By GUY WILLIAMS
Arrowtown’s Nicholas Holmes thought he’d had enough drama in 2020, but now finds himself stranded in French Guiana in a coronavirus lockdown.
Holmes arrived in the country on February 19 to visit his daughter Eva, 3, who lives in the coastal town of Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni with his ex-partner.
He’d been planning to stay for up to six months, then bring Eva home for a holiday.
But the country – and overseas region of France on the north-eastern coast of South America – went into lockdown a week ago.
He says he’s lucky to be house-sitting his boss’ apartment, but is not allowed out except to buy food and essentials supplies.
“I’m not going anywhere now.”
Holmes says he’s having a “crazy” year – “and it’s only March”.
Two months ago he was one of the first at the scene of a horrific bus crash in Wilson Bay.
Of the 23 Chinese tourists on board, two suffered traumatic injuries and most of the others suffered moderate to minor injuries.
He told the Otago Daily Times three days after the crash he was “still processing” the experience.
Now he finds himself in the romantically-named but “run-down” coastal town of Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, population about 40,000.
Although it attracts some adventurous eco-tourists and sailors, “it’s not the sort of place you’d put on your itinerary”, he says.
To return home, he’d have to make a three-hour road trip to the capital, Cayenne, then hope to get a flight to Paris before flying to New Zealand.
All the while, he’d risk catching the virus.
“It’s a complete nightmare – I’m pretty much stuck.”
He’s now resigned to waiting it out.
The lockdown was for an initial 15 days, but has just been extended for another month, with a nightly curfew.
Luckily he’s living in an apartment with mod cons, internet and television, house-sitting it for an Australian who gave him work at his cafe.
His boss is now living on his yacht at the town’s marina, while Holmes’ ex-partner, a nurse, is hunkered down at her home with their daughter.
The town, which already has eight or nine of the country’s 24 confirmed coronavirus cases, is “dead” with barely anyone on the streets except for police.
While Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni has a new hospital, “if it gets out of control here, it will decimate the people because it’s quite poor”.