For a while there it didn’t look like the universe wanted us back in Australia.
Cancelled fights, routes discontinued shortly before our re-booked flights, and then finally by way of Victoria (Vancouver Island) – Seattle – San Francisco – Sydney four different flights, 35 hours of travel on different airlines, we are back, but not quite on our beautiful Sunshine Coast.
You may not know anyone who has undergone mandatory isolation in Australia, so I will give you a bit of an idea what is happening, yes we are still in iso, today is day 11 of 14, we are nearly there.
We ended up flying United from San Francisco with probably about 100 or so passengers on board their Dreamliner, with all the middle seats of the 3x3x3 empty, which was good so we could stretch out for most of the 15.5 hr flight.
As all the restaurants, kiosks, duty free shops etc., had been closed in the various airports we travelled through that day we were hoping for a meal followed by a glass of wine once on the flight from San Fran to Sydney, but that wasn’t to be. Due to Covid 19, meals were not distributed, they did give out snacks of peanuts and biscuits, and around breakfast time a microwaved tortilla type thing that was totally inedible. No wine or hot drinks were served for the duration of the flight, and if you know me you know that I must have my coffee! It was rough, and not due to the pilot.
Once we landed in Sydney, around 7am, we were herded by Police and the military through the back corridors of Kingswood Smith to a medical team awaiting us. They were mostly interested in where we had come from, and how we were feeling. They took our temps and as long as they liked our answers, and we didn’t have a fever we got to move onto the next step, Customs and Immigration, usually a long wait, but this time it was pretty quick, no-one was getting close to us, just a quick lift of the mandatory face masks we had worn since leaving Canada to confirm our identities, and then still with our military guards we were moved onto the awaiting buses.
I would have loved to take photos during all this, but we had been warned many times NOT to, and I really didn’t want to antagonise anyone at this point.
While soldiers loaded our bags into the baggage area under the bus, around 20 of us climbed aboard for the ‘magical mystery tour’ to our allocated isolation hotel, the Travelodge on Wentworth Street, in the Surrey Hills area of Sydney. ‘It’s not the best, or the worst iso hotel’, we were told by the Policewoman that filled our intake form. Those words filled me with trepidation.
Finally around 10am Monday May 4th, three days since we left lovely Shawnigan Lake, Laura, Nick and my gorgeous new granddaughter Lilah, two burly soldiers opened the door to the space where we would get to spend the next 14 days (336 hours).
Meals come delivered in a box and left outside our door, and like our bus ride are a mystery until opened. We have no choices, but all in all they haven’t been too bad. Lunches are probably the best, it’s usually a salad of some sort.
We have finally stopped receiving soft drinks with our meals, (after many calls to reception) and now get bottled water, or occasionally juice.
Clean towels and sheets are left outside our door every 5-6 days, we change then over and leave the dirty ones outside in a plastic bag. No housekeeping either, and I must admit the floor could do with a vacuum.
I suppose for us the small space of the hotel room, (11 paces long), is not that dissimilar to our motorhome Hermione where we have lived for the past two years, it must be so much harder for the others here in iso that are more accustomed to having the space of a house or apartment.
The hardest part is no fresh air. We do have a window but is it locked, so have to have the air conditioner on most of the time. Occasionally when we open to door to get our meals we see another iso guest, but the 24 hour security is quick to tell us to get back in and close our doors. Really would it so terrible if I had a chat with the lady across the hall, 3m away? I have no idea how many Police, military and private security are here, but there are always at least a couple of Police cars we can see out front of the hotel from our window.
Alcoholic beverages are allowed in very limited amounts, and thankfully my lovely cousin Linda and her husband Bryan dropped off a care package that included a six pack of Little Creatures beer for Brian, and some lovely Cat Amongst the Pigeons Shiraz for me, delicious.
How are you keeping busy you may ask?
Well, Brian is continuing to learn a CAD drawing program on his computer that he started while we isolated in Canada before we could cuddle Lilah. And I have organized two years worth of photos, around 8,000 from my camera alone, into folders of country, and sometimes events, i.e. Tour de France, Christmas in France and another in Spain, etc etc. I still have bit more to do with the photos, but it gets tedious.
We also are also quickly depleting our pre downloaded Kindle books, and watching Netflix and Acorn on our computers, as believe it not the TV in our room is NOT Smart.
Next step in our isolation process is the visit to our room by a medical team consisting of a doctor, nurse who give us a health check, and two Police officers that ask of our plans after we leave here. If, but hopefully when we pass the medical we are issued with certificates to prove we have completed the 14 day mandatory isolation so we can travel across the border home to QLD, and a special wrist band that allows us past the security in the lobby. We have bought a car online that we will pick up early next week so that we can drive home, no more planes for us for a while.
We’re not complaining about any of this at all, we knew in advance this was how it would be, and we totally agree with the isolation period after traveling from overseas, and were more than happy to be part of the solution to keep Australia healthy. Too many people have died from COVID-19, or from complications arising from it, and we certainly didn’t want to add to Australia’s growing number.
UPDATE Saturday, May 16th, 2020
We have just had our visit by the two person medical team and four Police officers. They stood at our door, but still in the hallway, and first our temperatures were taken, 36.2 (Julie) 36.3 (Brian), so we passed the first test. Next the medical team asked about our health, any symptoms, cough, etc., so after a no to those questions we were issued our wristbands, which in front of the whole team we had to place on each others wrists. Then the Policeman in charge, gave us our paperwork which consisted of two documents, a Confirmation of Completion of Quarantine Period, which states where we completed our stay, and the other document is from NSW Health that states we have been ‘clinically assessed’ we that we have no symptoms of COVID 19. We could actually leave anytime after midnight tonight, but we will stay here overnight and move to another hotel in Sydney for Sunday night, and from there make our way to pick up our new car. At least tomorrow we can walk around Sydney, go to a park, café, really whatever we want, freedom!
With these documents we can travel, by car, bus, plane, train or boat, visit our friends and family (if they agree of course), and eventually drive home, and across the border to our home in Queensland. Yay!!!!!!!!
And finally the last piece of documentation that must be attached to the car window to allow us to pass through the closed border between NSW and QLD.