Day-10: We're still good to go - The Hills are Alive (with the sound of wheezing) - CycleBlaze

Day-10: We're still good to go

(touch wood)

Well, it's been an eventful few days. 

Things are pretty volatile in the coronavirus stakes. Following the announcement that France (and the Netherlands) would be added to the quarantine list in the UK - a measure that was amusing botched by the minister involved inadvertently announcing a start time incorrect by 24 hours - precipitated a fairly frantic, and sometimes misguided, scramble for holidaymakers to cross the channel, including spending hundreds or even thousands on last-minute Eurostar tickets. In response, the French authorities have rather strongly suggested they'll follow-up by quarantining UK travellers in the other direction. I was holding by breath here, as if the Netherlands applied the same measures, I'd be done for - I can't spend a touring trip holed up in Holland!

But - and I think this is pretty admirable of them - the Dutch government has explicitly ruled this out: "There is no increased risk of an increase in corona infections from the United Kingdom for the Netherlands"(translation from the Dutch). Likewise, Germany and Austria are still welcoming UK residents as well as anyone who has travelled through Holland.  The trains continue to run over the border. Travel insurance is now probably a bust - technically the Netherlands is officially on the Foreign Offices "no nonessential travel list" which just immediately voids it. But practically, the risk is still low (the UK has a five fold higher death rate than any of these places). Naturally, sensible measures - masks and distancing. And - and I'm going to really miss this sort of stuff when it's gone - the EU mutual health coverage (EHIC) card system, which was free and dead easy, is still operating for UK citizens up until the end of 2020.  Oh man, we really messed up a good thing there.

From international tragedy to individual farce, things have also been going comically wrong in our house as well. Following five days of the hottest, most humid, uncharacteristic weather I've ever experienced in the UK - our climate was essentially the same as Kuala Lumpur, with temperature in the mid-high 30s and 90% humidity - everyone was frazzled, and begging for a thunderstorm. 

Well, on Thursday morning, we got one. More rain fell on Potton than in the rest of the year combined. As I was smugly looking out the window, thinking about how clever we are to live on a hill of sandy soil and watching the road outside turn into a continuous river, I suddenly thought I should check the passage outside the house. This is a really weird bit of architecture - a couple of square metres surrounded by high walls, that doesn't go anywhere and is accessible only by a door of ours - that also leads nowhere.

Well, there's a drain in there, but it clearly couldn't cope with the deluge. To my horror, I saw that we'd accumulated a whole foot of rainwater - a lot of it from the roofs - that was filling this walled bit like a swimming pool. Where would the water go? Would it come through the walls? The fortunate answer is: no. The unfortunate answer is: it came up through the floor. 

Frantically lifting the carpet and underlay, we spent an (not very) happy day drying it all out, buying a dehumidifier, and then cleaning the carpet, which when it gets wet smells like a damp dog. Literally an hour after we finished and went to lunch, down came the thunderclouds from an otherwise blue sky - and it happened again. Not as badly this time, but we were not amused.

(in an even more minor comic echo, I had yet another, even smaller inundation today when I dropped a cup of coffee on my work machine - apparently instantly destroying it. This would have been a major inconvenience. To my extreme relief, after drying it out, Lazarus-like it seems to have completely recovered).

All this stuff was starting to stress me out, and I was seriously thinking the tour was misguided and I should be cancelling it. I was most worried about the accommodation situation in Austria. Of the campsites I contacted (and replied), they were either full for two weeks time, or not accepting campers without their own facilities. I was figuring the situation was very much like in the UK, where cabin-fever-crazy city dwellers have descended on the campsites. Normally, I would just enthusiastically wild camp, but I was getting worried about that too. If lots of people are doing it, and in steep valleys, it might be difficult. And the Austrians do seem to take this seriously - while I'm fairly sure a respectful, leave-no-trace camp wouldn't be looked on too harshly, I don't want to be in a situation where I get an embarrassing fine because there's nowhere else to sleep.

I was seriously ready to throw in the towel and cancel the whole thing. I both need a break, but the uncertainty (more than anything else) was becoming stressful. Of course, I could book pensions for every night - and there seemed to be plenty available - but this would involve (i) planning ahead for every night and (ii) spending a bunch of money. Why even take the tent if I wasn't camping?

Well, I came to a decision. To continue the tour; to book a few nights in guesthouse accommodation, particularly for the weekend after I arrive which is unsurprisingly busy; and to acquire a device for accessing the internet, so I can easily find cheap places and make booking on the road if I need to. My dislike of smartphones was a real psychological barrier here: I just never thought, "hmm, if I could access the internet wherever I was, I wouldn't have to book weeks ahead". I'll still take the tent, I'll camp when I can, and I'll feel out the conditions for wild camping (I know from experience that these are nearly always better on the ground than nervous anticipation/internet speculation suggests). If I never use the tent and get sick of lugging it up mountain passes, I'll mail it home.

So, on first impressions, it's going to be a slightly plusher tour than my last three. More Hansel-and-Gretel rural guesthouses, less sleeping in gazebos. But for now, I'm still set to go, and the virus isn't getting (too much) in the way...

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Rachael AndersonSorry to hear about all your adversities bu glad to hear you are still planning your trip. I hope everything goes well. We leave for Croatia on Wednesday.
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5 months ago
Jon AylingTo Rachael AndersonThanks Rachael - yeah, it's been a bit frantic, but I think will be worth it in the end! Best of luck with your journey to Croatia - in a couple of weeks' time we'll hopefully both be on the road!
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5 months ago