Part 1 – Escaping the Hermit Kingdom
“Oh, you’re Australian! How did you get out??!” The German gentleman of a certain age asks incredulously. Perhaps his mind drifts back to pre-’89 GDR, Checkpoint Charlie, the famed and ingenious escapes in secret compartments of VWs that have gone down in history.
Well how do you go about getting out of a country that is determined to keep its citizens both locked in, and locked out. For our own good of course. Well that in itself is a bit of a feat, but first let’s wind the clock back to a time when life as we know it was very different. When we were oblivious to a deadly virus that was already circulating in its place of origin. New Year’s eve 2019, the date of the first case report of Covid-19 to WHO. We had been back in Australia just on 2 months and were looking forward to our trip to Antarctica in late February, before heading back to ITIKI towards the end of April. How did you spend NYE 2019? Who would have imagined what was brewing.
Well as you know we made it out of South America just days before borders began slamming shut. We cancelled our return to Greece, and waited… and waited. We optimistically applied for an exemption to leave the country around July/August 2020, and it was granted on the grounds of us having spent more time out of Oz than in, over the last 2 year. Hope of a return for a short, late 2020 season faded, as the pandemic did the opposite. There were so many Aussies who could not get back home, we did not want to join them and end up wintering aboard, locked down in some foreign port.
Plotting to depart and making it happen
As much as we didn’t want to be there, we made the most of our time in Sydney, catching up with friends when we could, renovating our Cammeray apartment and visiting some far flung locations in NSW that had always been on our “list” – The Waterfall Way, Gloucester Tops, Broken Hill/Silverton/Menindee lakes- but we were just marking time as we really wanted to be on ITIKI. Being vaccinated before travelling was a must do for us. As vaccines started rolling out overseas it was clear it would eventually become a “requirement” in order to move freely, avoid quarantine etc and we wanted to protect ourselves and others as well. Hopes were raised and then dashed as the “it’s not a race” world’s slowest vaccination “stroll out” schedule was announced and then failed to materialise. At 3 months, the timeframe between jabs for AZ was half a cruising season, and at one point availability for me was looking like October! We started investigating ways to get vaccinated in the UK or even the US. I was getting bored and frustrated and even started a 4 month work contract. Then literally overnight things changed. We could get our first dose so we signed up immediately! I have never been so relieved to have a needle in my deltoid. We had a timeline, the countdown had started. Now just a small matter of some open heart surgery for my mum, finish up my contract work and off we could go! Friday 9th of July was set as our D-Day!
The good news was our original exemption to leave had no time limit but to be sure, to be sure, we re-applied with stat decs, Covid vaccine certificates and a huge pile of boat related documents. It was a relief to find out that we were still classified as “normally resident of a country other than Australia” and allowed to depart.
Everything was going smoothly and according to plan, but still there was a sense of nervous anticipation as the world had changed. We got our second shots of AZ, Mum’s op went well and I headed up to SWR to spend time with her. Keith stayed in Sydney to pack up the apartment, re-sell all our Gumtree furniture and clean up ready for the tenant to move in. And then Covid raises its ugly head again! Sydney goes into lockdown, making it super-hard to offload the last few items of furniture. Fortunately, thanks to the exceptional sales skills of Mr Logan, some of our buyers left with more than they intended and finally the place was empty. Keith spent the last couple of nights sleeping on a collection of cushions, pillows and mattress protectors and cleaning, cleaning and more cleaning! As we were technically in the process of permanently relocating Keith was “allowed” to leave the Sydney hotzone to come to SWR for a few days before our departure. Just to be on the safe side though he had a precautionary brain biopsy (aka Covid swab - negative) the day before driving up. I worked up until the day before departure and dropped my laptop back in to the office on the way to the airport! We are on our way...
Lynda is slowly getting used to the transition from working to not working and racing to cruising.