Lockdown, Pandemic and the Great Escape

*Contains pandemic, pregnancy & miscarriage events* March-May 2020

In the middle of March 2020 we knew very little about this new ‘coronavirus’ that had started in China and made it’s way to Italy. We had just been just travelling around southern Spain, in our usual laid-back manner, leaving our new friends near Cartegena to meet with old friends from Jersey near Ubeda, just north of the Sierra Nevada. After a couple of days exploring the beautiful old town with them we had a choice to make- do we make a long drive & join our new friends further along the coast? Or should we take it a bit easier and find a wild camping spot to relax at? The next day brought one of the hottest days of the month, so we chose the latter. Halfway down the route to the coast, we found a heavenly wild camping spot right next to a reservoir, perfect for a quick swim to cool ourselves down! Little did we know that this would be our new home for the next two weeks as full on lockdown reached Spain. We thought the virus & quarantine would be short lived, maybe a week or two, but we were very wrong.

After two weeks of self isolating in our beautiful secluded spot we had reached our wild camping limit- we needed to empty the grey water & toilet and refill with clean water, gas and power which meant that we needed to either head back to Jersey or find a more permanent place to stay in Spain. Getting back to Jersey made no sense, for many reasons. Thanks to a friend of a friend, we found a studio flat to rent hidden away in the Sierra Nevada mountains, perfect for isolating and keeping ourselves safe. By this point, Callum was now an experienced motorhome driver, which was lucky as the route wasn’t exactly “motorhome friendly”. He expertly squeezed the motorhome up the gravel track & through the extremely narrow gates. Our new home was surrounded by exquisite mountain views on all sides, accompanied by a cacophony of barking dogs, braying donkeys and neighing horses, the jingling bells of the goats as they came and went up and down the mountains and literally hundreds of flies (we broke 1.5 fly swats!). Initially we booked to stay for just 2 weeks and as news came each fortnight of extensions to the ‘state of emergency’ we extended our stay until, eventually, we had been there for 7 weeks! Our longest stay anywhere since we had left Jersey the September before. Theodore settled in really well, and the local cats reminded him what it was like to be a cat again (life on the road with us had made him forget)! He was loving the freedom of going in and out, onto the veranda, as and when he wanted to. He was slightly less impressed when he returned from one of his adventures to find that another cat had let herself into the flat and was helping herself to his food. Some days we watched him basking in the sun or rolling around in the dust outside, at the end of the day, and wondered if he’d ever adapt back to van life when we had to leave.

By our 2nd week staying in the mountains we found out that I was pregnant. After previous early miscarriages before we came away travelling, this welcome surprise was actually the perfect time to take it easy. We couldn’t go anywhere or do very much anyway, so it wasn’t as difficult as it would have been usually. We had to just relax and & do all we could to grow this baby & try to figure out how we’d fit a baby into the motorhome. By about 12 weeks pregnant we needed to find a doctor for a check up and most importantly, a scan. Not such an easy feat during a worldwide pandemic, as many of the smaller clinics near to us had been closed with their resources and staff moved to larger medical centres. We eventually found a maternity ward at a large, private hotel in Granada with a lovely lady called Lucia who could translate for us. The timing of the appointment was perfect as our host was expecting new guests to take over our studio flat that same day so we were back living in the van again as we left and headed for Granada.
Unfortunately the appointment didn’t go as we had hoped. It was not good news; the scan showed another miscarriage. We had to decide which treament was best for me and where we were going to stay during treatment. Thankfully, our travel health insurance covered all our medical expenses, which was one less thing to have to worry about. We now had a huge decision to make. Do we stay in Spain and try to find somewhere to park and sleep even though all campsites, camper stops and wild camping sites had been closed? Or do we make the 3 day, 1800km+ drive through Spain, to the French border & head towards home? We decided the only sensible option was to escape from Spain & seek safety with our friends in northern France. The next couple of days were pretty awful physically, mentally and emotionally for both of us. Callum was driving all day, about 6-7hrs each day whilst I was trying not to fall apart (quite literally). Our main worry had been crossing the border into France, as all we had heard was “all international borders are closed & strictly monitored”. The French police officer just asked where we were headed, why we were moving around and to see our passports. He was happy to wave us through after a short discussion. We had no problems making our way up through France & are so glad that we did. As soon as we pulled into our friend’s driveway we felt the relief rush through us. Now we wait and see when places will open, where we can go to and what the new restrictions will be.

Our ‘safe place’ in France is the most beautiful, tranquil & calm place. Exactly what we needed.

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