Raleigh family stranded in Peru amid COVID-19 pandemic, hope to be back in the states by Saturday

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- If you have anxiety from being stuck at home imagine being stuck in the jungle with no electricity or hot water and the only ways out are through COVID-19 military roadblocks.

That's what happened to Erick Vienrich and his wife Catrina who are from Raleigh.

On March 12 they arrived in South America to visit his 86-year-old grandmother who has lived in the Peruvian jungle her entire life. No one there was talking about COVID-19 when they first arrived in Lima.

"We head into the jungle and literally we get there that evening and we hear that everything's going to be shut down," Carina Vienrich said in a Skype internet video conference call.

And the nearest internet connection for their smartphones was at the home of a woman a 20-minute drive away.

"So we paid her a couple soles ($.60 US) every morning to get internet for an hour," she said.

Catrina Vienrich said her husband and his mother, who went with them, reached out to relatives in Peru for government connections but their best lead got shot down. And then, all of sudden, the lock-down which was scheduled to end March 30, was extended for two weeks to mid-April.

Vienrich recalled, "That's when we really started freaking out."

Then, 16 days after they arrived and out of the blue, they got word they would get passes and a police escort through checkpoints back to Lima.

"I don't know really what happened, it's truly a miracle," she said.

But the harrowing journey wasn't over.

The Vienrich's sent videos of the start of the trek - a boat ride up a muddy river, followed by a car ride through a heavy jungle rain that showed washed-out roads.

Road crews had to clear mudslides making the normally 17-hour trek even longer. And when they finally got to Lima they were out of the jungle but not out of the woods.

The government announced all foreign nationals had to be out by Sunday.

Erick Vienrich couldn't believe they were once again being challenged saying, "There have been a lot of ups and downs. It's been a bit of a roller coaster the entire ride. So, you know, a lot of stress, a lot of fear."

Despite being able to book a Saturday afternoon flight back to Washington D.C., they know they are coming home to a mess.

"Yes, it's scary but we're going to be extremely careful when we actually get to our home in the U.S. to really put in social distancing like they're asking us to do," he said.

Their friends and family back in the states are hoping nothing will go wrong. If it does, they could be stuck indefinitely.
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