What can I say, we’re feeling very relieved to have arrived in Nerja when we did. Although we’re unsure of the precise nature of the law, as we understand it all tourist movement between Spain’s autonomous communities (and even within many communities) has now been halted until 9th November. Whether there are police manning roadblocks on the motorways, we’ve no idea (Ju has just relayed there are 500 checkpoints in place along the Andalusian border), but we’re grateful at the luck we had in arriving when we did, allowing us to get to the site here in Nerja and tie off to the dock. We aren’t moving any time soon (although flights into or out of the area are still possible at the moment and we are allowed to drive to return to our primary residence, so we’re not completely cut off).
As I write Boris is gearing up to make an announcement back in the UK, rumoured to be placing England back into a ‘full lockdown’ for a month. Here in Andalusia the community’s sub-regions have been allocated to a tier system, which places varying restrictions on each of the villages, towns and cities. Nerja has the lowest level of restrictions at the moment, so life continues albeit with an 11pm to 6am curfew and some obvious visual illustrations of the ‘new normal’.
Our only experience of living in Nerja is from January and February of this year, when we stayed here for a month, oblivious to the fact the world was about to shift for us all. It was reasonably busy, the campsite full, and maybe 100 motorhomes free camping along the car parks and roadside parking in the town and in running distance either side of it. Now the campsite is maybe 40 or 50% full, if that, with some Brits in motorhomes, caravans and a fifth wheeler who’ve been here for months (and are likely to be here for months more, like us two). There are a handful of motorhomes free camping, but compared to last winter, when half of Lidl car park was full of motorhomes overnighting, it’s very quiet indeed.
The restaurants, shops, supermarkets, beach bars and ice cream parlors are generally open during the day, and there are people knocking around in the old and new towns giving the place a feel of life, many of them locals perhaps. Frigiliana, the white village set back inland towards the mountains, is similarly open but very quiet. I ran up there a few days ago, and we’ve just done the 10 mile walk there and back today, and even though it’s a bank holiday weekend, there are practically no punters knocking around. We took advantage of this to eat out for the first time in months, sat outside with a lovely breeze and a cracking view, no-one but the waiter to be seen.
Apart from the lack of tourists, the masks are the other big ‘in your face’ obvious change. They’re obligatory everywhere in public here in Spain, so as soon as we’re off our pitch, we have to have ’em on, even to go for a shower on the campsite. Officially we can run and cycle without them, as long as we’re not near anyone, which isn’t difficult at the moment as it’s very quiet in town first thing, and the other roads are devoid of people all the time. That said, I’ve run with a thin material mask for 6 miles and found I could breathe OK, although it’s getting up to 23°C so running early or late evening makes sense. We don’t need them on once we’re sat on the beach, far way from others, or when we’re sat down eating at a restaurant (although technically we need ’em on between sips of drinks).
On the subject of the weather, it’s quite glorious. Torrox, the resort three miles west, claims to have the best climate in Europe, and it’s hard to argue with. There’s some rain forecast next week, but generally the days here are wall-to-wall blue sky and sunshine. It’s getting down to 13°C at night, so we’ve an electric heater to take the chill off. It will get cooler as winter progresses, but as we’ve found in the past it’s not really the warmth which lifts our spirits as the light. The sunshine is the thing. We’re in shorts and t-shirts at the moment, but even if we’re in coats and jeans, the sunlight will be the thing we crave and appreciate in the coming months.
How long do we plan to stay? Who knows? The world’s shifting so quickly. The second wave is currently crashing over Europe, with national lockdowns inevitably being implemented to halt skyrocketing infection rates. It’s no longer as frightening as it was back in March, and we feel safe where we are, so we can’t see ourselves moving any time soon. We’re technically able to stay in the EU until the 90th day after 1 January 2021 (31 March), and then we’ve gotta be out to comply with the 90-in-180 days Schengen Area restriction the end of the Brexit transition period will bring. I suspect all being well we’ll still be here in March.
So, the van’s on the ramps, wheels chocked, handbrake off, silver screens on. The noise from the wheel we heard on the way south is yet to be investigated but seems likely to be the wheel bearings on their way out (for the 4th time) or a tyre problem. We’ll decamp and head to a garage at some point, but we’re in no rush. We’re hooked up to the mains, so the fridge has gone uber-cold, and we’re cooking on a hotplate, boiling water with our electric kettle and showering with the site’s facilities, without touching our remaining 33kg-or-so of LPG. The nearest LPG refill station is in Malaga, which might not be accessible for (or in) a while, we’re not sure, so we’ll eke the stuff out and can use our canister-powered outdoor stove (like this one) if we need to. We have a water supply on our pitch, which we’re using to water the flowers, and orange/lime trees. The cherimoya (custard apple), banana and fig trees are taking care of themselves.
Although there are other Brits on the site, everyone’s either keeping to themselves or (we guess) have formed ‘bubbles’ with other long-termers, so we’ve not spoken at any length with many of them. One lady who lives here told us how she had to get a serious eye problem operated on during the lock-down, having to get tested each time she went to hospital, needing to sit for hours looking downwards, and having to repeat the visit three times. Just what you need when the world’s gone mad. She got lots of support from the family who run the site, and from other long-termers lasting out the lockdown, which was good to hear.
Our days are filled with writing, reading, running or walking, sitting on the beach, cooking and shopping for groceries, calling friends and family, watching TV and listening to the radio or music. The Superdrug SIM is working well, grabbing a 4G signal with enough bandwidth to stream TV, albeit at the lowest quality settings. Although the bandwidth is good, the ‘ping’ is long, meaning voice and video calls are a little hit and miss. Overall we’re happy though, and have found we can watch iPlayer, More 4 and so on without needing a VPN. We stream Virgin Radio in the morning when we remember we can!
I wonder sometimes how much the pandemic has changed me. Back in the spring we spent ages discussing whether we should stay a whole month here. We felt bad we weren’t touring around experiencing more of the country, being ‘proper travellers’ perhaps. Now that seems daft (it was daft, but now we really know it was daft). Having a safe harbour is critical to us at the moment, and our appreciation of being able to be here has gone through the roof. There’s a ton of stuff we can do without shifting around. Learning Spanish for example – Ju’s always put in more effort than me, but now’s a fantastic opportunity for both of us to improve. We’re working on another motorhome book, which is enjoyable and takes our minds off all the negativity in the news. The mountains and running track here are a gift for building fitness. I ran a 50 miler a month ago, proving to myself that I could do the distance, and I’m planning on attempting a 100 miler in 2021, so I need to get much stronger and fitter.
We plan to pop up a blog post once a week. It’ll be a diary for ourselves, reminding us in the coming years how these days we’re about to live felt, what happened, and how we reacted to things changing, as they’re certain to keep doing. We can’t promise it’ll be full of exciting ‘motorhome touring’ stories, but we’ll do our best to relay what’s happening around us as the months progress. Hopefully we’ll get some nice photos too, to inspire you for next year, if you’re unable to travel but chomping at the bit to go. Here are a few interesting sights we spotted on today’s walk: