Nowhere to run

“Don’t wait until you’re in a crisis to come up with a crisis plan.” – Phil McGraw

Spain is going on a nationwide lockdown. As of 08:00 tomorrow—Monday, 16 March—all non-essential travel is illegal. We’ve been following the coronavirus developments in Europe for weeks already, so the announcement was not particularly surprising. City parks and hospitality establishments have already been ordered to shut down. We’ve had plenty of time to prepare, and we did. The fridge and cupboards are stocked with a two-week supply of fresh and tinned food. Most of our toilet paper is stockpiled in the supermarket, where it takes up less space than in our bathroom.

We’ve found the perfect location for two weeks of isolation: a free campsite in Sierra de Huétor national park, near Granada. We are parked next to a stream teeming with frogs, much to Chaos’s delight. The campsite has water, showers and toilets, plenty of sun during the day to charge our battery and—probably because we are still well out of season—we are entirely alone. The surrounding woods are full of hiking and mountain bike trails. We’ve been training for social distancing for nearly a year now; assuming neither of us has already been infected, the next two weeks are going to be a breeze.

It’s a gorgeous Sunday morning, and we’re enjoying the sun from a picnic bench in the shade a little way away from the camper. We sent off all our work deadlines yesterday, so we have the weekend off. Anne has settled down with her e-reader, and I’m setting out the whetstones to sharpen the kitchen knives, something I’ve been putting off for ages. Chaos is establishing a perimeter nearby. The park rangers are making their rounds; they’ve driven by several times in the last few days, usually returning a polite wave when prompted. It’s nice to know there is someone around in case we run into any unforeseen problems in the next two weeks.

Something is different this time, though; the patrol car is pulling up next to our camper. The two rangers are already walking up the hill toward us when I get up. “El parque está cerrado, tienes que irte,” says one of the rangers from three metres away [paraphrasing here, as neither of us speak enough Spanish to understand anything he’s saying]. “¿Habla inglés?” I reply, one of the few phrases I have mastered in the last two months. I’m not sure why I still use it—it’s one of the least useful Spanish phrases to know in my experience, as the answer is invariably an emphatic no. “No,” he replies, emphatically. “No puedes quedarte aquí,” he continues, with sweeping hand gestures that suggest something negative about this place. In context, it’s pretty clear: the national park is being shut down and we’re being evicted.  Out comes my phone, the Google Translate app once again proving its worth. Anne’s been taking Spanish lessons with DuoLingo for weeks, so I let her read out the results. “¿Dónde podemos ir?” she asks, hesitantly. The ranger shrugs; his job is just to kick us out, where we go next is clearly our business. We collect our things from the table with a sigh and head back to the camper.

The rangers don’t wait around for us; just as well, as the camper is nowhere near ready to drive. We try out a range of emotions as we pack our things. Shock, disappointment, betrayal and anger, followed by worry and uncertainty. Why shut down the national parks? If everyone obeys the lockdown, they should be at home and we’d be safely isolated here, alone. Now we’re being forced to move closer to other people, which makes no sense. I briefly entertain the thought of driving the camper out of sight into the woods behind us, but I suspect we’d get stuck in the treeline and need the rangers to tow us out. But where can we go?

So far, the best spots have been in national parks, which are well-patrolled by rangers. Spanish towns and cities often have Aires for campers, but with everything going on, we’d prefer to be as far away from people as possible. After studying the map for a while, we settle on a pretty remote spot next to a lake near Jaén. It’s a two-hour drive, but we have nothing else planned, so we say goodbye to a fantastic spot and hit the road.

The motorway is all but empty; campers make up the bulk of the traffic we see. Nobody waves. There is a general air of uncertainty; everyone is searching for a place to hunker down or on their way out of the country. It’s still two days before the nationwide lockdown goes into full effect, but the overhead matrix signs already carry a clear warning: “Coronavirus alert – Non-essential travel prohibited.” For the first time since selling everything to travel, we are homeless.

To be continued…

Spain is going on a nationwide lockdown. As of 08:00 tomorrow—Monday, 16 March—all non-essential travel is illegal. We’ve been following the coronavirus developments in Europe for weeks already, so the announcement was not particularly surprising. City parks and hospitality establishments have already been ordered to shut down. We’ve had plenty of time to prepare, and we did. The fridge and cupboards are stocked with a two-week supply of fresh and tinned food. Most of our toilet paper is stockpiled in the supermarket, where it takes up less space than in our bathroom.

We’ve found the perfect location for two weeks of isolation: a free campsite in Sierra de Huétor national park, near Granada. We are parked next to a stream teeming with frogs, much to Chaos’s delight. The campsite has water, showers and toilets, plenty of sun during the day to charge our battery and—probably because we are still well out of season—we are entirely alone. The surrounding woods are full of hiking and mountain bike trails. We’ve been training for social distancing for nearly a year now; assuming neither of us has already been infected, the next two weeks are going to be a breeze.

It’s a gorgeous Sunday morning, and we’re enjoying the sun from a picnic bench in the shade a little way away from the camper. We sent off all our work deadlines yesterday, so we have the weekend off. Anne has settled down with her e-reader, and I’m setting out the whetstones to sharpen the kitchen knives, something I’ve been putting off for ages. Chaos is establishing a perimeter nearby. The park rangers are making their rounds; they’ve driven by several times in the last few days, usually returning a polite wave when prompted. It’s nice to know there is someone around in case we run into any unforeseen problems in the next two weeks.

Something is different this time, though; the patrol car is pulling up next to our camper. The two rangers are already walking up the hill toward us when I get up. “El parque está cerrado, tienes que irte,” says one of the rangers from three metres away [paraphrasing here, as neither of us speak enough Spanish to understand anything he’s saying]. “¿Habla inglés?” I reply, one of the few phrases I have mastered in the last two months. I’m not sure why I still use it—it’s one of the least useful Spanish phrases to know in my experience, as the answer is invariably an emphatic no. “No,” he replies, emphatically. “No puedes quedarte aquí,” he continues, with sweeping hand gestures that suggest something negative about this place. In context, it’s pretty clear: the national park is being shut down and we’re being evicted.  Out comes my phone, the Google Translate app once again proving its worth. Anne’s been taking Spanish lessons with DuoLingo for weeks, so I let her read out the results. “¿Dónde podemos ir?” she asks, hesitantly. The ranger shrugs; his job is just to kick us out, where we go next is clearly our business. We collect our things from the table with a sigh and head back to the camper.

The rangers don’t wait around for us; just as well, as the camper is nowhere near ready to drive. We try out a range of emotions as we pack our things. Shock, disappointment, betrayal and anger, followed by worry and uncertainty. Why shut down the national parks? If everyone obeys the lockdown, they should be at home and we’d be safely isolated here, alone. Now we’re being forced to move closer to other people, which makes no sense. I briefly entertain the thought of driving the camper out of sight into the woods behind us, but I suspect we’d get stuck in the treeline and need the rangers to tow us out. But where can we go?

So far, the best spots have been in national parks, which are well-patrolled by rangers. Spanish towns and cities often have Aires for campers, but with everything going on, we’d prefer to be as far away from people as possible. After studying the map for a while, we settle on a pretty remote spot next to a lake near Jaén. It’s a two-hour drive, but we have nothing else planned, so we say goodbye to a fantastic spot and hit the road.

The motorway is all but empty; campers make up the bulk of the traffic we see. Nobody waves. There is a general air of uncertainty; everyone is searching for a place to hunker down or on their way out of the country. It’s still two days before the nationwide lockdown goes into full effect, but the overhead matrix signs already carry a clear warning: “Coronavirus alert – Non-essential travel prohibited.” For the first time since selling everything to travel, we are homeless.

To be continued…

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