By GUY WILLIAMS
Nicholas Holmes was already having the year from hell.
After four months in Covid-ravaged French Guiana, the Queenstowner managed to get on a flight to Paris last month, and in a rare moment of good luck, was allowed to enter that country.
On July 4 he returned to Charles de Gaulle Airport to fly to Auckland, via LA, but his bad luck returned.
United States immigration officers wouldn’t let him get on the plane.
He had authorisation for his stop in LA – something he’d “triple-checked” with the US Department for Homeland Security and the airlines – and evidence of a negative Covid test.
“I was furious … to just be stopped and told you’re not allowed on, and being told there’s nothing they can do, is appalling.”
Air France staff gave him a Gallic shrug, but the code-share flight’s other operator, Air New Zealand, has been helpful, saying it’ll do all it can to get him on another flight.
But because of the current shortage of isolation facilities in NZ, the airline’s not taking bookings for another fortnight.
Speaking to Mountain Scene from Mornas, near Marseille, Holmes says 2020’s been a “strange ride”.
His drama-filled year began in January when he was one of the first at the scene of a horrific bus crash in Wilson Bay.
The next month he jetted to French Guiana to visit his preschool-aged daughter, Eva, who lives in the coastal town of Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni with his ex-partner.
He’d been planning to stay for about six months, then bring his daughter home for a holiday.
Then Covid hit and the overseas region of France – on the north-eastern coast of South America – went into lockdown.
After house-sitting a friend’s apartment for a while, he spent his last few weeks there living on a yacht in the town’s marina, and having to bathe in a river.
He finally managed to get a flight out of the country six weeks ago, but says it was too risky to take his daughter with him.
He’s worried about her because the virus has “exploded” in French Guiana, and the town’s getting 30-40 new cases a day.
He’s now grateful to be in France, as it was only accepting visitors from other European countries when he arrived.
“I had a real argument at the border – by all rights, they didn’t have to let me in.”
He had a letter from a British mate who lives there, saying he could put him up, and the fact his daughter’s a French citizen must’ve helped, he reckons.
“I could’ve been put in a detention centre.”
He’s been recovering after his four months in South America “took their toll”.
“I lost almost 10kg over there, with the food and humidity, and my skin was really bad.
“If I didn’t have friends here, I would’ve been in a lot of trouble.”
He’s hoping to be back in Queenstown by early next month.