Sat, 02 Nov 2019
A COUPLE have told of their ordeal, trapped inside strife-torn Ecuador as it descended into bloody violence.
Colin and Joyce Powell, of Two Rivers Way, Newbury, were pursued by a baying mob armed with crude weapons and had to evade burning tyre checkpoints as they tried to flee to safety, sometimes on foot.
Around them, simmering tensions erupted into violence which left seven dead.
Feeling abandoned by their tour company and trapped inside the country as it degenerated into anarchy, they were rescued following a desperate international phone call – to Newbury MP Richard Benyon.
The first sign of trouble during the “holiday of a lifetime” for the Joyces came when street protests against Government austerity measures prompted the declaration of martial law.
Flights home were cancelled, hotels closed and food became scarce as rioters put up street blockades.
Mr Powell said: “That meant a 4am start to try to get through the road blocks and an eight-hour drive through the Amazon and Andes mountains.
“We spent 17 hours in three days in a minibus, trying to find ways to get around the roadblocks, sometimes through mountain passes and along river banks.”
Accompanied by their friends, Gwen and Derek Tyler from Cookham, Berkshire, they then had to abandon the minibus and travel on foot, leaving most of their luggage and trying to avoid the burning tyres of the roadblocks.
As they fled cross country, a farmer gave them a lift on the back of his truck and protesters, seeing them flee, pursued them with sticks and poles.
As tear gas and water cannons were deployed, and amid rumours of kidnappings and killings, the Powells and the Tylers took refuge in a youth hostel and contemplated their next move.
Feeling abandoned by the tour company, they contacted their two daughters, one in Austrialia and the other in West Sussex, who helped spread word of their plight to the Foreign Office, the British Embassy – and Richard Benyon.
Mr Powell said: “Everyone was telling us there were no flights.
“It was only after Richard Benyon took up the matter for us, highlighting our plight on Twitter, that we got help.
“He responded immediately, contacting the tour company and publicising our plight.
“He kept at it.
“Within hours, it seemed a flight had become available after all.”
Safely home, the Powells and the Tylers are planning a visit to Mr Benyon’s constituency office to thank him in person for his intervention.
Meanwhile, the ordeal has not put them off foreign travel – they already have trips to the Cook Islands, Australia. Thailand and China planned.