Bus, plane, horseback: A British travelers Epic Journey home. Stranded on a 100,000 acre ranch
A British tourist found herself at the centre of an epic journey home by bus, plane, taxi and horseback after being stranded in an isolated ranch in Patagonia, a half day’s horseback ride from the nearest road.
Annabel Symes, 19, from Eastbourne, was fulfilling the dream of a lifetime, working as a volunteer hosting tourists at the 100,000 acre Estancia Ranquilco.
The isolated horse and cattle ranch in Argentine Patagonia is located in the foothills of the Andes more than 1,000 miles from Buenos Aires.
Annabel was due to return home at the end of the summer season in early April but her flight home was cancelled when Argentina introduced swingeing travel restrictions to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Having received a call for help from Annabel, the Foreign Office organised a rescue plan involving a half-day’s horseback ride to the nearest road, a nine-hour taxi journey to the nearest town and finally a 17-hour bus ride to Buenos Aires airport.
It was here that Annabel joined 200 other British travellers from every corner of Argentina on a flight home. British Embassy staff also had to negotiate travel permits with local authorities from the different regions so they could organise bus travel, book taxis and facilitate cross-country travelling.
Before undertaking her unusual journey, Annabel was growing increasingly anxious about her situation as winter began setting in.
In a region where temperatures plunge below zero, heavy snowfall would have made leaving the ranch impossible. To make matters worse, Annabel had only packed clothing for summer.
“Once I realised I was stranded, I registered with the British Embassy. Communication was made challenging as the estancia only had patchy internet access via satellite which meant lots of cold WhatsApp conversations sitting on a tree stump in the middle of a field,” said Annabel.
Annabel and her partner, an American citizen, had to ride off the estancia to reach an outpost by the road in the dark, with mules carrying their bags – finding their way thanks to a full moon. From there, she took a taxi which was sprayed with disinfectant at each checkpoint along the way, where temperature checks were also in place.
Annabel finally arrived at Gatwick Airport on 8th May – five weeks and a national lockdown later than she had planned – where she was reunited with her parents, two sisters and border terrier dog Sidney.
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