Paper Bag Challenge and Goodbye Hotel Quarantine

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The hotel hosted a challenge to create something from the meal bags. I made use of the metal lamp that was in my room. It was a perfect shape for my gum tree. The leaves moved in the air conditioning.

I enjoyed knitting these colourful cosy socks.

The only people I saw during the 14 days were nurses for a covid test on day 2 and day 12, then a doctor with police escort on day 13 who confirmed negative test result and gave me a letter authorising my check out on the final day. It was exciting getting the wristband which eased the check-out process.

Although it’s been mandatory, this quarantine has been a good experience, a retreat, time to reflect and recharge after a hectic and intense year.

Locked Out of Australia

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Although I was able to get a flight out of Australia within a day, it took me 3 months to get back.

Government limits on international arrivals means there are few commercial airlines actually flying to Australia, those that are flying can only have 30 or 40 passengers on each flight. Flights were cancelled or rescheduled as quotas were reduced by the government. A ludicrous situation.

On 10th December the earliest Business Class seat I could get was on 25th January. That flight got cancelled. The next available seat was 4th March. I had to pay £ 4,500 again, waiting weeks for the refund of the cancelled original booking. Ironically it was cheaper to get a return ticket One way to Sydney was over £5,000. Economy tickets were even more scarce.

The 4th March flight was also cancelled. Fortunately, my UK travel agent was able to move my booking to a flight on 9th March. Third time lucky. 

I celebrated with a few glasses of bubbles and enjoyed the full Business Class experience. Heathrow long haul departures was empty.

Thousands of Australian Citizens have struggled to get home in the past 18 months. There are still 38,500 Aussies stranded overseas.

Behind this number are real people, living in highly stressful situations of uncertainty, financial impact, juggling employment, housing when expected departure dates keep changing. Missing family and friends, missing the big life events.

I was fortunate to have a house to live in, have financial stability, have a job I could do remotely and have my daughter staying with me.

The sale of Mum’s house was going smoothly but the logistics of actually clearing the house and moving out, getting specific PCR tests within 72 hours of flight, was a leap of faith, knowing that flight could still be cancelled at the last minute. It was a very tense time. 

Government repatriation flights were few and expensive. For many people, they have been a last resort after multiple cancellations.

Information of Repatriation flight from London to Darwin in February 2021

Locked In Australia

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I know that we chose to live in an ex-convict settlement, but I never expect to be Locked Inside Australia, unable to leave without Government permission. That has been the reality for 18 months. 

This is my experience of leaving Australia in November 2020…..

I had to get permission to leave Australia due to the total travel ban. My dual nationality helped me get permission on compassionate grounds. 

At the airport, the check-in clerk had to phone the government department in Canberra to confirm each passenger. I knew there would be mandatory 14 day hotel quarantine on my return.

I arrived at Heathrow and walked straight out. No one checked where I had come from. No one said anything about quarantine or self-isolation. No one checked that I had completed the UK “Passenger Locator Form”. 

Sydney had 9 international flights leaving in a 12 hour period. Flights were almost empty.

Airport was like a ghost town. Only a handful of food outlets open. A couple of shops to buy books, magazines, etc. One Duty Free shop open. All designer shops were closed and empty of all stock, abandoned spaces.

Flights were the best I’ve ever taken. I had 18 seats to myself in economy. No queues for the toilets. 

Passenger gift bag had no socks or eye mask, but face mask, hand sanitizer and anti-bac wipes. Face masks were mandatory, even when seated.

Hotel Quarantine – Meals and a Surprise Parcel

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Australia’s Hotel Quarantine is 14 days locked in a hotel room. Some hotels had balconies but mine didn’t, so no fresh air. Eye drops helped with the constant air conditioning. 

3 times a day there was a knock and a meal bag left outside the door. We had to wear a mask to open the door and wait a couple of minutes, so I never saw the delivery person. 

The food was actually very good, tasty healthy meals, plenty of vegetables, salads and fruits.

A valuable tip was to take my own cutlery, plate and sharp knife. I was grateful that I followed this suggestion as plating up the meals rather than eating from the carboard or plastic containers made a big difference. 

We had a daily phone call from a nurse, to check how we were doing, our physical and mental health. 

On Day 6 my daughter SE dropped off a parcel for me. She and the grandkids then waved to me from the street below my 11th floor window. Such a lovely surprise. I had kid art to brighten up my walls, plus other treats. Flowers from my husband. The days passed by.

Celebrating New Life & End of Life

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Our granddaughter was 8 months old when we met her for the first time. In normal times I would have been in Sydney for her birth, just a 2 hour flight away, but Covid-19 changed everything.

In November last year, when Australia’s internal borders finally opened, we visited our family and celebrated all the events we had missed – my 60th, our daughter’s 30th birthday, two other birthdays plus our grandson’s 3rd. And the birth of our gorgeous granddaughter. We had a big party, with all the banners. We enjoyed days out and the ordinary times at home.

Then I got “the call”. My Mum was seriously ill in the UK and I needed to get there. She’d been unwell with a short cancer diagnosis, she had support locally, with UK lockdown, no hospital visitors, it was a tough decision when to travel. I had already requested a “Travel Restriction Exemption” from the Australian Government which had been granted. Fortunately, I had taken my passports to Sydney so I booked a one way ticket online and was on a flight within ours. 

My daughter CM met me at Heathrow with a spare winter coat. Mum passed away peacefully. Despite the sadness there were many things to celebrate.

CM stayed with me at Mum’s house and helped with all the tasks required to wind up a person’s life. Even with UK lockdown we were able to have twenty five family and friends at her funeral to commemorate her 87 years, her independent and generous spirit. God Bless you Mum, thanks for all the memories.

Hotel Quarantine – My Journey

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Six months ago I was in Hotel Quarantine in Sydney, after flying back to Australia from the UK.

There was a very thorough arrival process at the airport. Quiet corridors, a temperature check and chat with a nurse, questions about covid symptoms, general and underlying health issues, mental health. Passport control, customs, baggage claim, then directed to coaches by Police and Military. The coach seemed to have all singles on it and it took us to a hotel in the city. There was the same police and military presence at the hotel. They took our luggage from the coach and lined it up outside hotel. We were allowed off the coach three at a time, to identify our luggage then we were checked in by police officers. We were given welcome info, meal bag. A soldier escorted me to my room. There was security on each floor. No room key as I couldn’t leave the room. 

I was very lucky to have a spacious room for my HQ. I needed binoculars to watch tv from the bed. I had a bath and shower. I could see the sky. Food was good in the first meal bag. Cereal, fruit, water bottle, fruit juice and soup bowl that just needed hot water. Very thoughtful considering some guests would be on morning time, some on local evening time. 

I had planned for HQ on my own, packed things to keep myself occupied, paperback books, wool for knitting, pens, paper, post it notes, diary, I loaded up my kindle with other books. I did puzzles online, took virtual tours of art galleries. I had lots of phone conversations and Facetime chats with family and friends. I exercised each day, I enjoyed the time to relaxed.

Here are some of my photos for the first four days.

More tomorrow …..

Travel Vouchers and a Road Trip

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Border restrictions and lockdowns in other states and territories within Australia are having big impacts on our hospitality and tourism businesses. 

However, Tassie folk are enjoying our beautiful island without the crowds of tourist and are doing our best to support local business. The State Government has helped with a $7.5 million Travel Voucher scheme. Anyone could register to receive $200 towards accommodation and $100 towards attractions. All entrants were put in a ballot and we were fortunate to be successful.

So last weekend we went on a road trip, staying in Launceston to explore the northern part of Tassie. 

We stayed at Peppers Silo Hotel, an unusual building repurposed from grain silos built in the 1960’s. The hotel overlooks the city, the Tamar River Basin and the North Esk River and Riverbend Park.

We explored the city on foot, appreciating the architecture, the history, art and culture in QVMAG (Queen Victoria Museum and Gallery).

We drove to a couple of vineyards, tasting the wines in on the deck on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

We also visited Beaconsfield Gold Mine and Heritage Centre. Gold was first discovered here in 1847. Underground mining began in 1879 with considerable investment and expansion. However, the mine closed in 1914 due to constant flooding. Many of the original buildings now in ruins. In 1980 work began to reopen the mine and the first ore production occurring in 1998. It remained operational until 2012. A 2 week rescue mission to reach 2 miners trapped after an earthquake induced rock collapse made international news in 2006.

Another point of interest, in 1953 Beaconsfield was the first town in Australia to add fluoride to its water supply.

Day to day life in Tassie

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Tasmania continues to be one of the safest places in the world. I’m very grateful that I live here.

We had an initial lockdown when the pandemic began but restrictions eased in June last year. 

We are covid free here. There have been no community transmission cases since May 2020. A few arrivals have tested positive, but the virus has not spread locally.

So, life is relatively free and easy.

The only places where we have to wear a mask are airports and ferry terminals, on flights or on the ferry to the mainland. Also, at festivals and some sport events, where gathering limits still apply. 

Everything is open as usual, retail, restaurants, gyms, night clubs, cinemas, theatres, casinos, weddings, household get togethers. Hand sanitiser is everywhere and actively encouraged.

We have to use the “Check In Tas” app when entering any shops, businesses, events, a taxi or public transport. It is a new habit to scan the QR code with our phones or write our name and contact details in a book at the entrance of any establishment. If or when covid does come to Tassie these track and trace capabilities are ready.

The main covid impact still in place are our border restrictions. Everyone travelling to Tasmania must complete an entry form before the journey. Travel from “high risk areas” within the country is denied. Anyone breaking this rule is fined and immediately placed in hotel quarantine. Tasmanian residents travelling from medium risk areas are allowed to return but must quarantine at home for 14 days.

Australia’s international borders remain closed. More about that in my next post.

Hello again from Tasmania

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It’s many months since I posted here but as today is the 7th anniversary of starting this blog, it seems a good time to reconnect, review and post anew.

It is also 7 years since I took redundancy from my old London city banking job. My husband and I sold our home, packed up our UK life and travelled to Tasmania for an “adult gap year”. We fell in love with this beautiful island at the bottom of Australia and made friends here. After the extended gap year, we found jobs here, bought a house and we continue to call Hobart home. 

So, to begin a “Month of Gratitude” here is a photo of snow on kunanyi/Mount Wellington taken from Bellerive Beach. I am grateful that I can walk on a beach on my way to work.

Changing Seasons – June 2020 – Lockdown eases

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June has seen a roll back of lockdown measures, here in Tasmania. At the beginning of the month, shops reopened, children returned to school, people returned to work. Social distancing of 1.5 meters remained in place.

Covid-19 precautions at work include temperature check when signing in, also new batch of hand sanitiser.
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Last Friday more restrictions eased. 500 people can gather outdoors, 250 indoors, with 1 person per 2sqm rule, thus allowing museums, galleries, restaurants, cafes, pubs, clubs to resume business. 20 visitors allowed to visit per household. Markets, food courts, garage sales, casinos, spas, swimming pools reopened. Community sport resumed.

Life feels like we’re heading back to a level of normality. Tasmania is fortunate, we have been virus free since the middle of the month and had no new cases for over 46 days.

Tasmania has used its advantage of being an island. Our borders have been closed since mid March. Anyone arriving from mainland Australia must complete 14 days quarantine, visitors in a government sponsored hotel, residents can quarantine at home. The rules are strict. So we feel safe here while we watch the news from other countries, other parts of Australia, as cases increase in some communities. Although a little worried what will happen when our borders open. Tasmania relies on tourism so it is a fine balance between economy and health risk.

We – well husband – has made this hat rack, for my one and his many hats. The wood is local Huon Pine.
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We’ve picked olives from the trees in our garden and they’re now in jars. Our first attempt at curing olives. Fingers crossed.
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I joined as group of neighbours for a productive clean up of our local coast path and beaches, one Sunday morning. We collected plastics, rope, a cushion, large piece of rubber, bubble wrap, wood. A worthwhile couple of hours.
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We’ve had some sunny winter days so have tried to get out into nature, exploring the countryside. Walks on the beach with long winter afternoon shadows. We’ve also tried to support local businesses, where possible. A visit to the local animal sanctuary, lunches out, take away coffees.
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This is my contribution to Su’s Changing Seasons.