My Facebook posts were disjointed and inadequate in telling the story about my move from Bateau Bay to Queensland. It was impossible to stay current while I dodged the quirks and roadblocks that my trip was throwing at me. So I’m recounting it here in an orderly fashion. I normally only write photo articles on my blog, but I felt compelled to relay this vexatious adventure, and with only the few photos I managed to grab en route.
Days 1-2 of Esther’s Big Adventure
Driving away from Bateau Bay, dirty, disheveled from filling skip bin, car full of crates, camping gear, photo equipment, fridge contents – all tossed in. Rain the whole way but must get to Smoky Cape Retreat by 7pm before owners go to bed. More rain all next day which is spent sorting through car and disposing crates full of excess.
Morning sunshine, yay. It’s a short hop to Trial Bay Gaol where my Meetup group is camping for the weekend. First, must repair my tent, post a box full of gifts, discard more crates of food and junk. A chance to relax at last? Yes! With a glass of wine at sunset. Oh. What are those lumpy dark things on the lawns? Campers are saying the birds started falling out of the trees when the rain started.
A night of gale force winds but my tent held. Able to find enough food for breakfast and lunch in the recesses of my car. A tour of the Gaol. Fascinating. A heart warming gaol, not like Port Arthur. The whales are swinging by our tent sites, so close sometimes I can even capture them with my iphone. I hope that last muttonbird is OK. I check the toilets after dark. Nope. Last one still there. He’s retreated to the men’s urinal.
Arriving at Casuarina, a new-built town only 15 min drive from the Queensland border. Lovely Airbnb, lovely host, gorgeous modern, private peaceful, the best. But instead of relaxing in the bathtub, I’m still paying bills, buying necessities, discarding stuff. I’ll be first in line at the border tomorrow morning so I and can ask the questions that are simply not answered on the Qld government websites.
I won’t be allowed across! Although I’m moving to Queensland the cop said I had to fly in. But my car??? All my precious photo gear??? Bad luck for me; he’s got no advice. I’m at a complete loss. My entire house contents went across the border last week and are waiting for me in a storage unit in Gympie. So I drive away to fill out the application online. I’m completely shocked when it is approved instantly. Huh. It seems to say I can drive across. Huh again.
Back at the border with my pass taped to my windscreen, confident I’m OK to cross now. Wrong. The same cop is furious. “I told you you could only fly in! If you try this again I’ll fine you $4000!” Another cop, also with big moustaches, joins him in yelling at me too. I feel bad. I feel innocent and wrongly accused. Why did my pass say to stick it on my windscreen?
Almost in tears now. Wayne, the rescuer, discovers a company called Angeldrivers.com.au. I call. Yes, they’ll figure out some way to get my car across. They have a driver who has a ticket to drive back and forth but only in “the bubble”.
She picks me up in Tweed Heads in a laundromat where I am madly packing some essentials and enough work docs to keep me occupied during quarantine. I haven’t been able to find a flight across the border. At least not any that take less than 20 hours. There are cheap flights to Sydney ($149) and cheap flights to, surprisingly, Cairns ($205). Well why not go into quarantine there? Sounds like a holiday! So we head towards Ballina, the closest airport. The bubble zone stops at Brunswick Heads so that’s where she drops me. I watch my car drive away with all my gear. I haven’t signed any papers yet; I don’t even know what it will cost. Talk about faith.
A night in the Chalet Motel – retro, tiny but sweet. I no longer have to sort through my belongings; there’s nothing left to discard. There’s not much happening in “Bruns”. Dark streets, closed shops.
Day 9 of Esther’s Big Adventure
There is no public transport so taxi from Bruns to Ballina which costs $139. I’m getting kinda tired. A night in Ballina and – oh my god – is that a Taco Bell! I haven’t seen one of those since my California days! At dinner time I walk there through dark streets, but they’re closed. Walk back into town, another dark, really dark, 35 minutes. A lovely Mexican restaurant and the maitre d’ is a real character (does everyone here have moustaches?) serving up my Dos Equis and enchiladas. I hear my car got across the border after Wayne had travelled 3.5 hours each way to pick it up.
Flight to Sydney. It took how many days of driving to get this far north? And now it will take me an hour and 20 minutes to fly back. Back to the beginning. OK, let’s start all over again. Arrive Sydney. What? No trolleys? No shuttle?
Gorgeous hotel near the airport. Funky decor. With a penthouse happy hour cocktail bar. The open area (scary at this height) has the fireplace lit, trying to cope with the once again gale force winds. Man, hotels are cheap right now.
Getting closer now. I’m excited to be on the last leg. I am so looking forward to 14 days of quarantine – to stopping this mad race of constant booking, organising, coordinating. Oh oh. I’m suspicious when the Qantas rep tells me they will take my bags off at Brisbane before continuing to Cairns.
Sure enough, we’re shunted off the plane at BNE. Like inmates we’re moved along through corridors of police and defence forces. I’m lined up with the others to face the police inquisitors sitting at tables. One of them calls me over and he glares at me. Questions me. What proof do I have I’m moving to Queensland? Why am I doing it now? Doesn’t believe me. Why is he angry at me? You could tell he didn’t want to but he fills out a directive sending me to a hotel in Brisbane. We’re herded onto a bus. Everyone is silent. I’m reminded of many years ago when my family and I were genuine refugees. Why are they treating me as if I did something wrong!
Well, at least I got to Queensland. The weather feels like I’ve come home. I’m escorted to a room in the hotel by a policeman. He explains how there is no key. We open the door and he goes “Oh wow.” And I go “Oh wow.” I’m in a suite, just like a movie star. Maybe this is better than Cairns.
The food is glorious. They’ve catered to my “dietary requirement” and I’m delivered a fresh salad every day. I had a few bottles of wine delivered by Dan Murphy. Fresh flowers from a nature lover. Both TVs are huge. I’ve got my working gear with me. I have a choice of couches, armchairs, desks and tables. Every morning the sun pours through my two large balconies and across my bed. I have my coffee looking across the South Bank to the river. I’m on the balcony again at night with my glass of wine watching the setting sun light up the fancy buildings. I’m slowing down; I can stop making bookings and coordinating schedules.