The pandemic seemed to be happening all around the world without having much affect on me, or in Portugal in general and it seemed to be the safest place to be, and still could be, in my opinion. Pity the feds don't agree! I saw myself stuck in a small beach valley for 2 nights just terrified to tackle the steep monstrosity of a hill, to get out of the place. I sat there for two days thinking I would just die here because I was not going to attempt this hill, I lost sleep over it... Imagine! Then one morning I woke and decided I needed to get out and move south. So I did... Just before this I had spent a couple of nights just outside Sines at a beautiful cliffside motorhome area with a few other campers around. It had beautiful walks, amazing sunsets and a nice community feel, of people just waiting out the pandemic. We were in the best position... or so we thought.
Every day the situation and the law changed for people like us, vanlifers, motorhomers and nomads. First the campsites closed, which didn't affect me because I only used the free camping areas anyway, but then gradually things got worse... And slightly scary...
Having made it up the hill (Go on Maggie!!!), I headed for Sagres, the most southerly part of Portugal and parked at the fort with at least 25 other camper vans. It seemed like a great place, and it was. People had been there for weeks and felt as though this was the perfect place to keep distance, but be close to supermarkets and be able to stay active around the many cliff walks.
I stayed there 3 nights and really loved my time there, planning to stay indefinitely with the situation around just getting worse. With constant updates from various FB pages relating to campers in Portugal/Spain during the lockdown, I knew it was inevitable that we would be moved on, and I was right! It was just a few days ago that the GNR (police) stopped by the Sagres area and ordered us all put of the area, not just the 'area's' but the country! We were told to go home, not easy when it's a 23 hour drive (prob 50 hours in Maggie), to the nearest ferry going to Ireland. Not that I was planning to do this, but still!
In the Lidl carpark I met a few other campers doing the same, even a Swiss family in their RV who said they didn't see an option but to drive back to Switzerland where they had no home. This is there home after all, just like mine and the others living in their campers. The whole situation seemed just crazy that all at once, there would be hundreds upon hundreds of vans and motorhomes on the road just driving aimlessly to get 'home', crossing borders, closed to the general public and driving through countries where the virus was extreme. Very unsafe right?
I had been in touch with my friend Susie, my yoga sister who I had met years ago in India and who now lived in Spain, and she had invited me to stay at hers until this thing ended. I had originally decided not to, before I knew how dramatically the situation would change, but then last minute I decided that this may be the best and most safe option. The plan would be to drive from Sagres to Evras and cross the border there, at one of the designated areas and pretend I was going 'home', but then to continue on to her place and hope no police spotted me on the small roads, obviously not bound for Ireland.
My mind was racing all night as I slept in the woods with one other camper (who I'm convinced didn't know what was going on in the world) and tried to decide what to do. Did I mention, in the panic of this situation, I broke off the whole bedroom window when trying to enter the woods. I swear that tree just appeared!! I did a quick patch up with some plastic bags and duct tape and just prayed things wouldn't get any worse. It's not like I could even get this fixed with everything being closed, so it was a few weeks of being freezing until things reopened.
Despite an awful sleep, I awkwardly maneuvered my huge bus out of the forest and headed off on the 643km journey wondering how I would even pay for gas. Considering both my atm cards had expired and I was using Google Pay to buy groceries etc. I needed to make sure the gas station accepted this before filling up. Risky! A friend encouraged me to try my atm card and see if I could get cash out because it could potentially still be working until the end of the month. Luckily, I did this and I managed to get enough money for the gas and the tolls. I drove the toll roads the whole way to Evras, stopping there briefly to stock up on over the counter inhalers before crossing the border. The police gave me a slip of paper to show any Spanish police when I was there, to show that I'm going home. I agreed and continued on. A few hours down the road a storm came and my headlights began to fail as the sky became dark. I panicked and decided to stay at a truck stop that night, to avoid exhaustion causing a crash and not being able to see the road. I had a decent sleep despite still having no bedroom window attached and being an easy target to rob, but I did feel safe surrounded by truckers sleeping too.
After a quick breakfast, I continued on the 45 min journey, having been told by a friend to hurry as police were cracking down on anyone out driving, I was a bit nervous I have to admit. Its not like my van blends in!
I drove down a series of small roads in the Spanish countryside with some Incredible mountain views and just wished I could stop for some pictures. I continued on! I arrived at Susie's mid morning and was greeted by her at the big gates. Her and her boyfriend helped me maneuvere my van into a great flat area right beside the guest house which had a bathroom etc for me to use, including a hot shower.... Amazing!! Van people will understand this