Traveling during Covid times: Our experience from South Africa to Peru (and back!)

by GP Wentzel

Being cautiously optimistic has now run its course… it is time too cautiously get back to traveling!

My wife and I recently went to visit her/our family in Peru. We live in Cape Town and thus this is no small trip but a lengthy journey.
In the current times we find ourselves there is no such thing as “JUST” visiting anyone, even the locally and domestically travel at the moment is accompanied with many protocols, rules and cautions to adhere to. And in international travel this seems to become exponentially more.

Or does it? … and is overkill truly necessary? Is it really such a big risk to travel and so difficult and more tiring than before? Or is this something that we are told and made to believe.

Our first international flight in over 14 months

In early December we saw the right signs and were were waiting and on the 20th of December we wanted to book with KLM, one of the only two airlines that offered flights to Peru, they offered long flights with multiple stops and layovers. Meanwhile, that gut feeling (that I have learned to trust more and more) made me feel uneasy and we decided to sleep on it. The next morning Peru banned all flights originating from Europe as the newest mutation of Covid-19 was detected in multiple European countries as well.

That left us only with one airline – Qatar Airlines, so we booked our flights for the 1st of January 2021 and off we went. Cape Town – Doha – New York – Lima – Cusco (our flight Lima – Cusco we booked a domestic flight with Latam).

Our extremely long flights: 49 hours there and 38 hours back. All worth it!

We prepared, went for our required PCR tests and on the 31st of December we were ready for our trip armed with negative 72 hour Covid tests, hand sanitiser, face masks and face shields. We reported to the airport checked in and filled in a declaration forms, followed by some more forms and face masks and face shields when we boarded but after that it was pretty much it.

Everyone was friendly as per normal, we follow the rules that was asked of us. We were cautious, but not paranoid. We arrived back about 2 weeks ago again armed with the required negative PCR tests.

It was a great trip blessed with family time and some rest, combined with the Covid factor and the rest is pretty much history.

At this moment you are maybe thinking ok great you went to visit the family and blah, blah but not much else. Or hopefully you are also thinking, but I thought it is so dangerous to travel and it is so risky and you have to go trough so much extra nonsense and, and, and…

To my questions above and in short, I think that we have all either gone into a permanent state of fear and paranoia or we are constantly being fooled into this by global regulations and overreacting bans and regulations. Should we trow caution to the wind and is this all a conspiracy? No, I did not loose my mind in Peru and that is not at all what I am saying.

I truly believe that if we all follow the basic rules and regulations, remain cautions and not paranoid, that we can honestly move on form this ‘new normal’ trend and start traveling again.

There are many arguments to be made and we all know how this is being debated and the updates continue. In the meantime we are all stuck in a mandated rut. Should we do everything to preserve human life? Yes at all cost. But does that really mean constant lockdowns and banning of living life – you cannot live in four walls – this will make you sick. I get to differ and last time I checked solitary confident and being ‘locked up’ is very unhealthy. Agreed that I am digressing a bit, apologies for that!

My final point, an observation, wish, dream whatever you would like to call it is this: Let’s all start reasoning soberly and rationally about this, we cannot loose significant parts of our healthy lives based on “what ifs…”: ‘what if the the current vaccine roll out…’, I hope you know where I am going with this. Instead free those people, travellers and adventures that are willing to do whatever it takes to stick to rules and stay safe while being out and about living life. We have let people do this, despite previous global outbreaks of other viruses that are still not under control, the biggest example of this HIV and AIDS.

If the world does not let us live life, then it is time for serious civil right movements!

Tanzania’s current situation absolutely fascinates me – they started out as all our nations did with the same press releases, restrictive measures and initial reactions. Then the president announced that there is simply no one that their economy can survive a lockdown and that people will die of famine (fact or fiction is irrelevant at this stage) and then went into denial declaring that Covid-19 does not exist in their country.

The fascinating bit is that they have no international vaccine deal, they have no roll-out strategy and they do not have any local measures to combat COVID-19. Yet they are open for business, they are receiving tourists from all over the world, running safaris and climbing Kilimanjaro. There are people that are willing to travel over there, there are Covid-19 tests available and people are traveling to and from Tanzania. I work for a big global tour operator and we have run departures there in December, January and currently. The only reason that it will stop is because the source markets are again going into hard lockdown and taking away constitutional rights and good old fashioned free will.

It is my sincere hope that we all emerge out of this with a renewer sense of adventure, love for life and common sense.

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