By bike, boat and horseback: the epic coronavirus is coming home


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Media captionThe man who sailed the Atlantic Ocean to see his elderly parents

With flights stranded and borders closed, some people have embarked on epic journeys to return home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Here we take a look at four of those trips – and the distances traveled are getting longer and longer.

Annabel Symes: 1 600 km (1 000 milles)

Annabel Symes poses on horseback

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office


Annabel Symes’ trip included half a day of riding

British teenager Annabel Symes was volunteering at an isolated horse and cattle ranch in Argentinian Patagonia when her return flight was canceled due to coronavirus travel restrictions.

This meant that Annabel was at the ranch as the region’s winter season began, when temperatures can drop below 0C.

The 19-year-old had planned to return home at the end of the summer season and had packed only light clothes.

Increasingly anxious, she called the British Foreign Office, who arranged for her to travel the more than 1,600 km to Buenos Aires airport, where she could catch a flight home.

The first leg of the trip saw Annabel and her partner travel half a day on horseback to the nearest road, with mules carrying their bags.

She then took a nine hour taxi ride to the nearest town. At checkpoints en route, his temperature was taken and the vehicle was sprayed with disinfectant.

The journey was followed by a strenuous 17-hour bus ride to the airport.

“The horse part was the least scary,” she told The Argus after returning home.

“The scariest part was being sent back into civilization and a world with coronavirus and seeing other people wearing face masks and having their temperatures read at checkpoints. It was a very stressful situation. “

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Cléon Papadimitriou: 3,200 km

Kleon Papadimitriou travels to Greece

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Kleon Papadimitriou


Kleon Papadimitriou said he welcomed “major challenges”

Student Kleon Papadimitriou said a “multitude of factors” had led him to take his bike and cycle from his university in Scotland to his home in Greece.

The flights had been canceled due to the pandemic and her apartment lease in Aberdeen was running out. But the 20-year-old said he also welcomes ‘big challenges’ and believes a bike ride with his family will help him test his limits.

“I wanted to challenge myself and I had nothing else to do,” he told the BBC.

Prior to the trip, Kleon had never ridden a bicycle “to get around”. But he was convinced he was fit enough to make the trip.

Armed with food, a sleeping bag and a tent, he leaves in May for a 48-day trip to Athens.

He said he designed his itinerary with travel restrictions in mind and had no problems crossing borders.

Although the 3,200 km journey has worn him out at times, he said the loneliness was the most difficult challenge he faced.

“I struggled a lot with the time I spent alone,” he recalls. “I also had problems with my bike – I had apartments quite often and had to take care of them. ”

But there was much to occupy the student.

“I saw incredible terrain, I discovered incredible places, I saw people and beautiful things,” he said.

Kleon arrived home in late June, where he was greeted by family, friends, acquaintances and strangers who had heard of his trip.

He said the trip taught him that he was “capable of a lot more… than I thought he was” and that he was now better able to cope with stressful situations.

But he plans to make the return trip to Aberdeen in September by plane.

“It was a great learning experience, but if I start cycling again, I won’t be doing the same route.

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Garry Crothers: 6 500 km

Garry Crothers

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Garry Crothers said being an amputee made the journey even more difficult

Garry Crothers was determined not to miss his youngest daughter’s wedding, so when the flights were grounded, he decided to make the 6,500 mile return trip across the Atlantic solo.

Garry had been cruising the Caribbean on his ship, Kind of Blue, since early 2019, with friends and family joining him at various points along the way.

He was due to return home to Northern Ireland at the end of March, well in time to see his youngest daughter marry in September.

But when the coronavirus hit, the 64-year-old found himself stranded on his boat in Sint Maarten, with no obvious way out.

As lockdown measures continued into April and hurricane season approached, he began to devise a plan to return home, concluding that the only way to do so was to sail solo.

While an unmanned trip across the Atlantic might seem rather intimidating, Garry had to face the added challenge of doing it with one arm, after having the other amputated as a result of a motorcycle accident.

“Sailing long distances alone is a challenge for anyone, even those with two arms. You have to prepare well, have a contingency plan for every eventuality, ”he said.

One of the biggest challenges of the 37-day trip was finding time to cook and eat.

“Because I was alone, all downtime was spent looking at the weather conditions, adjusting the sails, changing course if necessary, watching other ships and of course trying to sleep,” he said. -he declares.

“My biggest fear was getting so tired that I would start to make mistakes. One bad judgment could possibly be my last. ”

While the trip included struggles such as cold weather and “severe electrical storms,” ​​Garry enjoyed watching shooting stars and seeing whales and dolphins.

But the biggest highlight “was the satisfaction that came from overcoming my handicap enough to achieve something I had always wanted to do.”

When he arrived on dry land in July, he was greeted by his friends, family and supporters.

He now has about two months left before his daughter’s wedding. The family are still hoping this goes ahead, even if the guest list is to be reduced.

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Juan Manuel Ballestero: 11,000 km

Argentine sailor Juan Manuel Ballestero poses for a photo in the cabin of his sailboat

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Argentine sailor Juan Manuel Ballestero says his “mission is accomplished” after returning home to his parents

Argentine sailor Juan Manuel Ballestero was stranded in Portugal when return flights were blocked due to coronavirus.

As his father was about to turn 90, he was determined to return home, so he boarded his modest 30-foot boat and set sail.

“I thought the best way to get home was to sail a straight line in the middle of the ocean to avoid getting infected in another country,” he told the BBC Newsday.

“I didn’t prepare. I just jumped on board with a bunch of food. I forgot the meds. ”

The 47-year-old veteran sailor believed the transatlantic journey could take between 60 and 80 days. In the end, he was alone at sea for 85 days with only his radio for company.

“It was really me and the whole universe… the night there [were] lots of stars and sometimes the dolphins also came at night, so they streaked the ocean with a green fluorescent light, ”he says.

Although Juan didn’t arrive in time for his father’s 90th birthday, the couple were able to spend Father’s Day together after Juan arrived in his hometown of Mar del Plata in June.

“We are sailors. It was another mission accomplished, ”Juan said of the trip.

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