I arrived in Ballina, the town where Flat Rock Tent park is situated, with the disturbing knowledge that the Victorian border had closed to New South Wales while I was crossing the border. My family had warned me but I was determined to go and now I will be stuck indefinitely unless I can return to Queensland. The Victorian government had given a 48 hour window to return to the state. This was a deadline I could not make.
Irene had already checked flights out of Ballina so the only options were to apply for a border pass back into Queensland immediately in case Queensland also shut its borders, or stay indefinitely. The last option was quite appealing to me after being locked down in Melbourne! Irene and Bill could not pack up their large tent in less than a day and the drive is more than 16 hours non-stop, so they would in all likelihood still not make the cut-off time of 11.59 on the 1st of January. All flights from Ballina were booked out too. They were staying and they would just move to an apartment when life in a tent got too much.
I wanted to stay as much as I wanted to be free to return to Victoria in a couple of weeks. What to do? I decided to be sensible. I didn’t want to be cut off from my grand children and family again for possibly months so I applied for a border pass to return to Southport, Qld. In reality, as good an option in terms of beach holidays as Flat Rock. Thank goodness for the internet. I applied on line and was told it would take about three days to get the pass. Okay that meant at least a few days with Bill and Irene. I would view this as a side trip instead.
It is funny how our minds work when faced with these dilemmas. My logical thinking said go back because the indefinite time could really be months depending on the success of the governments in suppressing the Virus and the politics of border closures. Your family needs you and you have a dog and commitments in Melbourne. On the other hand I would not be stranded in a foreign country paying hotel fees just interstate with friends in a roomy tent by the ocean. It isn’t as if I haven’t been away for long times before, but this is unplanned unlike the other trips. Also interactions with the family have only just resumed normality. I would be missing time with Ziggy and Marlo which I will never recover. The children grow up so quickly. The mental gymnastics were quite ridiculous. I am retired and I can stay as Bill and Irene are but I knew I would return. I am famous for my flexibility yet I am a planner too. My spontaneity is rarely whimsical, I am a Capricorn after all!
We went off to dinner at the Thai restaurant in Lennox Head with some other friends from camping and had a very quiet New Years Eve Celebration-back at the tent by 10.30pm. The restaurant was buzzing but not a lot of social distancing happening. We were outside and the staff were run off their feet. On returning to the campsite we decided that erecting my tent was pointless because I would only be staying a couple of nights so I slept in the antechamber of Irene and Bill’s Taj Mahal tent. The air mattress fitted perfectly into a corner.
I slept soundly despite my deflating air mattress and woke to the best sound in the world. Rolling surf, a dawn bird choir of kookaburras, whip birds, frogs and various other bird cheeps and trills and the unmistakeable scurrying of bush turkeys. This was what I had wanted so badly – nature around and close. It feeds the soul.
In the morning I discovered my border pass had arrived by email. What efficiency-under promise and over delivery. Now I could enjoy my three days here which I did. I was able to experience all my camping thrills in three days. Catching some waves on Bill’s boogie board, shopping with Irene at our favourite shops in Lennox, followed by fish and chips on the foreshore and conversations with some young Argentinians from Sydney. Then the inevitable summer storm drenching our neighbours but only producing a good water spout off Bill’s masterful tarp over the Taj Mahal. The wind changed and the surf was rough and the bluebottles blew in. Bill and Irene were stung but I fortunately avoided that mishap. It was then time to leave and catch the early bus from Ballina back to Southport. At my window in the bus was what I thought was a dead Dragonfly. How beautiful they are with their gossamer wings and iridescent bodies. As we drove along I realised it was not dead but half frozen, so by the time we got to Byron Bay I had captured it and was able to release it into the warm outside where it flew off quickly. I felt I had done my good deed for the day. Dragonflies symbolise change and transformation, good luck and living life to the fullest. Maybe this will be a lucky year after all.
I left my smaller tent with Bill and Irene so if they want to make some quick excursions they can use that tent.
Back in Southport I met up with Donna and we had a small shopping expedition to Pacific Fair. I wore my mask the whole time ( one of the few doing so) while I wrestled with the call to get CoVid tested. I had been in Victoria on the 21st December which was the date when cases of CoVid were identified. Even though I had been here for 9 days already and was symptom free the Qld government was calling for everyone to get tested. I went the next day and once again was impressed by the efficiency, and pleasantness of staff. It was an hour and a half waiting during which time we were given information about the process and CoVid itself , along with bottles of water, and we were able to log our personal contact information by QR code so when we reached the top of the line to get temperature tested the information was on the computer. Then it was show your Medicare card, followed by questioning by a nurse and then about five minutes later the actual test. Uncomfortable for 30 seconds and I was free. It was 2pm. Again the results were promised within 72 hours at the latest but arrived the next morning at 4.40 am by text! Brilliant. Now I am free to go out and about and visit Brisbane with a clear conscience. Holiday happening again!
If I had any lingering thoughts about staying at Flat Rock, a photo on Instagram of Ziggy and Marlo laughing together was the clincher. If I have learnt nothing else in 2020 it is how precious our friends and family are. I loved my visit with Bill and Irene and in normal times I would be there still. It just isn’t normal anymore or not yet at least.