We were in Cue of the Western Australian goldfields when the Northern Territory Minister announced they were closing the borders for possibly six months. This put a pause to our travel plans as we were heading north and planned to eventually cross over into the NT and then to Darwin.
Then the Western Australian Premier stated that “Anyone planning to travel to Western Australia – DON’T!” Yes, well what about all the people who were already in Western Australia travelling around in caravans and vans? His message placed an attitude of “you are not welcome”.
Then both the South Australian borders and Western Australian borders were going to be closed on Tuesday 24 March. So, we decided then and there on Sunday at 3pm to pack up and make a dash for the border. It would be a close call as we were a long way away: 1,643 kilometres.
I really think that the state premiers did not consider the caravanners at all and made no concessions for us. We don’t have a home to return to because it is currently rented out. And many caravanners just own their caravan and that is their permanent home. If the premiers had said to the travelers that you have 72 hours if you wish to return to your home state, otherwise make plans to stay somewhere for a while that would have been a sensible prospect. We considered going to the coast near Geraldton where we might have to stay, and I even contacted a caravan park and paid a deposit. But of course, we didn’t know how long it would be and if either of us did contract the virus then it would be difficult being so far from family, etc. So, we dashed.
We travelled for three and a half days nonstop except for nighttime roadside stops to sleep. We didn’t shower and our only contact with other people was a brief hello at roadside stops, petrol stations, and buying food and coffee. We travelled 3,440 kilometres to arrive at Mick’s brothers house in Horsham where we can self-isolate effectively for fourteen days.
The unseen problem for the travelers was that the announcement stated the border as the place of closure: South Australia by 4pm. So, we assumed like everyone else that this meant the actual border at BorderVillage near Eucla.
On the Tuesday morning we woke early at 4am and so decided we may as well drive on to the border crossing that was only about 300 kilometres away. We drove in the dark through fog watching for kangaroos. It was tense. Hundreds of caravans and other vans were camped at the roadside stops as we passed.
At the border there was nothing, no checking, no stoppages and we drove straight through into South Australia. There was a long queue of caravans waiting to be checked coming through to Western Australia. We were confused, until I received a message from a fellow traveler who said they got through the checkpoint at Ceduna okay. Ceduna! At the other end of the Nullarbor Plain! That was at least five hours away: 482 kilometres!
We dashed. The road on the Nullarbor Plain is narrow with no aprons, uneven and windy in places. And there were literally thousands of cars, caravans, vans, road trains, and wide load trucks speeding for the borders in both directions. It was so dangerous. If the State Premiers had stopped to think they would have seen the absurdity of mobilizing all these people unnecessarily. I’m sure most of these people would have been happy to stay put in a designated place if given the option. So instead all these people were just adding further potential for spreading the virus across the borders.
How many got caught out thinking they would make the border in time only to realise belatedly that the check point was not actually at the SA border, I can only guess.
We made the checkpoint at Ceduna with forty-five minutes to spare, weren’t questioned by police, didn’t have to fill in a statutory declaration, and didn’t have to officially commit to the fourteen days of self-isolation. But all those travelers behind us – where were they going to self-isolate?
I took photos of the sky as we traveled. Beautiful rainbows splashed across the sky several times and I took this as a promise of right decisions and good things ahead.
We arrived in Renmark close to the Victorian border and got into a caravan park there. The lady spoke to me over the phone as she was in the office behind the closed door. She asked if our caravan was self-contained, which it is. And although we could use the caravan park amenities, I think she was preparing for a time where the park closes and the caravanners must fend for themselves on site. It is a lovely caravan park on the banks of the Murray River and in different times we would stay longer. But in the morning, we decided to get over the border into Victoria at least just in case they decide to close that border too.
In contact with our family, we decided to head for Horsham where we could be self-sufficient and self-isolate just to be sure we hadn’t picked up the germ in transit somewhere.
We are lucky to be able to park our caravan, hook up to power and water, and have the use of a little cabin that is on the property. We really appreciate this in these challenging times. We shopped for groceries at the local store, and now are into our own lockdown.
After a good sleep I got up to do some yoga, have a shower in the caravan, and do some clothes washing, while Mick washes the mud and red dirt off the car and caravan.
Our planned once-in-a-lifetime Big Lap of Australia ended. Hopefully Mick and Sues Aussie Adventure can continue in the future once this virus pandemic has run its course (and we survive).