Covid-19 really did not play ball with our trip planning. We went from CV_Level 5 to CV-Level 4 at the end of April but still, no travel was allowed, not even across provincial borders. End May we moved to CV-3 which allowed us to place our home back on the market but early in June, son Craig and baby Kate both contracted CV-19 (they both recovered within a week but Craig’s sense of smell and taste took about three more weeks to return) and, as we were babysitting Kate the day before they went for their tests, we had to go into self-isolation for two weeks whereafter the house was open again for viewing - for a week. Then someone in the estate agents’ offices was infected and their offices had to close for two weeks…
Back to the house. Amazingly, on the 4th of August, we received a very good cash offer from a lovely couple and suddenly we were homeless! Our previous home was more than twice the size of the one just sold and, when we moved from there seven years ago, we never got around to unpacking ‘properly’ and a lot of ‘stuff’ was stored in the new garage until it was bursting, and so the next three months were a grind of sorting, donating, selling, and throwing away parts of our lives. Quite traumatic!
During all this pandemonium, Lynn’s brother Ian had found a ‘house’ for ‘us’ in the tiny village of Salão, some 8 kilometers from their village of Cedros and about 15 kilometers from the capital of Faial, Horta. Unfortunately, because the farmer who owned the property had undertaken some illegal construction, the deal fell through. Until sometime in early October when he called Ian to say that he had sorted out the issues with the authorities and the property could now be sold – the next day Ian signed the papers and then Lynn and I were 50% owners of a ‘delightful country estate’ and a fixer-upper of note!
|Sea facing facade|
|Pigsty and chicken coup. And 'Dunny'.|
|Facade of the south-east facing facade. Sea in distance left of pic.|
|Looking from the proposed sitting room towards kitchen - front door on the right|
|Sitting room to proposed bedroom|
Ian, being the perpetual working machine that he is, immediately hired two part-time builders, and the three of them set about gutting the place and rebuilding from the cellar (loja) upwards. We think we will be very happy there – if we can manage to obtain a residence permit.
|Ian preparing the floor beams|
We bade our lovely home farewell on 29 October, after our lives had been packed into a container which we had bought, and moved into a tiny ‘granny cottage’ on someone’s property, just down the road from where we had been living – a BIG adjustment. The livable area is larger than we have on Elle but the view never changes and we have seventeen steps to go up or down when we leave or return ‘home’.
But we had decided that we would make a serious attempt to get to the Azores before Christmas and booked flights to depart South Africa on 11 December. Ha – wishful thinking!
Having assembled a wad of some fifty pages (each) of Application forms and supporting documentation, we dashed off to the to the visa agent to get our visas on track. However, our Police Clearances which we had applied for in March, had expired in October but we were led to believe that, despite this, they would still be deemed to be valid by the Portuguese authorities under their CV-19 relief rules. Not so – this relief only applies to documents issued by the Portuguese authorities. So back to our appointed ‘official documentation’ processing agents (One Stop Docs – excellent service!) to start the whole process again. On 30 November, after a very stressful time when, at some stage, we thought our replacement Police Clearances would never be issued, we were back at the visa agents’ offices and they cleared our application for forwarding to the Consulate General in Pretoria; as we were never going to make a 11 December departure date, we came home and re-booked for a Christmas Day departure.
A few days later, we noticed that the ‘tracking’ function on the VFS (the visa agent) website was still saying “Application dispatched on 30 November” so Lynn managed to contact the Consulate in Johannesburg and they said that we needed to show proof of having a Portuguese bank account (despite this requirement not showing up on any of their ‘D’ visa documents)…to cut a long story short, on 31 December (our flights had been rescheduled twice by SwissAir and we eventually booked one for 29 January) we received an SMS stating that our passports were ready for collection.
Taraaah! At last we can be on our way.
To cut another very long story short, after a couple more flight cancellations by SwissAir and Emirates, and after having taken three CV tests, including one on the morning we eventually departed, on January 30th, we finally managed to board a BA flight to Johannesburg and then a Qatar flight to Doha/Madrid/Lisbon – incidentally, we had open tickets with SwissAir and Emirates for the next two days in case Qatar canceled; these flights were both canceled the day we departed!
|An eerily deserted Lisbon Departures Hall - 20 flights and hour|
down to less than 20 flights a day.
Then an unanticipated two-day extension to our stay in Lisbon because we had to have another CV test done before leaving for the Azores (our last test, done in South Africa the morning of the 30th, would expire an hour before we arrived in Horta and it had to be valid on arrival, not only on departure, as I had thought), saw us finally board a plane to Terceira Island and then another to Horta, the capital of Faial Island.
|Terceira approaching - very windy!|
|Horta, Faial coming up - worse weather.|
|Home at last|
|The swimming pools about 1.5 kilometers from our house.|
|Ian at work. Ceilings in, bedroom partition up.|
After two more CV tests over the next ten days of self-imposed, semi-isolation, innumerable trips to the bank, Revenue Office, (Finanças), Home Affairs (SEF) and Health Services, we are now ensconced in the old part of our new home (while Ian beavers away to finish the new part), Income Tax numbers, Residence cards and National Health Insurance numbers safely to hand while we wait for our container of household goods to be shipped from Durban – it should be departing tomorrow.
And that is the story of how we came to be ‘On An Island in the (Gulf) Stream’.