NEW DELHI, May 3
A British holidaymaker was forced to make an epic 1,700-mile road trip across India to get home after becoming stranded during the coronavirus lockdown.
Corinne Henderson, 30, was nearing the end of a three-week trip to visit her friend’s family in a remote hilltop village when the Indian Government ordered a total shutdown on March 25.
After Ms Henderson had endured more than four weeks in a house with no running water, the Foreign Office masterminded an astonishing five-day rescue mission to get her back home to Bristol.
Corinne Henderson, 30, had to make a 1,700 mile journey from the remote village she was in to New Delhi to catch a flight home to the UK.
‘Normally my holidays are to Cornwall or Italy so this was something quite new,’ Ms Henderson told The Mail on Sunday last night.
‘I am blown away that the Foreign Office came to pick me up from this remote village, as far off the map as you can get really. And I am incredibly grateful to the Indian authorities and all the people who went above and beyond to help me.’
Ms Henderson spent more than 60 hours being driven across bumpy terrain, mountain dirt tracks and pothole-strewn motorways from Nongman village in Manipur, North East India, to the capital New Delhi.
She swapped cars twice, as five local drivers took turns at the wheel on a trip which crossed seven States and covered the equivalent distance of driving from London to Moscow.
The convoy, which was granted a police escort, stopped for a few hours’ rest at deserted hotels each night before setting off again at dawn. Ms Henderson said: ‘The drivers spoke hardly any English so I spent most of the time looking out of the window.
‘It was amazing to watch how much the landscape changed.
‘I saw lots of monkeys and peacocks and we crossed over the River Ganges at one point. I saw a lot more of India than most people ever will, even though it was just from the road.’
A low point came when the car suffered two punctures late one night and still 300 miles away from the next hotel. Ms Henderson said: ‘We were stuck in the middle of nowhere in the dark, but fortunately the drivers managed to get us going again.’
Eventually, they made it to the capital where Ms Henderson boarded a flight to London on Thursday. She was then driven the final 105 miles back to her home city. Despite her ordeal, she said she had no regrets and is already making plans to revisit the village next year, adding: ‘I made lots of friends there and I miss it a lot.
‘It has been a unique and wonderful experience. My friends have been shocked about what happened to me. My life has been so dramatic for the last few weeks, especially when you compare it to people’s lives in lockdown Britain.’
She added: ‘Friends have been sending me pictures of their cats and bread they have made and I’ve been on this epic adventure.’
Once she arrived in New Delhi, she flew back to Heathrow, and then drove 105 miles home to Bristol
Despite being relieved to finally be home, Ms Henderson has been unable to visit her parents.
‘I’m in quarantine for the next 14 days which is a bit of an anti-climax, but at least I can catch up on sleep now. I want to give my mum a big hug – she has been worried sick.’
An estimated 300,000 British holidaymakers were stranded overseas when the Covid-19 outbreak erupted, sparking the biggest peacetime repatriation in British history.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab unveiled a £75 million rescue plan to fly Britons home in March, but last week Ministers said 57,500 were still stranded.
Flights arranged by the Government have flown 19,000 British Nationals home so far, and a further 1.3 million Britons are said to have made their own way back since the outbreak began.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: ‘Tens of thousands of British Nationals on short-term visits overseas are seeking to return home in the near term.’ Courtesy The Mail