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Two British Columbians stranded in Cusco, Peru due to civil unrest

A B.C. couple is stuck in Peru amid civil unrest and protests. Global News

Two British Columbians are stuck in Cusco, Peru, amid ongoing protests and civil unrest in the South American country.

Tony Hepburn and Colleen Fish of Ladner, B.C., arrived in Peru on Dec. 1, 2022, and have since been caught up in the travel chaos associated with the country’s state of emergency.

The couple said they narrowly made it to Cusco from Aguas Calientes on Saturday after walking more than 35 km with “hundreds of people” due to a train station having its gates welded shut.

The B.C. couple had to walk 35 kilometres along a train track to make it to Cusco, Peru. Twitter/ @TonyHepburn

Their driver was also attacked by other Peruvians for helping them escape the area, the couple said.

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“Our driver that dropped us off was swarmed and attacked in the middle of the street,”  Hepburn told Global News on Sunday.

“We got away from that as quickly as possible. It was pretty nerve-racking.”

The couple is now at a hotel in Cusco and is desperately trying to book flights out of the country.

“Our biggest challenge right now is getting out of Cusco,” Hepburn said.

The couple’s return ticket with Air Canada does not depart Lima until Dec. 23, which the couple does not want to wait for.

They have been booking flights to try and leave, however, they haven’t been able to make it to the airport.

“We have two flights we are hoping to get. One booked for tomorrow and one on Wednesday,” he said.

“The hotel we are staying at right now is basically deserted except for us.”

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Hepburn said they were contacted by an American embassy that told them the situation is about to get a lot worse.

“It has informed us the situation is going to escalate on Monday with more protests, blockades and strikes. Flights will be likely getting grounded,” Hepburn said.

Another big hurdle: the nearest airport is slammed with people and getting there is tricky with the ongoing protests and blockades.

“You can’t just drive to the airport and get in. There are too many blockades and it’s too dangerous,” he said.

“We already went through the one blockade and our driver was assaulted by a guy carrying a sickle.”

Hepburn has been documenting their travel woes on his Twitter page, including a short video of when their driver was attacked.

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“Canadian Government response (is) way behind fellow USA travelers,” he wrote on his Twitter page.

“No help from Air Canada, either.”

The couple said it has been in contact with the Canadian embassy and is working with agents to try and expedite their leave.

They did say the American embassy has done a better job at helping the American travellers leave Peru while the Canadians’ response has been slower.

Global News has reached out to Air Canada and it did reply in an email.

“Air Canada has had a flexible rebooking policy in place since Dec.15, for travel to and from Lima, Peru,” Air Canada staff said.

“We note these customers are travelling back from Peru on Dec. 22, 2022; therefore they are able to rebook themselves on an earlier flight as availability permits based on Air Canada’s current goodwill policy.”

Hepburn said communication with Air Canada has been poor.

“They basically told us we are on our own,” he said.

Click to play video: '‘We need help’: Dozens of tourists stranded in remote mountain town in Cusco amid Peru protests'
‘We need help’: Dozens of tourists stranded in remote mountain town in Cusco amid Peru protests

The couple said they will be heading to the nearby airport on Sunday.

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They will be camping out, hoping to catch a flight out of Peru.

Global News has reached out to the Canadian Embassy in Peru and Global Affairs Canada for comment.

Click to play video: 'B.C. student stuck in Peru amid civil unrest'
B.C. student stuck in Peru amid civil unrest

Since the publication of the article, Hepburn is now saying the couple has secured a flight to Lima from Cusco.

An Air Canada supervisor changed their flight to connect out of Lima for Sunday night, Hepburn said.

As of 4:30 p.m. Sunday, the couple said are in the boarding wait area awaiting their flight.

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