By now, you certainly won’t need us to detail the extent of international disruption due to COVID-19. Like all challenges though, the focus of importance should be in how you emerge the other side. We’re strong believers in that.
With almost all international travel on hold, the working lives of our leader network has, on the whole, also ground to a standstill. For them too, the mountains, deserts and jungles will have to wait. The challenges of uncertainty and isolation though often run parallel to those we discover on expedition in wild places. So we checked in with the Secret Compass expedition leaders to hear how they’re spending the lockdown.
Patrick Barrow – British Columbia, Canada
Just before COVID exploded, we bought a bush property near Golden in Rocky Mountains British Columbia. We’ve spent almost every day of lockdown converting the old garage into a liveable cottage. Doing all the work ourselves. Because it’s rural we don’t interact with anyone, so lockdown hasn’t really affected us except for loss of guiding and tourism work.
This week we officially moved onto the property but into a tent, with my wife and baby, until ready we’re to move in. We have electricity but are pulling water from glacial springs. I’ve got the BBQ and camp stove going and have dug out a pit toilet. This is the baby’s second camping adventure, first was with the Nenets in Russia in March. We’ll be roughing it a little bit longer yet during lockdown until we can pull up the tent and step inside our new home.
Tom McLay – North Wales
I’ve just woken up after a night shift as a Paramedic in North Wales. I saw a mix of COVID related patients and what would be deemed as ‘normal’ patients. Either way the laborious routine donning and doffing of PPE for everyone’s protection has become almost robotic in the small hours. Except last night watching the full moon over the Carneddau as I worked throughout Snowdonia was sublime.
Whilst I’m missing not being on the river or in the hills I am fortunate enough to live within Gwydyr forest so can access fun, easy mountain bike trails from the door so have been out riding everyday on fantastic dusty dry trails keeping the stoke alive.
A lot of homeowners have been getting on with jobs and DIY and we’re no exception. In fear that all the mountain biking and no kayaking will give me spaghetti arms I have been busy splitting logs. Every Spring we need to cut and split in excess of 6 tonnes of wood to keep our house warm so have been flat out on the chopping block, good thinking time.
Paul Spackman – Hampshire, UK
I returned from leading a fatbike trip in Greenland to a world where COVD-19 was just taking a grip across Europe. I essentially surfed a wave of national border closures from Greenland to Denmark, on to Switzerland, France and eventually arriving home in the UK.
Since then I’ve turned my attention onto making the most of my available time. I’ve been volunteering as part of a planning team to build a COVID field hospital in Hampshire. Now I’m volunteering with Team Rubicon and find myself representing the organisation in partnership with the British Red Cross, coordinating some of the volunteer sector in the South East of England. Between that, I still get out for my 10km run, smash some HIT workouts in the garden, service my various mountain and road bikes and I’ve tidied my kit cupboard twice.
Jan Bakker – Kampala, Uganda
Here in Kampala you can effectively only go to the shops. Proper lockdown. No driving, exercising in public and even cycling after 2pm. I pick up 20 litre barrels for our water dispenser from a supermarket so that is a wee bit of training. And then I’m hanging out with the kids at home. I gave them my quick draws so they can pretend to be climbers. Today we went down-hilling on his balance bike. No fear, it’s slightly scary and I’m sure he’ll be overtaking me soon.
We’re lucky here though. We live in a compound with cool neighbours and other kids. We can run a 400 metre round in the gardens and the driveway. I did 20 laps yesterday which is 8km and the house lends itself for a bit of bouldering. Could be worse for sure. For example, we could be in a flat on the 11th floor which is where we lived a year ago in Beirut!
We definitely have our hands full with these two monkeys at home 24/7. My God, let them open the schools again, we’re running out of ammo!
Luca Alfatti – Manchester, UK
Being a Paramedic, this is a very busy, emotional and intense period for us. Admittedly, I have been on parental leave for the last four weeks, however I have recently got back frontline with the Ambulance Service.
Whilst in lockdown with the kids however, I got into a routine. It’s very important in my opinion to have a routine. I quickly build a daily routine on expedition as well. It helps getting things done in a timely manner as well as keeping everything ‘organised’ in my mind.
After breakfast we get ready to go outside. The aim if to get the kids exhausted playing outside all morning. Lunch. Out again for at least a one hour walk whilst the kids sleep in the pram. Once back it’s time for conditioning, push-ups, sit-ups, stretching. Dinner. Early bed, repeat.
Also, it’s important to remember that this won’t last forever, hence I have been busy planning 2 expeditions for 2021.
Rick Morales – Panama City, Panama
I’m currently stuck at home in Panama City. We’re on lockdown as many people are around the world. In Panama we’re currently not allowed outdoors, all the national and state parks are closed to visitors, and even the city parks. I’m trying to volunteer for a conservation centre in the jungle that needs some maintenance. For that I need to obtain a permit from the government, since that’s the only way to justify being outside other than for buying groceries at very specific times during the week.
At home I’m spending my time volunteering for different projects. One of them involves designing an online course for entry-level tour guides, and another one involves setting up a trail mapping project on Open Street Map. The idea is to set up a system for after the lockdown when people can go back into the woods. Volunteers would go out with their GPS units or smartphones and track different hiking trails all over the country, to then upload that information on OSM.
Beyond that, I just watch a lot of Youtube and do my exercises a few times a week.
Rich Gentry – North Wales, UK
I’m locked down with my family in North Wales – stay at home Dad time with my little girl (16 months). We go out for daily walks and she’s improved loads, smashing out technical ground such as speed bumps and steps now, no problem. Keeping fit with running, push-ups, pull-ups, planks and finger-boarding. Doing a bit of work from home for Plas Y Brenin and reading a really cool book, ‘Making of the British Landscape’, which is brilliant and really interesting. Other than that it’s Zoom quizzes like everyone else it seems.
Lachlan Bucknall – Bristol, UK
Lockdown has changed my work completely for the short term but I consider myself to be quite lucky, I have been able to generate other work that I can do from home and also my kids are too young to understand what is going on and don’t need home schooling. This situation, like many we face on expeditions, is one where you have to focus on what you can and can’t influence. Having to adapt to enforced changes is something I’d say is pretty familiar from exped leading and my former career in the Army. I cannot change the lockdown situation but I still have to earn money to provide for my family and pay the bills. So although the work I am doing right now is making me rather chair shaped and I cannot wait to get back outside properly again, it is what has to be done.
There are a few things I have been able to do to ease the mental monotony though; trying to keep myself fit and probably doing more training for the sake of training now than I normally do, I usually just get away with being active in my work! Check out the online programmes by Ben at The Strength Factory for some great training from home advice.
I also try and achieve something every day that if I was working away I would struggle to do; so I am able to speak to friends and family more regularly, making progress on our house renovation, learning some new carpentry skills, reading more, dreaming up trips for the future, planning a new camper van conversion, faffing around on a guitar, and generally trying to treat this as an opportunity. So ultimately it’s about staying positive, appreciating what you do have and making the most of the situation. I don’t want to look back on this and have any regrets.