Calm To Chaos is a feature-length documentary that tells the story of how against all odds, Chimu Adventures famously pulled off getting 435 customers and additional Aussie travellers home from all over South America and Antarctica when the pandemic first hit in March.
Nine months since COVID-19 first invaded our everyday lives, watching this remarkable story was a stark reminder of how quickly the pandemic hit the travel industry and with such an unstoppable force.
Seeing the unbelievable news footage again of borders hurriedly closing and hysterical travellers desperately trying to find ways to get home was a hideous memory of a time in history that even now, sadly continues to be a nightmare for many.
I still can’t comprehend what happened and has followed since. There are no words other than to say that it is all simply heartbreaking.
Chimu’s story begins with a beautiful introduction of what calm did feel like in early March in the heart of Antarctica, before abruptly shifting to chaos just two weeks later on March 15 when Peru suddenly locked down its borders leaving stranded travellers scrambling to find escape routes out by any means necessary.
Internal and outbound flights and transportation were cancelled, hotels were literally kicking guests out and across the continent, people were frantically looking for help to get back to Australia as borders continued to shut down.
And well, you know the rest: cue complete turmoil and a humanitarian crisis of the likes we have never seen before in our lifetimes.
Customer service centres and travel agents nationwide were overwhelmed, and Chimu was left with Its own dire problem to try and solve: “how do we get our travellers safely home from South America?”
What happened next was the outcome of intrepid commitment and energy from everyone at Chimu as they attempted to ‘achieve the seemingly impossible’ and get as many people back to Australia as they could, including travellers who weren’t Chimu customers.
From liaising with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Peruvian military to charter and fill flights to solving the complexities of finding an international port that would allow The Ocean Atlantic to dock after returning from Antarctica, the challenges keep on coming thick and fast as the story unfolds.
Siobhan Clyne and Fiona Hadden from Sydney were two travellers who were onboard The Ocean Atlantic – Chimu’s last Antarctica voyage of the season that found itself stranded in the only port that would allow it to dock but not let anyone leave the ship; Montevideo, Uruguay.
Together, they share their experience of what turned out to be a life-changing trip for so many reasons as they anxiously waited for salvation in Montevideo.
Amongst the tears, anguish and controversy are extraordinary examples of unison and spirit with strangers coming together to help each other including famously rallying PM Scott Morrison en-masse in a video that subsequently went viral.
The team at Chimu are, of course though, the real shining stars in this compelling story.
Led by unflappable founders Greg Carter and Chad Carey, we hear first-hand from Chimu’s people on the ground in South America and back in Australia who worked together to make it all happen under extreme stress from the continually changing goalposts.
Each of them passionately and proudly tells their own tale, and you can’t help but be captivated by their selfless energy and enthusiasm to make a significant difference for people they’ve never even met.
Should we be surprised? Not really.
From Queensland BDM, James McAlloon’s recent ‘Footsteps for Food’ fundraising 4655kms walk across Australia to help COVID-struggling families in Peru to the company’s own foundation The Mad Project, giving back is in Chimu’s DNA and one big reason why their loyal customer’s love them so much.
This doco is not just (quite rightly) a huge plug for 16-year old Chimu Adventures, but also one for travel agents everywhere as it echoes the experiences of so many agents who have spent the last nine months repatriating, refunding and working through the endless red tape of helping out their customers, in most cases for free.
As Chimu co-founder Greg Carter says in the doco.
“You don’t help because it’s convenient, you help because you can.”
Greg Carter, Chimu Adventures
Calm to Chaos is an emotional rollercoaster and a luminous moment for Chimu and travel agents everywhere, not just to highlight why they are experts at what they do, but more importantly why their level of care needs to be valued far more than it has been by mainstream media and the general public since the pandemic began.
What’s also worthy of a big mention is that Chimu’s own Meg Hall and Rebecca Hamerton created the entire documentary themselves (their first-ever attempt) with the simple objective of ‘telling the real story’.
Take a bow team Chimu, because this is wonderful.
You can watch the exclusive premiere of Calm To Chaos on Karryon’s Facebook page at 8 pm (AEDT) on Wednesday 28th October.
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