Camden firefighter and fiancee catch last bus out of locked-down Spain

Empty: Santiago de Compostela, the usually bustling city, was bare when David Tricca and fiancee Alex finished their El Camino trek before flying back to Australia through Portugal and Dubai. Pictures: David Tricca
Empty: Santiago de Compostela, the usually bustling city, was bare when David Tricca and fiancee Alex finished their El Camino trek before flying back to Australia through Portugal and Dubai. Pictures: David Tricca

"Yes, we're back in Australia, but self-isolation doesn't feel like home."

Camden resident David Tricca has just returned home from a massive European trip - but the Australia he's come back to is not the one he left.

The Mount Hunter Rural Fire Brigade firefighter spent the last month trekking the El Camino - a historical walk through France and Spain - to raise money for his brigade after devastating bushfire crisis.

But as they were finished the journey, the coronavirus pandemic raised its ugly head and left Mr Tricca and his fiancee Alex with a tough decision - get out of Spain right now or stay during the lockdown.

"Most of the news we were getting was coming through in Spanish, so we didn't get a great sense of what was going on," Mr Tricca said.

"One of our walking group was translating for us.

"It wasn't until a couple of weeks ago that it really hit us how serious this was.

"Then we started to hear about Spain shutting its borders."

Mr Tricca said they made their way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain's Galicia region to try and fly out as soon as possible.

But airfares more than quadrupled in price and soon enough the airports were no longer operating.

The pair were lucky to snag a space on a bus out of Galicia and into Portugal.

"After the flights were cancelled it was just mayhem," Mr Tricca said.

"Once we boarded our bus we learnt that all the other services had been cancelled. It was quite a relief to be on board.

"But I didn't feel like I could take a breath until we crossed the border into Portugal.

"When we were on the bridge leaving Spain, the military and police were there setting up the closures. They let us go through.

"The freeway was empty. It was a really strange feeling."

Once they landed in arrived in Portugal the couple were able to secure a flight from Lisbon to Sydney, with a stop in Dubai.

"The flight to Dubai was really good. Emirates did a great job," Mr Tricca said.

"The flight wasn't too packed and they made sure to space everybody out.

"But flying home to Sydney was a different story.

"It was a really busy flight and everyone was in the same situation as us, feeling worried and just trying to get home."

Mr Tricca said they weren't entirely sure what to expect when they arrived in Sydney but weren't surprised to receive health directions and the instruction to self-isolate.

He said no government bodies were checking to ensure they were staying indoors.

"I think it's more of a trust system," he said.

"From my experience, everyone seems to be taking it seriously and staying home."

The pair have been in self-isolate since Wednesday, March 18.

Most of the belongings they took with them overseas several months ago are still with Mr Tricca's family in Italy.

He said it was a strange feeling being home without seeing anyone.

"Naturally the first thing you want to do when you come home is see all your friends and family," Mr Tricca said.

"But we haven't been able to do that.

"I've got a new baby niece that I can't wait to meet, but it will have to wait a little bit longer."

Mr Tricca said it was important all Australians did what they could to stop the spread of coronavirus.

"We don't want to end up like Spain or Italy," he said.

"Saying that, in Spain, they don't seem to have had the same panic with supermarkets that we have.

"Everyone understands that the stores will stay open.

"But we are also very lucky here compared to Spain - they don't have things like Woolworths delivery and in most cities and regions there isn't UberEats or Deliveroo."

Now on his sixth day of isolation, Mr Tricca had a few tips to share to avoid going stir-crazy.

"Make sure you've got a Netflix subscription and a good internet connection," he said.

"Also, there's plenty of really good true crime podcasts out there if you're into that kind of thing like I am."