We’ve, Heike & I managed to arrive at the half-way point!
Actually, as I am writing these lines it’s only FOUR MORE SLEEPS …..
Certainly a major highlight in these rather monotonous days here t Howard Springs.
…. so how to celebrate? A party? – out of question! Dancing naked in a tropical rain-shower? – out of question as the facemask would disintegrate in no time.
A stiff drink or three? – out of que….. wait perhaps??
Of course we all know and ADHERE to the non-alcohol rule here at Howard Springs quarantine. This was clearly expressed in the pre-travel info and in all other leaflets being thrushted into our reluctant hands. However, in hindsight nobody checked any luggage. So perhaps a little foresight enabled us to smuggle a tiny little bit of Fernet Branca into our camp. but Pssssst! don’t tell. Our excuse would have been something along these lines: “ …sorry Officer, this is indeed a medication. It’s a medicinal syrup, made out of a secret concoction of many herbs, very good for digestion and onset of mental struggle ….” alternatively we probably would have fought over who would be allowed to just gobble it up in front of the official at the control point. “ …with my greatest of pleasures, Officer …. hicks ….”
But, as said before, nobody controlled any luggage. So this little gem survived, ready to be enjoyed for this somewhat decadent occasion! But, how to consume? Drinking it directly from our little bottle seems not commensurate to the event appropriately, even border-lining on cultural bolshevism. But we didn’t bring any Schnapps glasses or alike …? So, but as pressure is the mother of invention, we look for an alternative. and here it as: the alternative: our 500ml plastic water bottles …
Taking a closer look. I can see a Schnappsglas right there! Screw the lid on tightly, cut the bottle 3-fingers width under its top and “voila!” a Schnappsglas. Now we’ve got all the necessary implements to celebrate Bergfest!
Although, Saturday just passed we had another highlight! Would we have had a third one, I’d call it a ‘hat trick’ … but, alas, two-in-a-row are welcome too J.
Ahhh, well we got our allocated pool sessions! Yes! – you read right! – a swimming pool session – all Covid safe… Hmmh, not sure, fortunately I haven’t read any research how long this virus does survive in water, so my mind remains in blissful ignorance about possible dangers. … Pool is on!
So, all 18 of us are frog-marched, masks-on, through the village/camp might be the better word, but I just finished a book dealing with the Holocaust, so ‘camp’ has currently a rather unwanted connotation on my mind (and keyboard).
But, back to better thoughts. We wander through previously forbidden grounds, locks are unbolted, gates swing open. Soon we arrive in the same hall, we were waiting upon our arrival-processing procedure. We recognise a known landmark. A few more meters, another opening gate and here we are: a large, almost serene looking swimming pool. A single young man in life-saver outfit , under a shady roof, will watch over our safety and that we don’t behave like little naughty children. But, we do! Practising – repeatedly – ‘ze bomb’ attempting to create the highest splash. Don’t forget, many in our group are well past the forties … next an underwater-diving-the-longest competition. Mary wins this with ease, I come second. In-between floating with a noodle under my bum in the water, enjoying the soft (must have added salt) and refreshing element.
The allocated 45 minutes are over and nobody ever went out of the water during this time. Again our names are checked of the clipboard, fresh facemasks are handed out then donned and hands are sterilized. A happy bunch of quarantinees, big grins, albeit hidden under a mask, wonder back to their camp, still revelling in this delightful highlight.
So, who are the ‘other quarantinees’?
In our allocated twice 20 minutes masked walk around the fenced-off camp, although nobody checks this time, one greets another. Almost everybody sits on their common veranda space, hoping for a breeze to cool down their hot bods. There appears to be a block of neighbouring huts with single females, one with single males, one families with kids. Couples like us, are sprinkled about, however more towards the single female accommodation – a buffer perhaps? Naahh, not necessary, as everybody behaves friendly and well. A true representation of “we are all in this together”!
After a few days, faces become more and more familiar. From a nod, or a brief polite “goodday”, conversations emerge and one learns more about each other. By far the main questions asked are: ‘Where are you from?’ (always from Melbourne!), ‘Where will you go after?’ (equating to ‘why are you here in the first place?’) and ‘How many days left?’
The latter, one learns, is a loaded question ….
Loaded as a bunch of people about to leave the quarantine will set off a trash&treasure frenzy by those remaining. Imagine that many here try to make their fortnight as comfortable as possible. K-Mart, Woolies and Coles are only a ‘Click & Collect’ away. A troup of workers stands on the ready to pick-up the orders from these shops and delivers them right to your veranda-step. So, stuff is accumulated. Upon leaving the camp not everything will fit into the swollen suitcase, so it stays back, sitting forlorn on the veranda, waiting to be collected by its new owner. Camping-beds, waffle-makers (strictly not allowed), brooms, wading pools (neither allowed) and all kinds of other stuff changes its owner. So the remaining quarantinees now can make their life a tad more comfortable. All what you have to do, get up early and hunt …
An eclectic mix of people await the end of their quarantine. Some are travelling to Adelaide to see their loved ones, ageing parents or recently born babies, others literally re-locate to Darwin. This indeed has topsy-turveyed the Darwin rental market: almost no vacancies ~2%. Others are on their way to Sydney for a job, and some even have Grandfinal tickets fro Brisbane. Of course, there is also the odd local returning home to Darwin and, just as everybody else, have to endure 14-days quarantine. A bunch of expensively tattooed boys are here to travel onwards to the Bathurst 1000 Race. They are mechanics and this was the only way to make it to their job. Did I mention that “Karen from Brighton’ is here as well. Not here real name – fortunate foresight of the Chanel 9 camera team when first deeming her statement about the 5km radius newsworthy. Seemingly a nice person indeed. Heike and I will do some travelling in NT combining it with some business finding new places, routes, ultimately tours and establishing the necessary contacts.
However, to get here in the first place, all of us had to engage with the same procedure: book a flight to Darwin – 72hrs prior to departure lodge their Border-Entry form online with the NT government – await a non-negative response – proceed to the airport – be scrutinised by VIC border-force personnel right on the gate – finally, hoping onto the rather full plane, masked up, rubbing shoulders for 4 hrs to Darwin. Get off – being scrutinised again, this time by NT border force people, all very friendly – collect your luggage – be herded on a bus and driven out here: Howard Springs.
It was almost 5 o’clock arvo and we had been travelling since 10.30. A long queue was formed, in anticipation of more processing. This proceeded in snail pace, understaffed I reckon. Tocurtail this waiting and shuffling-forward period snacks were handed out curbing the arising hunger, as there had been no food on the plane. Probably around seven-ish, almost dark outside, a blue-plastic-coated men, woman? guided us to our accommodation. You’ve seen it in my first post. Then food was delivered.
However, in all honesty, my expectations of this quarantine have been exceeded!
Yes, that’s true! All staff is extremely friendly. Our temperature is checked daily, always with a banter and laughter. Today, for the first time, I guessed mine right! 36,4 – meaning all good. We get texts/phone calls inquiring about our well-being, a weekly feedback sheet, stable internet connection, reasonable (certainly plenty of) food, any questions answered, any request followed-up almost immediately, food & groceries delivered. This context certainly contributes big-time to my sense of bearing reasonably well with this 14-day quarantine. It is better than jail!! But, in contrast I can’t help wondering about the Vic and NSW Hotel quarantine!?? Imagine, or recall the last time you were in a Hotel … Probably one large room, dominated by a big bed, a writing desk, a window you can’t open, an air-conditioning you can’t regulate, a TV, and … that’s about it. 20 minutes/day you may be allowed outside. Imagine being in this room. Many were there with their partner, perhaps even a child, two? One partner may even had to work from the room’s desk … and absolutely no escape! How on earth can one suffer through such an ordeal and not being mentally impacted? How many partnerships did suffer, break? Really, an utter stupid idea!! Controlled home detention would be much more bearable and most probably less expensive. Not only was the implementation in Victoria shite, moreover the entire idea of hotel quarantine is double-shite!! All these who can’t remember that they discussed, not to speak DECIDED on it – all of them ought to be in there themselves, to feel how outrageously stupid this idea was and IS!
Rant over …..