Against all odds.

Scenically and languidly spread over the slopes of north Tenerife, Puerto De la Cruz is the elder statesman of Tenerife tourism. It’s history of welcoming foreign visitors dates back to the late 19th century, when the cultured settlement was a spa destination popular with genteel Victorian ladies. These days the easy-going and relaxed town is a charming destination with genuine character and history. There are stylish boardwalks, beaches with safe swimming, traditional restaurants, a leafy central plaza, and lots of pretty parks, gardens and churches. Canary Islands, Lonely Planet guidebook, Jan 2020.

Arriving back in the UK, in mid March, following my 2019/20 winter travels, little did I know how badly events would unfold in the months to come. Many words have been used to describe 2020; exhausting, chaotic, surreal, relentless, unprecedented, etcetera, etcetera. But the word that best describes 2020 for me is ‘lonely’. The worst aspect by far was the semi isolation from family, friends, and work colleagues, it had a profound effect on my mental well being.

On a positive note, at a time when many people were being furloughed, I was lucky enough to be in gainful employment – all through the year. However, in December, as in previous years, my contract was put on hold for the winter. With little hope of doing my normal travel thing I resigned myself to the fact that that I would be spending winter in the UK (for the first time in seven years), I was dreading it.

As the nights started to draw in, and the days became colder (and wetter), I realised that I had to find a way to get to warmer climes, but how, and where to go?

I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a news item about ‘travel corridors’ an initiative that the UK government had set up with a substantial number of ‘partner’ countries. For me the destination had to be somewhere warm, somewhere not too far away, and somewhere I could practice my Spanish. The Canary Islands fitted the bill perfectly.

Although not a destination that would normally appear on my travel destination radar, Tenerife looked like it had lots to offer the inquisitive traveller. I managed to find an airline with cheap flights and instantly typed in my credit card details. The next challenge was having to organise a COVID 19 PCR test (aka a fit to fly certificate), which was required 72-hours before arriving at my destination, and a prerequisite of travelling to the Canaries.

At 8am on Wednesday the 16th of December, as I arrived at Birmingham airport, the PCR result had still not arrived. Things were not looking good. Unable to contact the company carrying out the test, I approached the airline ‘Check In’ desk – expecting the worst. Fortunately there was no mention of the ‘fit to fly document’; we were over the first hurdle.

On arrival at the airport in Tenerife south, I had my temperature taken, passed through airport security, and entered the baggage reclaim hall, still no mention of the PCR certificate! I boarded the bus at the airport and headed to Puerto De la Cruz in the north of the island. I had reserved an apartment, on the edge of town. Still expecting issues, I checked into the apartment, but again, no mention of the certificate.

The following day my host rang and gave me some bad news. Due to the increasing cases of COVID 19 on the island, the authorities had taken the decision to introduce a 16-day lock down over Christmas and New Year. Certain hotels would close, restaurants would only be able to serve food outside, and all movement of people, to other parts of the Canaries would be stopped. I would be allowed to stay where I was because it was in a self catering apartment.

The next news to hit me was the announcement that all flights from the UK would be suspended due to a new strain of the COVID-19 virus that had been identified. This meant that my airline would not be operating in or out of Tenerife. I was now stranded on the island.

The PCR test result (negative) finally arrived at 11pm on the day of my arrival. The test had cost £175. To this day nobody has once asked to see the certificate.

About Richard Griffith

My first independent travel experience was a trip to Israel, in 1997, it was here that I caught the 'travel' bug! In 2001 I took an 8-month sabbatical and traveled around South East Asia. Since then I have managed to visit most of Eastern Europe along with India, Bangladesh, and a few other destinations in between. I love travel and I love meeting new people.
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