Pippa and Tara have long planned to visit us as part of their three month Australian trip from their current base in Antwerp, Belgium. The problem is, how to avoid them having to go into quarantine on their arrival in Queensland. As luck would have it, they avoided quarantine when they arrived in Melbourne where that rule had just been scrapped, allowing free entry to international travellers. However, it still stands in Queensland and the state government has promised to finally re-open the border to the fully vaccinated on the 17th December. Maybe they will – maybe they won’t.
What to do? If we do nothing then we stand to lose more than half of Pippa and Tara’s visit, leaving us with just the 10 days at home and we would not be happy about that.
We hatch a plan. It involves taking a big risk and leaving the comfortable bubble of Covid-safe Queensland. We book two weeks at the Reflections caravan park in Lennox Head NSW. This feels very daring given that once we cross that southern border we won’t be allowed back across – until the 17th – we hope!
Taking a deep breath, we set out for the five hour drive on the 3rd December and at the end of the day we make camp in the Reflections caravan park in Lennox head, setting up the tent in readiness for the arrival of Pippa and Tara tomorrow morning.
Pippa and Tara arrive at the Byron Bay regional airport (which is actually in Ballina) and we are waiting to pick them up. We have brought our car with us to Lennox, as well as Essy (the Motorhome), so that we have easy transport while we are here. We hadn’t quite reckoned on the amount of luggage Pippa and Tara are travelling with. We literally squash them into the car, heavy suitcases on knees!
Back at the camp ground Pippa and Tara get settled into their tent and we watch the clouds gathering for the predicted storm. It is really quite a show. The cloud ahead of the storm begins to roll over us. We watch in awe as the clouds approach.
And then all hell lets loose. Really strong winds hit us first, but the heavy rain is not far behind. I can’t remember another storm hitting with such ferocity. It was really an amazing experience. Pippa and Tara’s tent did not actually get blown away, but the supplied tent pegs prove to be pretty useless so it involves Pippa, Tara and myself braving the cold, cold rain to put in some heavier pegs. Luckily this proved successful and amazingly the tent didn’t actually leak.
We are completely drenched and freezing cold as we sit out the rest of the storm inside Essy. At least Essy doesn’t leak!
Luckily, all things must pass – the storm abates and the sun comes out. The caravan park is next to both the beach and Lake Ainsworth which is a large fresh water lake – very popular with both locals and visitors for swimming and boating. The three ladies decide to go for a dip.
The next day another storm is on the horizon and we await it with baited breath as the clouds once again roll in.
Phew! The storm went to both the north and the south but we get away with a sprinkling … just enough for a rainbow.
We received some pretty exciting news today. The border into Queensland is going to open on the 13th instead of the 17th. It’s Pippa’s birthday on the 15th, so we will aim for a return on the 14th. Now we have to hustle to get our border passes. This means that we must all be fully vaccinated and Pippa and Tara have to have negative PCR tests within 72 hours of crossing the border.
Off we go to the test centre in Ballina (only one open on a Sunday) but are greeted by a several-streets-long queue of cars and decide not to wait. Monday morning and Pippa and Tara go off to the local pathology lab to get tested and are ushered straight in.
Tuesday comes and Tara’s test comes back negative. Where is Pippa’s? Several hours and several phone calls later, her result comes through … we get our border passes printed (Jacqui and I didn’t need a PCR test since we were in a ‘non-restricted border area’ of NSW – isn’t bureaucracy wonderful), and off we set to arrive back home in Queensland, incident free, at eight in the evening – take away Thai food in hand!
We are now all relaxed and looking forward to our traditional family Christmas day schedule. Breakfast, present opening with Mahli and Bodhi doing the handout honours and a shared meal in the late afternoon. A good day to be had by all!
It’s the day after Boxing day and we are dropping Pippa and Tara off at the local airport (in Essy this time – it’s raining) from whence they will return to NSW to catch up with Tara’s family. Their time here has gone past swiftly but their visit has been wonderful.
They will follow this with almost a month in Tasmania making a film to highlight the plight of the Tarkine Forest on Tasmania’s west coast, which is being increasingly destroyed by government loggers. Climate change anyone? We just watched the movie Don’t Look Up. As one climate change scientist pointed out “it’s just like the current situation with Climate Change”. Fiddling while our planet dies around us.
As I write this the Omicron variant of Covid is cutting a swath across Australia and even more, in the rest of the world. I hope you are all staying safe out there as we learn to live with this virus that has so far killed more than five million people.
We would, however, like to wish you all a Happy New Year from Queensland. May all you wish for be yours in the coming year and beyond.