Just a week ago, my biggest worry was getting to the Hispania Rally finish line. After the rally, I planned to hang out with a friend in Malaga for a few days, then fly to Vilnius, Lithuania, patch my bike up, and saddle up to start my ride down to Greece for the Hellas Rally Raid. Back in Granada and Malaga, life seemed chilled out and easy – people went out and about, hung out in cervecerias and wine bars, and enjoyed evenings out. The Malaga airport, as well as Vienna where I had a connection, looked normal; a few people here and there were wearing masks, but for the most part, life went on as usual.
But when I got off the plane in Vilnius, this is what greeted the passengers at the arrivals’ hall:
I had to fill out a form giving my name and details, my phone number, and my address for the next two weeks, before I could go ahead to collect my bag. That same day, Spain was declared to be a “high-risk” country for COVID-19, or the Corona virus. Everyone coming back from Spain is now required to self-quarantine for 14 days. As of today, Spain has declared a state of emergency, and Lithuania has banned travel there.
In fact, most of Europe is about to enter lock-down. Denmark, Norway, Austria, Poland, and the Czech Republic are already closing down borders, and as of Monday next week, Lithuania is likely to enter total lock-down and quarantine, too. Europe is now considered the epicenter of the virus outbreak, and travel is severely restricted, whether it’s air, sea, or land.
In other words, we’re stuck.
Homeless At Home
It seems I’d just barely made it home: from today onwards, coming back from Spain would have meant more severe measures than simple self-quarantine. And for me, the self-quarantine means getting holed up in a hotel room, just like I would in any other country. I’m in my native city, but I can’t see my dad or hang out with friends. Since I don’t own a home, I’ll have to stay put in my little B&B for two weeks – or more, as there is now talk about a much longer quarantine period. It sounds like from Monday onwards, the whole country will enter a lock-down similar to Italy: schools and universities are already closed, concerts and theatre plays cancelled, in fact, pretty much everything is cancelled, and from next week, the only places that will remain open will be pharmacies and grocery stores. People are asked to stay home unless absolutely necessary, and life as we know it is now on hold.
Living in Lock-Down
Is Lithuania overreacting? Maybe, since we only have eight confirmed cases at the moment. On the other hand, nobody wants the Italian scenario, so “safe better than sorry” it is. And although I’m in a way glad to be stuck in my home country rather than anywhere else, at the same time, since I’m staying at a BnB and can’t see my family or friends, I might as well still be in Granada or Quito. My work doesn’t require me to go to an office, and I planned to get lots done during the quarantine days – but instead, I find myself feeling trapped and restless, and I just can’t concentrate. At least my bike is here… Except, at least for now, the land borders are closed, and there’s no way to go anywhere.
So, what do you do if you’re stuck in Europe? I’m no medical expert, so I’ve no idea how long before this blows over. But in the meantime, if you’re traveling on your bike in Europe in lock-down, here’s what you can do:
- wait the storm out. It’ll have to get worse before it gets better, and it feels like we’re entering the “worse” phase right now.
- get an Airbnb in the countryside if you can. Holing up somewhere more remote and away from cities is the best policy right now.
- if you get quarantined, spend the time working on your bike! At least it’ll be something productive.
- check with your insurance company and find out if you’re coverd in case you need to be hospitalized.
- if your Schengen visa is running out, head for the Balkans while you still can. Morocco has closed down borders at this point, so no luck trying to get to Northern Africa.
- if you have to, leave your bike and fly home. Check out Horizons Unlimited, the ADV forum, or Facebook groups to see if any local riders could look after your bike until you get back to resume your travels.
- wash your hands.
- ride. Being out there on the trails is actually good for us all right now!