Two people, together seven days a week, 24 hour a day in a home with one room plus bedroom, with a lot of rain and in LOCKDOWN. Does this sound claustrophobic! Seriously, Mike and I get asked a lot if we are going nuts in our RV with just the two of us for company. Actually, we have been asked this question since we started this journey together, long before Covid. I will say that life is easier and more enjoyable when we can keep moving around and exploring but it isn’t as bad at the moment as it could have been during the virus. Mike told me the other day that the world could replace marriage counsellors with bicycles. If we were actually stuck inside our camper all day, every day, we would probably go nuts. As it is, we enjoy each other’s company and thoroughly enjoy getting out on our bikes four or five times a week to go for long rides in the countryside together. I miss getting the local feel and meeting people and having my cappuccino in the middle of our ride but hopefully the restaurant and café restrictions will lift sometime soon. In the meantime, Mike’s thermos of soup helps keep us warm and full.
If you have to be in lockdown and not able to leave the county (note county not “country”) you are in, then at least we are in a good place for that. We are currently camped in Istria County in Croatia and can’t leave due to the lockdown. Let me try and paint a picture of Istria County for you. Istria County covers more than 80% of the Istrian peninsula. To the north is Slovenia, which is a country with a very short coastline. Beyond Slovenia, a small portion of the Istrian peninsula extends into Trieste in Italy. The northern part of Istria County is covered by the Ucka Mountain Range. The highest peaks are in the northeast corner where the Istria county (not country) border runs across the top of the mountain range. Mike and I wanted to drive part way up one of the highest mountains but the entrance road turned out to be in the next county and the police wouldn’t let anyone cross the border between Istria and its neighbouring county. One of our planned bike rides continues across the mountain range and we can’t do that either, until the lockdown is lifted somewhat. The mountains aren’t very high but they are snow covered at the moment. The highest mountains are less than 1,500 m or 5,000 feet and the ones that Mike and I usually ride on, closer to our campground, are about 500 or 600 m in altitude.
We are camped less than 1 km from the Adriatic Sea on Istria’s west coastline. This allows for some great walks and bike rides. Drawing a straight line this coast is about 90 km in length. The county continues about half way up the east coast of the triangle to where the mountains come down to the sea. This means that Mike and I can abide by the lockdown rules and cycle along the Adriatic coast one afternoon and then the next day drive 40 minutes or so and cycle in high hills and low mountains where the views can be spectacular.
On one ride just before the county lockdown, we were cycling from the seaside up into the higher mountains. While we were driving to our starting point we saw something extremely bizarre. The highway was down to a single lane due to construction and you had to wait for your turn to continue driving. While we were stopped a man walked past us, on the highway, dragging a large suitcase. Mike and I felt really bad that we couldn’t offer him any assistance because our backseat was overfilled with our bikes, so much that my seat wouldn’t even go completely back. In truth, I am not sure if we would have offered assistance or not with the covid crisis going on but this didn’t stop us feeling bad. Mike and I continued on, enjoying our ebike ride both along the coast and then into the mountains, which doesn’t often happen in one ride. We then folded the bikes back into the car and started back to our camper driving over the mountains. Didn’t we see the same man still dragging his suitcase, this time high on a mountain road, about four or five hours after we initially saw him. In this area, the main towns were all along the coast on the other side of the mountains. We wondered if he was trying to get over the mountains and wasn’t allowed into the 5 km long tunnel that the highway runs through. It is one thing to cycle over the mountain range with electric bikes, and even that is taking us multiple trips, but to walk over it pulling your suitcase seems just dreadful. At no point, when he was walking past stopped cars on the highway, or in the mountains, did this man try and attract any attention or get any cars to stop and help him.
Yesterday we were on one of our more spectacular drives and rides (car and ebike) through the high hills near us. We rode up and down the hills and mountains sides. We stopped and wandered through villages that were on the top of the ridges with the land dropping off on both sides of the street. The views across the valleys to the snowcapped mountains on the other side were great. Some of the ride was so steep that Mike’s ebike motor overheated and stopped. This was the first time this had happened on our new bikes. It had happened multiple times on the less powerful ebikes that we originally owned. Luckily the motor started again after a short rest and we could continue. It was a bit scary. We stopped in one churchyard to drink our hot soup that we now bring with us on all our rides. The temperature was less than 6° C or 43° F at sea level so it was probably quite a bit cooler in the hills. While we were driving in the car getting to the starting point for this ride, we drove along one lane roads where you would probably have to back up a little to find a spot to pass if you were to encounter another vehicle, luckily we didn’t.
I have to tell you a story that I thought was hilarious, Mike not so much. There are two young English speaking girls, 4 and 7, in the campground. They come and visit us quite often. We have added some games to our TV, which came with a game controller, and they love playing them. One day I entered our camper to find Mike playing “hide and seek”, inside, with the two girls. I later found out that at one point Mike chose to hide in our shower stall. The shower has an opaque door and you could see his outline through the door. The seven year old saw Mike inside the shower and proceeded to close the latch on the shower door, thereby locking Mike in! She then called out that she knew where he was. She was very good and let Mike out shortly afterwards. When I heard this I couldn’t stop laughing, thinking of Mike locked in his own shower by a seven year old.
I just realized that I haven’t written since before Christmas so I should tell you what Christmas was like for foreigners, in a strange country, in a campground, in lockdown. This would be the first Christmas in my life that I hadn’t spent with my family in Canada. Thanks to Google Duo, I did talk with my mother multiple times throughout the day and I saw my family for a few minutes when they were all together. Since all the families at the campground were all alone, our English speaking bubble decided to get together and have everyone bring something for a Christmas dinner. This actually worked out much better than expected. The campsite has one room with a fireplace, a few tables and small kitchen in it. Instead of just nibbling food and standing around, we actually had a proper sit down dinner. The paper plates and plastic cutlery didn’t detract at all. One of the men spent the day cooking roast pork. Another one made potatoes au gratin that were great. We had more potatoes, vegetables and multiple deserts brought by a variety of people. It was a great meal with 9 adults and 2 children. After dinner there was a piñata, filled with candies, that the girls had to try and break which generated a lot of laughter. So far this year our “bubble” has got together three times including Christmas and New Year’s Eve when we ordered pizza from a local restaurant that could still deliver during the lockdown. On the morning of New Year’s Eve there was a knock on our door. The campsite owners were delivering a bottle of bubbly to all the campers. It was a very nice gesture.
As I have said before, Mike and I are the oldest in our bubble. One of the women here is a Zumba teacher. I had never heard of this and had to look it up on the internet. She held a lesson the other day with a few of us in attendance. It turned out that the others all had some familiarity with the moves and the music which meant the instructions weren’t slow enough for those of us who had never seen anything like this before. The plan is to have a short session most evenings. I don’t know if it will happen or not but I think that I would need to watch some of this on YouTube before going back in person.
We have had quite a bit of rain in the last few months. One of the projects that Mike and I have been working on has been labelling and adding locations and comments to all our pictures from our various trips over the years. I also did a little work on some older pictures that I had had scanned while we were in Toronto. I wanted to include this picture that I did some work on. It is my grandmother, taken in 1893 when she was a very little girl I India. How great it is to have some real photos from the 1800s. It is also good to have a variety of different types of projects that can be worked on during lockdown.
I will probably wait a couple of weeks or more before posting again. Since we aren’t traveling outside this area, our stories won’t be quite as interesting for everyone back home. Mike and I still plan on returning to Canada for three months or so, as soon as the lockdown ends and we can visit with friends and family. We listen to the Canadian news every day. Lately we have been hearing about all sorts of politicians who have lost their jobs and their careers due to traveling internationally. We hear about the huge spike in cases and deaths in our area. We hear the message not to travel loud and clear. As soon as that message dies down and the health experts believe that travellers aren’t putting the country at risk, we will be home. We know that we will probably have to quarantine even then, but that is fine. In the meantime, we are on Google Duo for any of our friends who want to contact us. For people in the Eastern time zone, call before 5:30 PM your time please. Hope to talk with you soon.