Camden bush fire fighter David Tricca was in Spain when the coronavirus started spreading its nasty tentacles across Europe. But worse than that, Tricca, a member of the Mt Hunter bush fire brigade, was in the midst of an 800km trek from France and across northern Spain to raise money for his mates back home who had been battling some of the worst fires in decades.
The trek started on February 16, when the virus was still seen as a bit of a problem in China.
Tricca, 25, who was spending a year in Europe with his fiancé, Alex, says they realised things were getting serious when the Spanish prime Minister announced a lockdown that included cafes and restaurants.
“Cafes were we would go after walking 30km each day and all of a sudden they wouldn’t be available to us, which made it really tough because there was nothing else available out in the regions in Spain,’’ Tricca tells me over the phone yesterday from his home in Camden.
He is in self isolation for 14 days, as is his fiancé.
They made it back home last Wednesday, March 18, just hours before Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced he was closing down the country’s borders.
The young couple, pictured above when they made it to Santiago, left behind all their personal belongings, which are in Rome, Italy, where they were based with family.
But Tricca says that’s no big deal.
“We can live without material things,’’ says the former St Gregory’s College student.
The pair, with just their backpacks, knew they were in real trouble when Spain signalled that it would be going into total lockdown and closing its borders with other European countries.
“We were just 20km from our destination in Santiago so we decided to just go for it and get there as quickly as we could before focusing on getting to a plane for home,’’ Tricca said.
“They were definitely a few stressful days for us as the country went into lockdown and we just wanted to catch a flight back home.
“So we brought our flights forward and then set off for Lisbon in Portugal,’’ he said.
The couple gave up trying to get a connecting flight to Portugal and instead got on a bus to Porto, 240km away.
They were taking a chance they would be turned back at the border by Spanish police.
The bus arrived at the border between Spain and Portugal just as Spanish police were setting up border controls, but to the relief of David and Alex they were waved through.
They got to Porto safely, and the next day they jumped on another bus for the 275km trek to Lisbon, the capital of Portugal and – fingers crossed – a flight to Sydney.
“We were really lucky,’ Tricca says.
“We got to Lisbon and caught an Emirates flight to Sydney.
“When we landed in Sydney there were announcements on board about having to self isolate and health official came on the plane and handed us notices.
“Anyone with the symptoms to come with us is what they said to us.
“That was March 18 and now me and Alex are in isolation until April 2.’’
He says their year long trip was a lifelong ambition to see a bit of the world and to meet some of their relatives in Italy and the UK.
Having walked 800km to raise more than $5,000 for his bush fire brigade and then managing to get a flight home minus their personal belongings it’s a year he and Alex will never forget.
“I wouldn’t change anything about the past year even though it has certainly changed us,’’ says David Tricca, who returned home to find out he was an uncle for the fourth time – his brother’s wife having given birth to a baby girl.
As for the future he’s in no hurry.
But one of the first things on the list will be a catch up with his mates at the Mt Hunter bush fire brigade – once we’re allowed to be sociable with each other again.