Travel

Returning during a pandemic

It has been a few days since we returned home and it’s taken a while to write anything on the blog, trying to sort out things. I thought of saying something about the situation before sharing any trip details as it has affected travel worldwide. At the beginning of the month, before leaving for the islands, it was a bit worrying how things were turning out in Europe but like others, I did not think the situation would escalate and result in travel bans and lockdowns of whole nations. What a time to travel. The year did start with hopes and several travel ideas in mind but we must forget them for now and wait for things to get better. Our usual avoidance of crowded places and groups was a good idea as always.

March 14th 2020. Up until the last couple of days, everything seemed fine. We spent the day in the sand dunes and walking by the beaches of Corralejo. At night, the streets seemed emptier. We stopped by The Smith’s Arms, where they told us that police were patrolling the streets as there’s a curfew. Spain is planning a nationwide ‘lockdown’. Our return flight happened to be the very next day. 

March 15th 2020. We leave early to the airport at Fuerteventura for our inter-island flight to Gran Canaria, from where our flight to Helsinki leaves in the evening. We drop our rental car at the parking lot and upon arriving at the check-in counter at the airport are told our Canaryfly flight at 09:00 was cancelled. They moved us to another flight operated by Binter which left at 13:00. We didn’t need to pay anything extra and were not given any more information so we just had to wait it out. The Binter flight was delayed like most flights that day and we spent several hours at the airport before taking off for Gran Canaria. We waited in one corner looking at the runway and survived off paprika flavoured pringles till then. There wasn’t a chaos as suggested on some news websites, it was calm and people weren’t panicking while waiting.

After the short flight we arrive at Gran Canaria. The initial plan was to explore some places nearby since our Norwegian flight to Helsinki was only at 22:00 that night. Also, we had nothing left to eat except nuts and thought we should find a supermarket. Silly us, not aware that the curfew is already in effect, take a taxi to some spot 10 minutes from the airport, where there was a SPAR supermarket, open, according to Google. Closed, of course. The driver didn’t really comment – he probably felt bad for us tourists arriving here in this situation, and dropped us where we asked. It’s also a Sunday but today the streets were deserted, eerily silent and even the curtains were drawn on most houses. We realized then there was no chance of finding any shops or restaurants open. At least we were outside the airport getting some fresh air. It was raining lightly as we walked along the seaside to arrive at the place pictured below (Playa de Melenara).

It wasn’t long before a police car came towards us. An officer stepped out and questioned what we were doing out (you know, the whole Spain is lockdown..). With the little English they understood they got the idea that we were leaving to the airport. Without much choice, we dialled a number for a taxi and the police left us while we waited for the taxi in front of some church.

Deserted beach Gran Canaria
An empty beach in Gran Canaria

Back at the airport, there wasn’t much we could do. Still 6 hours to the flight and the check-in counters were closed. People on the same flight start to arrive and queue up waiting for the Norwegian counter to open. The flight was delayed as well. Still no food, we munched on some wheat&corn sticks, found from an automatic dispenser. Hours pass, the airport gets emptier as other flights depart before us and finally the check-in begins. Rest went smooth, and again, there was no chaos or panic at the airport and people were understanding of the situation. We owe a big thanks to the Norwegian flight crew for operating smoothly and bringing us back without stress. I don’t remember much else, tired and sleepy, we arrived in Helsinki at 7 in the morning and took a taxi straight home.

We did not have to make any changes or cancellations regarding accomodation or flights, by pure luck. We know many others must be stuck at the moment and wish you safe travel and returns.

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