19th March to 26th March 2020
Just over a week ago we were sitting in a cafe with friends in Foz de Arelho sharing our views on the coronavirus and they varied from ‘jokey’ through to ‘it’s the end of the world’. We have to admit, back then we never imagined the impact and the global reaction to the virus would be anything on this scale. This ignorance to the wider things that were happening in the world may have been because we were engrossed in the ongoing beach house purchase process. Speed through a little more than one week and now we see Europe going into shutdown. For us specifically, Portugal announced a National State of Emergency placing many restrictions on normal life in an aid to contain the spread of the Virus beyond those they had already imposed, for example social distancing, school and public office closures. Today Friday 19th April is the first of 15 days where the restrictions apply, hence this brief diary.
At a glance of the containment restrictions, Sharon and I had envisioned that our current lives would not be too different from normal as we currently do not have jobs to travel to, we do not have children to teach and look after and when in the motorhome we have few regular commitments or hobbies that could be disrupted by having to stay at home. Upon our review of the situation the area where we would be impacted is that we will have to stay in one place and not drive around stopping for a change of scenery as we normally do. In addition to this the closed restaurants and cafes will be something our daily lives miss, but if this is our biggest worry then things overall must be pretty good!!!
The motorhome parking place at Costa de Lavos. There are fifteen vans in total waiting out the containment. The mix is nine vans from France, three from Germany, two UK and one Irish.
Day 1, Friday 19th March:
First thing, I accompanied elderly Irish motorhome neighbours to the nearest health centre so they could stock up on prescription drugs. The streets are completely empty of cars which even in not congested Portugal seems abnormal. Once I had waited in the queue at the one in one out pharmacy it was back to the motorhome stop at Costa de Lavos which will be our home for all of the containment period, hopefully. I made a quick trip to the local minimarket to buy some essentials which is something I have planned to do each day, in an effort to keep in contact (no touching though) with the local community/commerce. Inside the shop the mood seemed sombre and I wondered, not for the first time, whether we, the motorhomers are really welcome here in this very small village, are we seen as virus carriers? Would it be better to go less frequently to the shop and buy more items to reduce contact? On the other hand I don’t want to give the impression that I am stock piling and maybe denying someone else something they need. Confusion? To help reflection and as 5.00pm had arrived Sharon and I had a glass of wine and settled in for the evening to watch a stock of pre-recorded films that luckily we have.
I struggle to concentrate on the films however as I find my mind is still over run with thoughts about the now stalled house purchase. I am also following the exchange rate like a hawk unable to accept with any grace that the £ to € exchange rate has plummeted by 10% since the Coronvirus has hit Europe. This is primarily due to the different approaches taken by the separate European nations, Boris’s ‘delay’ tactic was particularly not liked by the markets, as investors start moving money away from the volatile pound to more stable currencies.
The day started slow as the drizzle from yesterday continued through the morning. By early afternoon it had cleared and we went on a beach walk with Rita which turned out into a beach clean. Maybe this could be our use within the local community, there is certainly enough plastic to be gathered to last us the next 13 days. I tried the supermarket again today and things seemed more upbeat which was comforting. The afternoon will be spent watching the classic 80 / 90s American films that are always shown on Portuguese TV on Saturday afternoons. We are not expecting too much as both Karate Kid and Indiana Jones are scheduled. Like we predicted, this to us seemed like a quite normal day especially as bad weather normally keeps you indoors.
As it is a Sunday and we have all of the time in the world we thought we would cook a make shift Sunday roast from our supplies. Using chicken legs, small roasting potatoes, a couple of Portuguese sausages and Yorkshire pudding and gravy made from scratch. The end result was tasty, if not an exact replica of the English version. With our stomachs full we settled in for another set of American films, the highlight being Ocean’s 8.
With the weather improving we have now set up two outside chairs next to the van. We are really grateful that we have this option to sit outside in the sun. I can’t imagine what it must be like trapped inside an inner city flat without a even a balcony as many people must be around the world.
Our space. Thankfully we can sit outside and everybody is conscious to keep their distance.
The relaxed pattern of the last few days was off set early on due to some information passed on to us by our Irish motorhoming neighbours that they had picked up from the local cafe owner (note: still open but just for take away). It seems word is getting around that Portugal will be closing all of it’s campsites and motorhome areas due to it’s virus shutdown regulations. This is due to the shared communal areas being potential hotspots for contamination, in terms of motorhome areas this means the water point. This rumour has set a mild panic amongst us all as you start questioning “where do we go/what is plan b?” The plot thickened later in the day as an English motorhoming couple confirmed the information from the gov.uk.foreign-travel website which now states that all the motorhome areas in Portugal will be closed by Friday 27th March and the UK government is urging all tourists that have a base in the UK to head home immediately.
In the evening we watched a webcast of Boris Johnson finally announcing that the UK is going into containment. We could not help noticing that his speech writers were trying to affect a ‘world war/Churchillonian’ style to his address, especially with the quote ‘everyone is enlisted’. Putting my own BJ prejudices aside our thoughts after this broadcast were about our families who obviously will be affected somehow by the restrictions.
Boris is clearly modelling himself on Churchill but under crisis will he be able to back up the words with action like his war time hero was able to.
I have noticed that already I am thinking less about the paused house purchase, in fact some of these emotions on this subject are now second thoughts. My attention has been more focused on reading the world news and I have become very interested in how other countries are tackling the virus issue and in ‘experts’ predictions of what is going to happen after the virus.
Updating myself on global events has become a daily past time.
Plan b talk on the motorhome park has ramped up significantly since the information about all motorhomes areas to be closed shortly. It is slightly disturbing, even in our situation where our plan b is to stay on friend’s land here in Portugal. Also, there is an undercurrent of feeling from the local residents that the motorhomers are not welcome, but this maybe is just perceived as we all feel a little sensitive about what the locals think.
To try and get some clarity I managed to speak to the local police who pass every day. They were not aware of any instructions to move the motorhomes on. Now I am wary that I may have planted a seed and they will now fall across the information……..the feeling of uncertainty is not helped either by several of the locals who appear to be filming the motorhome area with their mobile phones as they pass by. Where is this information going? Surely it is innocent and I am just being overly paranoid?
To settle back into a more relaxed routine we turned to a pair of frozen pizzas and shared a litre box of cheap Portuguese red wine in the sun 🙂
A sunny start to the day was pleasing as sitting outside close to the van reading is now one of our principle past times. It seems that most motorhomers are resigned to see what action, if any, is taken by the local authorities on Friday, just two days away now. However a group of three French motorhomes decided to take the plunge yesterday afternoon and they packed up and left the parking area, citing the Friday closure as their reason. Unfortunately we were not able to ask them which direction they were heading, home or to a hiding place?
On the other hand, three new motorhomes have arrived and I admit I had mixed feelings, many similar to the locals maybe – where have they come from, could they be virus carriers, why are they moving around during lock down where non-essential travel is banned??? Is this what happens to humans when under crisis, do we naturally prey on others and think the worse to look after ourselves?
So after the now regular check on news websites from both Portugal and the UK we are into the afternoon. We have walked on the beach with Rita and took a quick visit to the supermarket allowing us to settle down again in the van reading books. We have plenty of them to go at but I am becoming quite bored with the batch of American crime thrillers that have been kindly handed to us. How is it that one American alone is always able to succeed and defeat the often foreign enemy? In the real world we see in the news that American Trump is ineffective in the time of crisis against the reality of the enemy virus, something he refers to horribly as the foreign ‘Chinese Virus’. His arrogance and small mindedness never fails to amaze me.
Trump initially was blind to the virus calling it a hoax. I am surprised he did not apply an import tax on the virus as he has done with everything else that goes to the USA from China!
Day 7, 26th March:
With week 1 of containment almost over all is well with us, things have not been too different. We have come to realise that motorhome life is a form of containment and we are already accustomed to living in a confined space. We do admit though that taking away the freedom to travel is a loss but this is counter balanced by the fact that Costa de Lavos is a special place being so close to the sea, a place you would want to spend alot of time at anyhow. The upside to being confined is that we have spent very little money this week in total and that is mainly due to keeping the minimarket purchases to a minimum and having nowhere else left open to spend any euros!
We now wait until tomorrow to see if we will be asked by the GNR/local council to leave in line with the national ruling that all campsites and motorhome parking areas are to be closed.
To be continued…….