In the previous blog post, we explained how we found out – rather late – that the Corona situation in Spain was pretty darn serious: two days prior, the national lockdown was announced 😳 … We decided to drive to the French border as quickly as possible, hoping the situation wasn’t so drastic over there. Trying to escape from Corona… in Spain!
Trying to escape from Corona in Spain, or should we?
We were in the southernmost tip of Spain, Tarifa, so we had a rather nice drive ahead of us. After one full day of driving, we were in the province of Valencia and suddenly realized that it might be better to sit out the lockdown in Spain. We were currently near a place that we already knew well and find very beautiful, Chulilla. Our train of thought was: 1) the lockdown will also hit France soon, 2) I speak fluent Spanish, so it’s easier to follow the local news here, and on top of that, it is also easier to explain our situation to the local police if/when we are held up, 3) Spain is much cheaper and the lockdown may last a long time, and 4) finally, in Spain strict measures are announced earlier, so it may also all be over sooner here too. Here’s to wishful thinking…
Should we stay or should we go?
Unfortunately, we were not able to enjoy Chulilla for more than two days. It would have been a really good place to sit out the lockdown had it not been for the police pounding on our door very quickly. No, not to send us away, but to warn us about a certain ‘Rambo de Requena’, a runaway robber with a green backpack and a rifle in his pocket. He had already robbed several cars AND held them at gunpoint, BUT, he hadn’t fired yet. Furthermore, the police had been looking for him for two weeks already, so he had to know the region well to hide so well all this time. So, the police knocked on our doors to find out whether we had seen him, and whether we want to inform them if that still happens… And oh yes, that we shouldn’t just open the doors of our van if it was banged on by strangers again.
Well, it was quite scary. There were three more vans of climbers in the same spot and two of them decided to leave immediately for another spot a 45-minute drive away. Another van of two Germans (Charlotte & Jacob), decided to stay just like us and wait a little longer. The next morning, after a very bad night’s sleep, all four of us had come to the conclusion that we wanted to get out of here quickly. Charlotte & Jacob had contact with the other two vans and received the location from them. They scouted ahead of us, and it was safe to go there!
Let’s try one more time…
Once there, we were able to recover a bit from the shock. It was a very nice spot opposite a climbing wall where we had already climbed twice in December, Alto Mijares. Besides the three vans that we already knew from the previous sleeping place (a German couple, an Austrian couple and a half Austrian half Welsh couple) there were two more vans with three British people. It was actually a very nice atmosphere. We were chilling in and around the van all day since you were not allowed to climb due to the lockdown. The Spanish mountain association had called on all climbers to respect this, as all hospitals were overcrowded with corona patients. If you as a climber have an accident and have to call on the Spanish emergency services, it is of course impossible to explain. The others did climb (each to their own), and in the evening we made a campfire and drank some beers, wine and even a bottle of champagne together! Happy times.
But this idyllic little place didn’t last long either, because on March 20th the police arrived. That we were not allowed to stand here, certainly not with so many people together, and of course, we were not allowed to climb at all. They were also very understanding (the police officers were climbers themselves) and thought along with us about another solution. On the hill in the distance is a climber’s Refugio, which is of course now closed due to corona, but maybe the police would allow us to stay isolated in our vans on his property? The officers wanted to discuss this with their supervisors.
Nope, time to go… 😥
Moments later, two more officers arrived, one of whom was clearly wearing the pants. Suddenly they were no longer so nice and understanding, suddenly all the officers had masks on and suddenly we really had to get out of there. They took out a lot of papers and went to fill in our data. This informed the authorities that they had found us in this place, we could cross the Spanish/French border and if we were found in Spain again during the lockdown, we would be fined. A little later we said goodbye to our friends during the lockdown, and we were on our way again… This time for real to France!