LOCK DOWN: Matthew and Gabrielle Ryan
LOCK DOWN: Matthew and Gabrielle Ryan

Honeymooners in Latin-American lockdown

"OVERNIGHT everything changed. We went from being on the trip of a lifetime - to trapped."

Former Clarence Valley sailing champion Gabrielle Ryan said the last week has been "surreal" since she and her husband Matthew Ryan became caught up in a coronavirus lockdown nearly 1000km north of the Peruvian capital, Lima.

Their extended honeymoon - an 18-month cycling trip across South America - was abruptly turned into something akin to house arrest when the government of Peru initiated a lockdown on March 15.

The closure of borders and a restriction on national and international travel was made to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Currently holed up in a hotel in Cajamarca, Ms Ryan said she is unable to go outside and has resorted to a "6km walk up and down the hotel corridor" to stay active.

While Mrs Ryan "can't fault" the decision to go into lockdown, she said there was a lack of urgency from the Australian Government which she found "pretty disappointing".

The concerns stemmed from interactions with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, from whom they were repeatedly given "generic" advice they felt was out of date.



Gabrielle Ryan outside the hotel in Celendin where their ordeal began
Gabrielle Ryan outside the hotel in Celendin where their ordeal began


Before being asked to email their personal details, Ms Ryan said "on no occasion" did DFAT ask for their name, passport number or location.

"We are just getting platitudes. We have been told they are doing everything they possibly can for days now," she said.

"For other countries, 'doing everything they can' has resulted in their citizens being repatriated or … getting information."

Ms Ryan was in the remote town of Celendin when police began to order people off the streets. By the next morning, she said, the place was "like a ghost town" and the couple discovered they had been "abandoned" in a hotel by themselves.

Ms Ryan said Peru's tourist board, Iperu, got in contact and on hearing what had happened, promptly organised a police car to transport them to the larger city of Cajamarca.

The differing attitude from the Peruvians, along with other national governments has left the former world champion sailor "disillusioned" with her own government.

"The sense we have had at this stage is that Peru's government cares more about us than the Australian government does," she said.

"I have represented Australia and have worn the green and gold and was always incredibly proud to call myself Australian and this has just been so disappointing.

"We are really needing the government to be able to organise the authority and transportation for us."

Matthew and Gabrielle Ryan in more relaxed times.
Matthew and Gabrielle Ryan in more relaxed times.

Yesterday, Australia's Ambassador to Peru, Diana Nelson posted letter on Twitter advising those stranded across Peru not to attempt internal travel "for the time being".

"We are working around the clock on options for return to Australia," Ms Nelson said.

"There is a process in place with the Peruvian government to allow confirmed passengers on flights to be transported to airports. We have received many messages from travellers who are outside Cusco and Lima. You are at the forefront of our mind."

A spokesperson for DFAT said the Australian Government was working directly with the Peruvian government, like-minded embassies, airlines and travel companies to identify and facilitate travel options for Australians.