We escaped Peru on April 5, just in time, apparently: Iquitos is going into full lockdown mode now, with grocery store runs permitted for just one family member, mornings until 9AM only, for a couple of days. Then, from April 9 to April 13, no leaving your house or hotel. Period. Not sure what happens after that.
The exit was sudden and chaotic. On the night of April 4, we started getting calls from the US embassy about a flight out the next morning. Only 12 of the 80-odd Americans in Iquitos would be selected to get on a little prop plane, heading to Lima. Securing moto-taxi transport (a lot like the tuk-tuks in Thailand, a moto taxi is a motorcycle with a carriage on the back that seats two) was involved, as you had to have all the driver’s info ahead of time and send it to the embassy in order to get a permit letter written up. Without a permit, there is no crossing the military checkpoint between the city and the airport.
We left the hotel at 5AM, got into Lima around 10:30AM, and waited at a USAF hangar until about 3PM for a chartered Boeing 777 to fly us to Dulles, Washington DC, along with many other Americans from around Peru. The plane seemed full, but some first class seating was empty. They were giving the primo seats to people with physical disabilities, as they should. But still a shame to leave any seat unfilled.
Got to Dulles after midnight. Immigration queue was very slow (over an hour), and finally got into bed at a nearby hotel at 2:40AM. Heard from several people the next day that were unlucky enough to have brought fruit along: they got to spend an additional 90 minutes in a queue at customs.
Originally we were going to rent a car and drive back to Minnesota, but Claire realized, as we landed, that she did not have her driver’s license with her. So we came back to Dulles the next day to get a flight home. Everyone has been talking about $25 domestic flights, but… we saw no such prices on offer for April 6. We paid $400 each for a one-way, IAD to MSP flight. Ouch.
The IAD to MSP flight had four passengers and four crew members.
Kudos to the United crew on this flight, they let us move up into the first class seats and gave us food and wine and treated us like royalty. They didn’t have to. At least it took the sting out of the $400 price tag a little.
The day after our flight, that same puddle jumper returned to the Amazon basin and shuttled another handful out of Iquitos. Many more are still there, waiting. We were very lucky to get on that flight. I’m going to continue to hound my representatives until they get everyone out.
Thanks to everyone that has been reading along and sending us good vibes and good wishes. This story is not over. There is still the matter of birding from Tarapoto up to Jaen, with time in Lima to get some west Peru birds we still need. We started this trip with a target list of over 150 species. We got 17, in what had to be the worst cost-per-bird adventure of all time. So we are coming back. No birds left behind. Our Tarapoto-based guide is waiting for us and once normality returns and cheap flights are available, we will be in Peru again.
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