A Brit couple have spent months trapped in Mexico through the coronavirus pandemic – because they can’t bear to abandon their rescue CAT.
Lee Hodges, 33, and his partner, Willow Rolfe, 29 set off for America in August, 2019, and headed south to Mexico in February when their visas were nearing their end.
While in Washington DC, the pair of teachers from Birmingham rescued a cat, Aimee, from an animal shelter, and spent the rest of their trip tending to their new pet.
When the pandemic began to spread they wanted to return home but they couldn’t bare to leave their cat behind, so decided to stay.
Lee said: “We had been planning our trip for years.
”We bought a beat-up VW in 2015 and my girlfriend Willow spent the next two years restoring it at the mechanical college she taught as a motor vehicle lecturer.
“Last year, we quit our jobs and rented out our home, to embark on a once in a lifetime road trip around North America.
“We rescued Aimee near Washington DC around mid-October. We left two cats behind when we started our journey and we decided we wanted to rescue a cat.
“We initially rescued a small black stray who we called Molly, but it was clear that Molly was very young and also sick. Sadly, we passed away after only a couple of days.
“We rescued Aimee shortly after and she has been with us ever since.
“Since travelling with us, she has visited 15 US states and been in two countries. She’s better travelled than most people!
“Very early on, we trained her to walk on a lead and she has since joined us in many walks, the highlight being a walk around Monument Valley.
“We have had many strange looks for people when we are out walking her on a public trail.”
Lee and Willow developed a specail bond with Aimee and said that she now feels like a member of the family, and together they all headed south.
But while in Mexico their trip started to turn sour, as Aimee was attacked by a pack of dogs and left with a broken leg – an incident that strengthened their bond.
Lee continued: “With our six month visa close to expiring, we changed our original plan of heading to Canada and headed to Baja, Mexico.
“We planned on staying about five weeks before heading back up to the US and making our way up to Canada and Alaska
“During our time in Mexico, whilst we were at friend’s property preparing to isolate away in a canyon, Aimee wandered into a neighbouring property.
“The property was a derelict building site and what we didn’t realise was that there were three dogs there for security.
“It was in the morning and we were just finishing our breakfast when I heard Aimee cry out.
“Without thinking, I instinctively ran out and scaled the fence, where I found Aimee pinned in a corner by the dogs.
“Fortunately, I had managed to get there in time and was able to scare the dogs away.
“Aimee had run back under our camper, so I climbed under to check that she was ok. It was clear that she was not right, and she quickly showed me her front leg, which had been completely snapped.
“An x-ray confirmed that her leg was broken and so they had to order a plate. They put her leg in a cast and we waited a week.”
To make matters worse, coronavirus then swept through the world and the pair had to change their travel plans.
They decided to wait out the virus in the hope it would pass, but soon found themselves homeless in a hostile country.
Lee continued: “The US was a hotbed for infection, whilst Baja seemed particularly chilled. Ultimately, we decided to stay put.
“But cases in Mexico skyrocketed. The president of Mexico was initially flippant about the virus and so it quickly got started to spread.
“The next day, out in the middle of nowhere, two cars arrived carrying health officials and local police armed with semi-automatic weapons.
“In broken English, he informed us that the national parks were closed for the foreseeable future.
“Reluctantly we left and returned to the beach we had been stating at previously, but not long after arriving, more police turned up and told us we had to leave as well.
“Beaches were no longer free to stay on, and it started to dawn on us that it was going to become a lot more difficult to find camp spots.
“Not willing to throw in the towel, we stockpiled some food and drink and headed to a more secluded beach, hoping to find a spot where we could isolate.
“Shortly after arriving, some health officials turned up and we thought ‘here we go again. Surprisingly, they agreed that it would be best for everyone if we stayed put.”
But soon Lee and Willow were moved on again, and with a budget of £17.50 a day they were unable to find anywhere more permanent to live.
They spent the next few months battling with angry locals and armed police, before restrictions began to ease.
Now, they have been stuck in Mexico for nearly nine months and to make matters worse, their van has broken down and needs a complete engine rebuild.
Lee continued: “On the day we were due to head to a town where a ferry port was, we suffered a major engine failure.
“We later found out that it would be a massive engine rebuild or we would need to find a new engine.
“That’s currently where we’re at now. Unable to drive our camper, parked on a plot of land that a friend owns to avoid police.
“It’s safe to say our dream trip has become more of a nightmare.”