Volunteering couple forced back home from Peru
From Peru to Perth — a former Manjimup couple are now in the final week of a four-week quarantine period after making a desperate rush back to Australia.
Former Kearnan College deputy principal Shendelle Mullane and her husband, police officer Tim Jones, had originally planned to spend this year volunteering in the South American country but COVID-19 restrictions put in place by Peru and Australia hastened their hectic journey home.
The couple are nine days into a two-week quarantine period in a Perth motel, which comes directly after flying in from Sydney, where they also had a two-week quarantine period.
“We flew into Australia on March 31 and flew out of Peru on March 29,” Ms Mullane said.
“We had a stopover in Chile on a charter flight. It was something like 36 hours of travel between leaving our house we were renting in Lima, to hitting the tarmac in Sydney.”
Everyone on the flights was required to wear face masks but there was no option for social distancing on the packed plane.
The chartered flight was through an Australian tourism business, working with the Australian Embassy and Peru.
“The flight cost us $5160 each and that was economy with a bag of chips and some water,” Mr Jones said.
There have been two other flights from Peru since then, with tickets about $2000, but at the time of their flight, Ms Mullane said they were unsure if there would be any others.
“There’s still Aussies stuck in Peru now,” she said.
On their journey back home, the couple said they were not scared as they went through the motions.
“There was a huge amount of tension, with people not knowing exactly what would happen when we got wheels down in Sydney,” Mr Jones said.
During their quarantine period, the couple kept entertained by staying in contact with family and friends.
There was a sense of relief when they heard that no one on their flight into Sydney had caught COVID-19.
After a strict lockdown was introduced in Peru and Australia, the couple were lucky they were not stranded in Peru, their saviour a charter plane organised by Chimu Adventures, who was working with the Australian and Peruvian governments.
“There was less than 24 hours to get out,” Ms Mullane said.
“On Facebook, when you see people complaining that people overseas should have come back sooner and should have known better — in Peru, there was no opportunity to get out between the warning our Australian Government put out and Peru’s lockdown.
“We’re just lucky that between the group Chimu Adventures, the Australian Government and the Peruvian Government that they were able to co-ordinate sufficiently to charter a flight.”
The couple had been in Peru for two months, before any COVID-19 cases had been found in Australia.
When the Peruvian lockdown happened, the couple had their rental home and felt safe enough to venture our when the need arose for groceries.
During their two months in Peru, the couple worked with local parishes to help run school holiday activities.
“Once the school year started just before lockdown, Shendelle helped as an education assistant at the Mary MacKillop Huafi Centre, which was a special school for children in need and included physio, speech therapy and stuff like that,” Mr Jones said.
The school was set up by the sisterhood of St Joseph, which also established Kearnan College.
Find out more about the local effects of COVID-19 on pages 2 and 6
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