quarantine - the equivalent of New Zealand's level 4 lockdown - for 107 days.
Tourism had stopped and families were worried about how they would pay for food. Residents had only been allowed out to exercise for 30 minutes for the past week. Prior to that they were only allowed to leave their houses to buy food or visit the doctor.
"The situation is dire. It's a long time for people to be in the house and have no income."
While arranging documents to get home, Blundell continued to organise food parcels to get to those families in need and said it had been a good way of taking her mind off the worries at home.