Alberta couple stuck in Uruguay during COVID-19 pandemic after reaching Patagonia

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Alberta couple stuck in Uruguay during COVID-19 pandemic
WATCH: What started like the adventure of a lifetime has left two Albertans stranded in South America after reaching Patagonia. Travel restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic are preventing a motorcycling couple from returning home. Adam Toy reports. – May 16, 2020

It was going to be the trip of a lifetime, attempted times before but never with success. Among enthusiasts, it’s a crowning achievement.

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A pair of Alberta travellers trying to make the journey hit a once-in-a-generation roadblock.

Canmore resident Jeremy Kroeker and Calgarian Elle West had been saving up and planning a return trip to the southernmost tip of Argentina on the backs of their motorcycles.

They made it to Ushuaia, Argentina, after leaving Canmore in August 2019. Kroeker and West also splurged on a boat trip to Antarctica. After setting foot on a third continent during their trip, they pointed their motorcycles north.

“We made it to Buenos Aires,” Kroeker told Global News on Saturday. “We spent a week there. And we took a ferry across to Colonia, Uruguay, with the intention to travel around this country a bit and then moving on. And that’s when borders all around us began to close, and hotels and hostels closed as well.”

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“When you’re riding a motorcycle every day, you’re moving and you’re moving and you’re moving, and there’s new stimulus every day. Then all of a sudden, you come to a full stop.”

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The couple arrived on the north side of the Rio de la Plata on March 12 as countries worldwide were putting in restrictions to handle the COVID-19 pandemic.

They haven’t left the country since.

Having travelled to Panama via motorcycle in the past, the couple found a 315-square-foot apartment to rent in Colonia. Grocery shopping and frequent visits to a nearby beach are their only trips out but they know little Spanish.

Kroeker writes for a motorcycle website and has a YouTube channel to keep him busy. She’s learning how to play the ukulele and he’s taken up the guitar again after ordering the instruments online.

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“All those things that we wanted to on our travels that we didn’t have time for, all the pictures and videos that we take that you don’t have time to upload and work with it, we’re doing some of that,” West said.

“But there are some good days and some bad days. There are definitely days when I feel alone and sad and worried because I can’t talk to other people here. I can’t get in touch with other humans except for online.”

The couple has been in contact with family back home and has found help in the small ex-pat community.

Originally planned as a 13-month excursion, their travels to Patagonia prepared them for sheltering in place together.

“It’s really tough for us to both find some space where we can stay sane and get along with each other,” West said. “But we definitely had the travels to get used to our styles and our personalities and working together to get through tough situations.”

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Not having to spend money on gas and motorbike parts has kept their expenses down, but they are beginning to find money worries creeping in.

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How they’ll get home with or without their motorcycles remains an unanswered question.

Uruguay shut its borders to all travel in mid-March. There was one repatriation flight out of Montevideo in mid-April, but they skipped it because they didn’t feel they were in an emergency situation. They had already planned to remain outside of Canada until September anyway, including renting out his condo.

Kroeker and West said they don’t regret taking this trip.

“It’s good to have this reminder that even if a pandemic hits or even if you drop your bike or even if some of those rough things happen along the way, it’s still wonderful to have gone on that journey rather than stay home and not take a chance,” West said.

“I would do it again 10 times out of 10,” said Kroeker.

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