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COVID Folks that were on the Camino when lockdown hit: what happened next?

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Calisteve

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
June 16 CF
July 17 CF with my son
July 18 CP with my wife
July 19 Ingles Muxia & Finisterre
I was walking the Camino de Madrid last March. When I arrived in Madrid on the 8th there was no sign of anything unusual. A week later most of the albergues were shut and on the Saturday night I heard on the BBC that Spain was going into lockdown on the Monday. So I had a day to get back to Madrid and change my flight back to the UK.. Fortunately thanks to Renfe it was relatively easy getting to Madrid, although the prices of the flights back were pretty frightening.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
I remember reading here last year about a group of pilgrims who were all stuck in an albergue last March. I don't remember for how long.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
We were on the Via de la Plata in Aldea de Cano.
It all happened very fast!
Returning to the states was surreal.
We felt like we were in Orwell's 1984.
Here is what happened:

Someday, SOME DAY, I'm going to finish the VDLP.
This was the 3d or 4th time I've tried!
 
Peaceable Projects Inc.
Peaceable Projects Inc. is a U.S.-based non-profit group that brings the vast resources of the wide world together with the ongoing needs of the people who live, work, and travel on the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail network in Spain.
Published on Amazon
Guide to the 16 main caminos with maps, pictures, hyperlinks and other information.

trecile

Camino Addict
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
Year of past OR future Camino
2019
We were on the Via de la Plata in Aldea de Cano.
It all happened very fast!
Returning to the states was surreal.
We felt like we were in Orwell's 1984.
Here is what happened:

Someday, SOME DAY, I'm going to finish the VDLP.
This was the 3d or 4th time I've tried!
Annie, my heart just goes out to you. I know you are not the op, but reading your post just makes me want to make sure you are ok now... what a nightmare.
 
D

Deleted member 73526

Guest
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Francés, Oct 2020
We were on the Via de la Plata in Aldea de Cano.
It all happened very fast!
Returning to the states was surreal.
We felt like we were in Orwell's 1984.
Here is what happened:

Someday, SOME DAY, I'm going to finish the VDLP.
This was the 3d or 4th time I've tried!
That was some adventure, and not necessarily a welcome one. Glad you and Joe got home safely and hope your surgery has been successful.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
That was some adventure, and not necessarily a welcome one. Glad you and Joe got home safely and hope your surgery has been successful.
Surgery was a breeze and I'm all healed up! Thanks!
 
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Year of past OR future Camino
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
Annie, my heart just goes out to you. I know you are not the op, but reading your post just makes me want to make sure you are ok now... what a nightmare.
I'm doing great now, kirkie!
All healed up and ready to walk again.
I got a tremendous amount of support from the folks in this forum.
I was surprised at how many had gone through the journey of cancer before me.
Thanks!
 

Chris Day

Hesed Walker
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances-14/15/16 Part-17/18/19/20
VdlP/Sanab/Finist 16
Port/Ingles 17
Norte 18 Le Puy&Prim 19
Anniesantiago summed it up so well - it all happened so very quickly and was almost surreal.
I had night-walked up to Cruz de Ferro under a clear sky with an amazing star-filled display on March 13th. The next morning, I descended from the mountains to Molinaseca and Ponferrada into a world that had totally transformed. Public transport was rapidly shutting down and the very few masked faces I came across had fear-filled eyes. That is something I will never forget, the transformation and the fear in everyone which appeared almost "tangible".

Flights home (UK) were mostly seemingly being cancelled. I managed to get to Santiago on the Saturday at 9pm - streets were absolutely deserted and I've never seen it like that there before, especially on a Saturday night! Porto had a flight that was possibly on the Monday. So, next day I caught the last and only bus from Santiago to Porto and crossed into Portugal just before the border closed, I believe. The bus arrived at the airport, I stayed put and slept there the night - as did many others...sleeping on the floor, benches and the like.
Thankfully, my next morning's 6:30am flight wasn't cancelled (unlike most of the other planned flights it seemed that morning) and I flew home.
Something I will never forget.
 
Last edited:
I started in Pamplona on the 27th Feb 2020 and walked pretty much as normal to El Burgo Renario by 12 March. I set out for Mansilla de las Mules the next day and late morning two Korean Pilgrims ran past me (yes an unusual sight) and shouted that everything was closing down. I got to the next town and indeed things were wrapping up so, I took the bus to Leon and stayed in the Albergue. I had a Plan B, and encouraged by my children and a Text message from the Danish Health Authority, the next morning caught a very early bus to Madrid Airport and a flight to Copenhagen.
At Madrid Airport the Airline staff had instructions to only allow Danish nationals or passengers with proof of residency in Danmark onto the flight. This caused a commotion as the vast majority of the passengers were Swedes and were travelling to Sweden via Copenhagen.....they were left behind at Madrid and I never found out what happened - although I quickly learnt a lot of Swedish swear words.
Anyway, I now have my EU Corona Passport and will return to the Camino Frances on 1st August to "finish my dinner"
 

Ullamae

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
This caused a commotion as the vast majority of the passengers were Swedes and were travelling to Sweden via Copenhagen.....they were left behind at Madrid and I never found out what happened
They all got home eventually, as far as I know!
 

biarritzdon

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF11, CF12, CP13, CF14, CA15, S.Anton15, CF&CI15
Ditch Pig16, CF&CP17, CdN18, CM18, CF18, LePuy19
I think the OP got his answer, all the more reason to wait until 2022 to see if the Delta Variant has become a bad memory. Why assume you can travel with no risk in world suffering from a pandemic?
 
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Ullamae

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
I was on my second go at the Camino Mozárabe. 2019 I had to leave because of a persistent cold. 2020 I arrived in La Peza to continue. All was great for two days, but as I reached Granada I was told that everything would close the next day. For two days I had walked with Rachel from London and five Spanish men. One of the men decided to continue, but gave up after a couple of hours, there was no place to eat or sleep. Rachel and I managed to find flights home two days later and the men took the bus.

The funny thing is, that night In Granada, before we all went home, everything was open as usual. We went out for tapas and there were people everywhere. Our Spanish friends said 'we don't have covid' and kissed our cheeks...

And the next when everything was supposed to be closed it was still quite easy to find lunch. The nuns let us stay another night. They weren't happy about it, but they obviously didn't want to throw us out!
 

focalmatter

New Member
Fortunately thanks to Renfe it was relatively easy getting to Madrid, although the prices of the flights back were pretty frightening.
Oof, yeah. The profiteering off the last-minute flights out must've been ridiculous. Glad to hear you made it out, though! I just assumed everyone would get the chance to go home. I didn't realize it was a crap shoot!
 
Rent a house in Santiago (1 month minimum)
300m from the cathedral and around the corner from the fresh food market in Santiago. Perfect place to tele commute from (1GB symmetrical connection).
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DebbieM

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
April 2020
Where were you when Spain locked down? Did you stay on the trail or return home? How difficult were things? I'd love to hear your experiences.
I was in Pamplona the day the state of emergency was announced and the travel company that was supporting me rang me and advised me to go home. They said that many of the accommodation providers on the camino were closing. Fortunately i was able to get a flight home the next day but it was a bit scary. I was worried about everyone and how little did i realise at the time just how serious the problem was going to be, not just on the camino but around the world.
 

Undermanager

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Madrid (x2)
VDLP
Salvador
Primitivo
Finisterra / Muxia
Lana
The virus hasn't gone away. The above stories should be a timely reminder if any were needed to check those insurance policies very carefully before leaving for Spain, to see *exactly* what they will and won't do to help if you get zapped, or another lockdown happens.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
Holy cow, what an ordeal! Thank god your son managed to get you a decent fare out of there. Those prices were insane! Do you have your next go lined up?
I have reservations for April and May 2022. I’m considering taking a short three or four week walk in September or October, depending on the restrictions.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
I was on my second go at the Camino Mozárabe. 2019 I had to leave because of a persistent cold. 2020 I arrived in La Peza to continue. All was great for two days, but as I reached Granada I was told that everything would close the next day. For two days I had walked with Rachel from London and five Spanish men. One of the men decided to continue, but gave up after a couple of hours, there was no place to eat or sleep. Rachel and I managed to find flights home two days later and the men took the bus.

The funny thing is, that night In Granada, before we all went home, everything was open as usual. We went out for tapas and there were people everywhere. Our Spanish friends said 'we don't have covid' and kissed our cheeks...

And the next when everything was supposed to be closed it was still quite easy to find lunch. The nuns let us stay another night. They weren't happy about it, but they obviously didn't want to throw us out!
Your attempt to finish the Mozarabe sounds like my attempt to complete the VDLP!
 

Calisteve

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
June 16 CF
July 17 CF with my son
July 18 CP with my wife
July 19 Ingles Muxia & Finisterre
Oof, yeah. The profiteering off the last-minute flights out must've been ridiculous. Glad to hear you made it out, though! I just assumed everyone would get the chance to go home. I didn't realize it was a crap shoot!
Yes indeed - any easy decision for me - as soon as I heard Spain was going into lockdown my decision was made. The crazy thing to me was that 1 week earlier in Madrid there was no sign of a pandemic - no social distancing, no masks etc.
 
Peaceable Projects Inc.
Peaceable Projects Inc. is a U.S.-based non-profit group that brings the vast resources of the wide world together with the ongoing needs of the people who live, work, and travel on the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail network in Spain.
Published on Amazon
Guide to the 16 main caminos with maps, pictures, hyperlinks and other information.

Eve Alexandra

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2017
A dear friend of mine who doesn’t post here was stranded. I was supposed to fly to Spain a few days after the world shut down, to meet up with her, so we were in constant contact. In order to get off the Camino she rented a car and drove it on roads that were being policed by the military, to get to an Airbnb, while she tried to get plane tickets out. They kept getting canceled and then the price gouging for the rescheduled flight was astronomical. It was a terrifying experience. And after finally getting the two flights back to her country of origin, she had to quarantine for two weeks. When everything at home was closed. Her family had to bunk with relatives so that she could use home as her quarantine location.

She and I hope one day to meet up in person on the Camino to do the walk we planned and trained for in ‘19 and early ‘20. I thought about going this summer, but when I remember it all…I just can’t do it. Not yet.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Francés, Oct 2020
I wasn’t there for the first lockdown but was as regions were closing at the end of October last year. It seemed as though we were being chased westward, especially as we got closer to Santiago. I arrived on the Friday evening, all bars and restaurants closed from the Saturday. Few people about at all. Luckily had a flight booked for Paris on the Monday morning. Having read some of the horror stories here, I am so grateful that I only had to travel back to France.
 

Graham O

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances planned 2020
Where were you when Spain locked down? Did you stay on the trail or return home? How difficult were things? I'd love to hear your experiences.
After 3 cancelled flights earlier in the year I finally made it to St Jean in October 2020. There were regional lockdowns along the way and the Camino closed towards the end of October. Despite this a small number of albergues stayed open and I managed to find a bed every night. There were very few pilgrims walking but that was great for me as I wanted the peace and solitude. Walking through Leon in lockdown was a strange experience! I also had an unscheduled 2 day stop in Ponferrada after a spider bite left me with a badly infected leg. I was advised to rest for 3 to 4 days but the city went into lockdown so I had to leave. I left Santiago the day before it locked down after waiting 3 days for a flight. All in all it was an amazing experience which I am hoping to repeat (minus the spider bite) on the Portuguese Camino next April.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Portuguese Coastal {Feb-March 2020}
Camino Frances {March 2019 & 2020}
My experience on March 13 – 15th was one of progressive revelation.
And a deep appreciation for the kindness of others under especially trying uncertainty.

• The local guy who suggested, then accompanied me to the health center, offering to translate.
• The conductor who refused to accept payment on the train. Declined any contact. 😊
• The ladies who pushed me to the front of the cue, despite their flight having been cancelled.
• The ticket agent who found that seat at the last minute.
• The cycling foot specialist who stopped to offer advice as I bandaged in prep to walk.

The Spanish people who overwhelming followed safety guidance, days before the lockdown was officially declared, were particularly reassuring. Their kindness and consideration, and that of other peregrinos was inspiring.

After giving up a seat in what turned out to be the last available taxi, I discovered that travel options were disappearing faster than you could select “pay”, as we walked the 14 km to the train station. All ferries and flights to the UK were soon fully booked for the next couple of days.

The gravity of the situation started to dawn on me as people trickled into the train station, reacquainted with new friends, and shared concerns for the uncertainty they faced in the coming months.

Without paying several thousands of dollars for an uncertain direct flight from Madrid, I opted to go to the UK from Barcelona in a couple of days, from where I could get home a few days later. Updating each airline loyalty program profile helped speed booking.

In addition to large numbers of peregrinos on the train, others were travelling with large amounts of luggage. One person I met was heading home, not knowing if he would be permitted to enter his blockaded village. The only service on the train was water - yet another indicator of the seriousness of the situation.

The normally busy streets of Barcelona were eerily empty of all but emergency vehicles. When people started singing or playing pots & pans from balconies, I felt they were cheering me to the finished of a marathon.

The following day the few people outside were lined up at Pharmacies etc. and quietly maintaining good distance – showing great consideration for others.

When flights were being cancelled for safety or lack of crew, so I tried book a train or bus to France, rather than risk the uncertainty of a flight 2 days hence.

When the Renfe ticket agent could not book anything to France after midnight I headed straight to the crowded airport, anticipating the worst. Plan D, E or F (one loses track) was to hop a train to Pamplona to walk the Napoléon route. 😊

The EasyJet cue was shoulder to shoulder with folks from northern UK who’s flight had been cancelled. When a couple of ladies asked about my situation, they passed the word up the line as I was pushed to the front where a highly stressed lady found me a seat on a Gatwick flight that might soon board.

We eventually boarded after many hours delay, when a passenger expressed great concerned his mates were being left behind when there were empty seats. Good sense prevailed, as his other mates calmed down the giant of a man, and the crew wisely did not try to evict him, thus allowing us to depart.

After 5 days on the hill of Devon in lambing season, I returned to a shockingly quiet airport. We few travellers were fully equipped with hand wash and alcohol wipes ready to tackle all surfaces.

I was impressed by, and slightly envious of, a surprisingly large number of mostly young people dressed head-to-toe in hooded hazmat suites, complete with mask and face shields, who disappeared when the flight to Shanghai was called.

We passed the quizzes and temperature checks to enjoy a comfortable hop across the pond (great view of southern Greenland and Labrador) after which we were greeted by more quizzes, temperature checks, safety brochures, and directives.

Most of my loving family work in healthcare and social services so, after some negotiation, my 14 day quarantine started with a drive home in the back seat with all windows open. 😊

Fully vaccinated. Can't wait to return. Post Delta variant. Hopefully early 2022.
 
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Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Francés, Oct 2020
My experience on March 13 – 15th was one of progressive revelation.
And a deep appreciation for the kindness of others under especially trying uncertainty.

• The local guy who suggested, then accompanied me to the health center, offering to translate.
• The conductor who refused to accept payment on the train. Declined any contact. 😊
• The ladies who pushed me to the front of the cue, despite their flight having been cancelled.
• The ticket agent who found that seat at the last minute.
• The cycling foot specialist who stopped to offer advice as I bandaged in prep to walk.

The Spanish people who overwhelming followed safety guidance, days before the lockdown was officially declared, were particularly reassuring. Their kindness and consideration, and that of other peregrinos was inspiring.

After giving up a seat in what turned out to be the last available taxi, I discovered that travel options were disappearing faster than you could select “pay”, as we walked the 14 km to the train station. All ferries and flights to the UK were soon fully booked for the next couple of days.

The gravity of the situation started to dawn on me as people trickled into the train station, reacquainted with new friends, and shared concerns for the uncertainty they faced in the coming months.

Without paying several thousands of dollars for an uncertain direct flight from Madrid, I opted to go to the UK from Barcelona in a couple of days, from where I could get home a few days later. Updating each airline loyalty program profile helped speed booking.

In addition to large numbers of peregrinos on the train, others were travelling with large amounts of luggage. One person I met was heading home, not knowing if he would be permitted to enter his blockaded village. The only service on the train was water - yet another indicator of the seriousness of the situation.

The normally busy streets of Barcelona were eerily empty of all but emergency vehicles. When people started singing or playing pots & pans from balconies, I felt they were cheering me to the finished of a marathon.

The following day the few people outside were lined up at Pharmacies etc. and quietly maintaining good distance – showing great consideration for others.

When flights were being cancelled for safety or lack of crew, so I tried book a train or bus to France, rather than risk the uncertainty of a flight 2 days hence.

When the Renfe ticket agent could not book anything to France after midnight I headed straight to the crowded airport, anticipating the worst. Plan D, E or F (one loses track) was to hop a train to Pamplona to walk the Napoléon route. 😊

The EasyJet cue was shoulder to shoulder with folks from northern UK who’s flight had been cancelled. When a couple of ladies asked about my situation, they passed the word up the line as I was pushed to the front where a highly stressed lady found me a seat on a Gatwick flight that might soon board.

We eventually boarded after many hours delay, when a passenger expressed great concerned his mates were being left behind when there were empty seats. Good sense prevailed, as his other mates calmed down the giant of a man, and the crew wisely did not try to evict him, thus allowing us to depart.

After 5 days on the hill of Devon in lambing season, I returned to a shockingly quiet airport. We few travellers were fully equipped with hand wash and alcohol wipes ready to tackle all surfaces.

I was impressed by, and slightly envious of, a surprisingly large number of mostly young people dressed head-to-toe in hooded hazmat suites, complete with mask and face shields, who disappeared when the flight to Shanghai was called.

We passed the quizzes and temperature checks to enjoy a comfortable hop across the pond (great view of southern Greenland and Labrador) after which we were greeted by more quizzes, temperature checks, safety brochures, and directives.

Most of my loving family work in healthcare and social services so, after some negotiation, my 14 day quarantine started with a drive home in the back seat with all windows open. 😊

Fully vaccinated. Can't wait to return. Post Delta variant. Hopefully early 2022.
Wow, that was some unexpected adventure. It's wonderful to see how kind people can be when such sudden changes to normal life occur.
 

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