We first became aware of this virus in late January 2020. Ray had been in the UK and was at Dubai Airport in transit to Adelaide. I sent him a message saying “Watch out for people from China, there’s an epidemic going around. Did you hear about it?” I had read about the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in Australia in Victoria on the 25th January. The patient was from Wuhan and had flown into Melbourne.
Ray arrived in Adelaide, safely and in good health, on the 30th January. On the 1st February the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, announced that “foreign arrivals from mainland China will not be allowed entry into Australia” and Australia’s national airline Qantas announced it was suspending direct flights to and from mainland China following bans in the US and Singapore. We had a brief chat about this news but as we had no intention of going to China we didn’t think too much about it. We were excited to be getting on with our own plans.
Over the next two weeks we prepared our van for departure. We were heading back to Western Australia and starting our journey on the 16th February. We had two housesits lined up in WA, one for three weeks in the Porongorups and one for six months in Busselton. It was over two years since we had been in our home state and it would be great to catch up with family and friends.
Our journey saw us stopping at Kimba, Ceduna, Nullarbor Roadhouse, Cocklebiddy, Balladonia and finally into Esperance and out to Cape Le Grand National Park where we set up home for a week at one of the campsites. Over the six days we spent travelling we had little to no internet and even at the campsite we didn’t really have any internet and therefore we were oblivious to what was happening in regard to Covid and Australia and the world. Our main concern was the possibility of having to evacuate due to bushfires in the area. Fortunately that didn’t happen.
Our three week housesit in the Porongorups started on the 6th March. The homeowners had gone on holiday to Tasmania.
10th March – Italy goes into national lockdown, shortly followed by other European countries
11th March – WHO (World Health Organisation) declares a global pandemic.
13th March – Australia forms a “National Cabinet” – Federal, State and Territory leaders – to enable a united approach to the crisis.
15th March – Australian government bans gatherings of more than 500 people.
16th March – People arriving in Australia from overseas must self-isolate for 14 days and people are told to start implementing stricter social distancing rules.
By now we were beginning to notice some impacts locally. When we went into Mt Barker to do our weekly shop at the IGA, there were arrows/crosses on the floor and hand sanitizer stations at the entrance and exit. The checkout staff were wearing gloves and you had to pack your own bags. There was also a preference that you pay by card rather than cash. And there was NO TOILET PAPER!!!!
Our housesit was actually a farmsit on 100 acres in the middle of the countryside. We felt very safe there tending to the dog, cats, chickens and cattle. We stopped going out unnecessarily, only doing the shopping and following all safety guidelines. We were in touch with the owners who were heading back to the mainland from Tasmania. We also spoke to the owners of the next housesit who confirmed they were still on track to be away for the six months, starting at Easter.
CHECK BACK SOON FOR THE NEXT STAGE OF OUR COVID TRAVELS.