A TEENAGER stranded in remote Patagonia because of the Covid-19 lockdown has told The Argus of her treacherous return by bus, plane, taxi and a moonlit journey through the desert on horseback.

Annabel Symes, 19, from Eastbourne, was on the trip of a lifetime, volunteering at a ranch in the foothills of the Andes. Her flight home was cancelled when Argentina introduced travel restrictions to contain the spread of coronavirus.

After a voyage that involved setting off on horses in the dark and travelling in a taxi sprayed with disinfectant at checkpoints, she is now back with her family in Meads, five weeks later than planned.

She said it “feels like a dream” to be home.

The Argus:

She had been stuck more than 1,000 miles from Buenos Aires with a long journey even to the nearest road.

With winter on its way in a region where temperatures plunge below zero, heavy snowfall would have made leaving the ranch impossible.

To make matters worse, she had only packed summer clothing. She called the Foreign Office for help and it put together a complicated rescue plan that involved a half-day trek by horse, a nine-hour taxi trip to the nearest town and a 17-hour bus ride to Buenos Aires airport.

The Argus:

She and her partner, an American citizen, had to ride to the road in the dark, finding their way using the full moon with mules carrying their bags.

Annabel said the dry, open terrain looked “like a moonscape” as they set off. But added: “The horse part was the least frightening. The scariest bit was being thrown back into civilisation and into a world with coronavirus and seeing other people wearing face masks and having their temperatures read at checkpoints. It was a really high-stress situation.”

The Argus:

British Embassy staff had to negotiate travel permits with authorities from the different regions so it could organise bus travel, book taxis and cross-country travelling.

The couple returned home with 200 British travellers from Argentina on May 8.

The Argus: