It all happened seemingly overnight. What began as one of the most fantastic trips I have taken overseas quickly dissolved into a story out of a Michael Crichton novel. In any case, it will remain memorable.
My trip began in Bolivia on March 2nd. I was to spend a few days in La Paz, then get on a bus I booked with a company called Peru Hop (or Bolivia Hop) and travel to Lima, stopping in various towns and cities along the way. My flight out was from Lima, early in the morning on the March 21.
Five days ago, I was on a bus in Peru from a town called Arequipa to a much smaller town called Huacachina. The bus ride was long, somewhere around 13 hours, so we were on the bus almost all day. In the afternoon we were told by the bus guide that the president of Peru would be making an emergency statement, but since we were in the middle of the coastal desert with no service, we would not know until we were closer to Huacachina what would be in the president’s address.
Once we were close enough to get a connection, we learned the unthinkable. The president had announced total closures of all travel for 15 days, including bus travel from town to town. This would be enacted less than 48 hours from the time it was made public, and was in response to the growing concerns over coronavirus. When I arrived at the hostel in Huacachina, I witnessed at least 50 travelers in the lobby in a panic with their luggage. They were all calling cabs and finding any possible way to leave I imagine. An hour after I arrived, the place was a ghost town. I was contacted by my Peru Hop guide and told we would be having one last chance to get on a bus to Lima the next day, which I decided I would take.
The bus to Lima the next day was slammed. Everyone gathered at one hostel at the end of town, and the Peru Hop guides worked to get everything figured out so they could get as many to Lima as possible that wanted to go. With the help of friends back home, I found one last flight out of Lima that day for $3,000. But being 4.5 hours from Lima, I would not have possibly made the 4:30 pm departure.
Upon arrival in Lima, I could tell things were hectic. Soldiers with automatic weapons were walking the streets, as well as police patrols. I was dropped off in Miraflores right by Kennedy Park. I had originally planned on staying near a local Peruvian I befriended earlier in my trip, but when I got to Lima I quickly realized that transportation to different areas of town was already being banned. I had no choice but to find a hostel nearby.
Although I arrived in Lima on the 15th and the quarantine restrictions weren’t supposed to take effect until the next day, I still noticed that most businesses were closed. The one I did find open was slammed with people. Many fresh items were out of stock and the bakery was on full blast, with workers wheeling out 7 foot tall bins of fresh bread to put in empty baskets. I managed to get some food and get back to the hostel. As I was standing outside the door to the hostel talking to a French man staying there as well, a soldier with his gun raised approached us and told us that we must go inside at once. Considering the offer we obliged.
Each day here the restrictions get progressively worse. At the current moment we are only allowed two people outside of the hostel at a time to get groceries. This restriction was imposed last night, with no warning. This comes after a curfew was mandated the night prior, from 5am-8pm. While on the streets I have been asked why I am walking about, and have to tell the soldiers or police in Spanish that I am going to the supermarket. I am now getting told now by authorities that I must wear a mask. I have heard from my German friends in another hostel close by that they are now being forced inside if they do not have one on. There are currently no masks in stock anywhere I have been.
At the hostel (The Flying Dog), we have amenities to a certain degree. Although we have a kitchen and small fridge, it is not enough for the over 20 people staying at the hostel. There are many nationalities here, though I am the only U.S. citizen and Alaskan. We are maintaining here as best we can but the isolation imposed on us is taking its toll, and I believe will get more trying as the days continue. Employees of the hostel have been incredibly friendly and helpful, allowing us to use the fridge by the lobby and giving us food. The owner on the other hand is nowhere to be seen. Certain things that should be purchased by him like fans, more eating utensils and kitchen hygiene products have fallen on us to fend for. I am working on an escape plan, and for all those who know me back home, I will succeed. Until then, I’m Tim and estoy atascado en Peru!
Tim Weise was born and raised in Alaska. He is an avid world traveler. He spent a year in Australia in 2017 where he met Jeff Landfield. They became friends and had many loose adventures.