Globetrotting Brits wait out COVID-19 pandemic in Whitehorse parking lot — for 2 months

Marcus and Julie Tuck — and their expedition vehicle "Cuthbert" — have been stuck in Whitehorse since March, waiting out the COVID-19 pandemic before rolling on down the highway.

Marcus and Julie Tuck arrived in Yukon in March, just before travel restrictions were introduced

British couple Marcus and Julie Tuck have been travelling the world in their expedition vehicle. They arrived in Whitehorse during the COVID-19 pandemic and stayed put for several months. (Dave White/CBC)

It may be the longest pit stop they've taken in their years-long road trip around the world. It's certainly the most unexpected.

Globetrotters Marcus and Julie Tuck from the U.K. have been stuck in Whitehorse for more than two months now, waiting out the COVID-19 pandemic before rolling on down the highway.

"We were heading to the Arctic for the summer. But you know, got as far as Whitehorse and here we are," Julie said. 

"We're just waiting it out. We've got plenty of time." 

They arrived in Yukon in their big, blue expedition camper-truck in mid-March, before Yukon had imposed restrictions under the Civil Emergency Measures Act or installed border checkstops.

The Tucks had just come from Vancouver Island, and driving north through B.C. they didn't have internet access along the way. When they got to Whitehorse, they found a Wi-Fi signal at the visitor's centre and caught up on the latest news.

Marcus and Julie Tuck of the U.K. drove their expedition vehicle from B.C. to Yukon in March 2020, before having to stay put in Whitehorse and wait out the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted by Marcus and Julie Tuck)

"That's when we realized the coronavirus had really got very serious, very quickly, in those couple of weeks ... so we realized that travelling on probably wasn't sensible at this time," Marcus recalled. 

Staff at the visitors centre told the Tucks to stay in the parking lot as long as they needed. The couple also contacted local health authorities.

"They were happy that we had contacted them, and we explained that we had been in self-isolation and that we weren't intending to travel beyond until it was safe. And they were happy for us to remain here," Marcus said.

"So that's really the situation we're in."

A truck named 'Cuthbert'

The Tucks are not exactly used to staying put. Since 2014, they've been driving their expedition vehicle — nicknamed "Cuthbert" — around the world.

They'd both been working in Qatar for several years and had made enough money to quit and do some travelling. The original plan was to spend a year on an overland journey, starting in Africa.

"So the year has kind of expanded somewhat," Marcus said.

British traveller Julie Tuck at Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. (Submitted by Marcus and Julie Tuck)

After Africa, they drove around Europe and some of the Middle East before shipping Cuthbert to Uruguay. They then drove through every country in South America (except Venezuela) and as far south as Tierra del Fuego, the southern tip on the continent.

"And then we said, 'right, we've got to go to the top, we've got to head north.' So the last four-and-a-half, nearly five years we've been actually just driving up through the Americas," Julie said.

"A lot of people look at us and go, 'how can you live in such a small box for so long?'" Marcus said.

"It's like, yeah well, we're kind of fairly chilled-out people, we're used to each other's company now. I mean, six-and-a-half years on the road, you get used to it."

Marcus and Julie Tuck of the U.K. have been driving their expedition vehicle 'Cuthbert' around the world. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they were forced to stay put in Whitehorse for more than two months. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

They're getting used to life in a Whitehorse parking lot, too. In fact, they don't seem to mind it a bit.

"As car parks go, this is a pretty good one actually. It's very peaceful, it's right by the river, the Millennium Trail, the shops — it's not bad," Julie said.

The Tucks say they feel lucky to have landed in Yukon as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. They've heard from other travelling friends in other parts of the world who had to scramble to fly home, leaving vehicles behind and hoping one day to retrieve them.

"You know, it's been really stressful for them. We've been so fortunate to be in Canada, in the Yukon, with friendly locals," Julie said.

"Everybody's been very friendly to us. We've had no hostility at all from the locals," Marcus said.

"You know, we meet quite a few locals walking past and we have a chat with them — and they're happy that we're staying where we are and we're not trying to travel around or go and visit remote communities or anything like that."

The Tucks say they're also conscious of keeping physically distant from people, for example, by avoiding the busy Millennium Trail on weekends.

It's not clear how long they'll be in Whitehorse. Yukon health officials are still discouraging people from travelling to other communities.

British traveller Marcus Tuck with some friends in Ecuador. (Submitted by Marcus and Julie Tuck)

"We're kind of going with that guidance and staying put here until it's advisable to move on ... We're on a kind of almost unlimited time scale, you know, subject to a visa. But you know, we can hang on," Julie said.

Once they hit the road again, they hope to head up to Dawson City. They've also got an inflatable kayak they'd like to put in the water somewhere. 

They'd also like to meet — or at least see — some more of the locals.

"We haven't seen a bear yet. We saw a bear in Texas, but that is quite a long way away," Marcus said.

"So we'd like to see a Canadian bear."

With files from Dave White


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