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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 13, 2020
When René Vergé and his wife, Sabine Vichy, left Montreal last fall for an extended tour of Central America, they didn’t know their most memorable adventure would be trying to find the way home.
The N.D.G. couple had been on the road for about three months when they became aware of the coronavirus, which was ravaging Wuhan, China. By the time they reached Panama in late February, the virus had become a pandemic, and they decided it was time to turn their camper around and head for home.
“Our original plan was to see Panama City and the canal, but we were worried about being stuck and we turned around,” Vergé said by phone from his home where he and his wife are self-isolating for 14 days after arriving home Thursday.
They breezed through Costa Rica in two days, but their problems began at the border with Nicaragua and it wasn’t related to the pandemic. It seems Panama is a hot spot for yellow fever and anyone under the age of 60 — that would be Vichy — needed proof of vaccination or had to be absent from Panama for five days.
After clearing that hurdle, they continued north, navigating through Nicaragua. They had no trouble entering Honduras, but when they reached Copan on the border between Honduras and Guatemala, they found the border was closed.
“At that point, we started looking for flights home,” Vergé said. “There were a lot of people trying to get back to the United States and Canada and the situation was changing every day. We booked three or four flights, but they would be cancelled. And we heard about other flights that were leaving with planes that had empty seats. We had one flight on Spirit Airlines going to Miami and Air Canada from there, but that was cancelled.”
Vergé said they had plenty of company.
“We set up a Facebook page to exchange information and we registered with the Canadian embassy, which has done what it could to arrange for repatriation flights,” Vergè said.
“While we were waiting, we decided to go to Tela, which is a town of about 70,000 people on the Caribbean,” Vergé said. “We arrived there around March 15 and set up our camper at Posado Del Mar, which is a series of cabins run by François Ligeard, a Honduran whose father came to the country from France. There was a young Swiss couple that we had met at Copan staying there and an American from Houston. François was very helpful and it was a pleasant place to spend the time while waiting to see how we were going to get home.”
The American, Austin Trotta, was able to book a United Airlines flight from the airport in San Pedro Sula on Wednesday. Shortly after he left for the 90-minute drive to the airport, Vergé learned there were two seats available on the same flight.
“I called Austin and he was 15 minutes from Tela, but he was kind enough to come back and pick us up,” Vergé said. “We spent the night in Houston and were able to get a flight to Montreal the next day. We were happy to get back, but it was strange arriving at the airport because I’ve never seen it so empty.”
Vergé said he has maintained contact with Ligeard and Trotta and keeps tabs on the Facebook group in Honduras.
“There’s an Air Transat repatriation flight going out this weekend and there was one leaving from Roatan (an island off the coast of Honduras) earlier in the week, so people are finding their way home,” Vergé said. “I know some people who have decided to stay down there and I don’t know what’s going to happen to the Swiss couple because getting back to Europe is difficult.”
Also left behind is the 1986 Dodge Ram camper, which was his home for most of the winter.
“François is looking after it for me,” Vergé said. “I’ll go back and pick it up in the fall if things are back to normal.”
Note to readers:
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Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020