Suddenly my visit to Sydney was over and it was time to leave for Brisbane. However, a few days before my departure from Sydney, I received a rather concerning text. Cathay Pacific had informed me my flight from Brisbane to Hong Kong was cancelled on the 5th of March and that I would have to leave on the 2nd of March from Brisbane, the day after I arrived there. This basically meant I would arrive lunchtime one day and depart 9 am the next morning giving me no time with my friends. Fortunately, I had a dedicated travel agent Andrew at Australien Resor in Stockholm who swiftly sprang into action and solved the problem by the time I arrived in Brisbane. However, the solution would involve returning to Sydney to catch a flight to Hong Kong on the 4th.
Now the reason for this chaos as I mentioned in the beginning of the posts regarding this trip was a nasty little virus called SARS-CoV-2 or as we would get to know it, Covid-19. Prior to leaving Sweden I had been discussing with my travel agent the risks of flying via Hong Kong because of the democracy riots where twice the protestors had invaded the Hong Kong airport and managed to shut it down. The word Coronavirus had barely been mentioned prior to my departure and now I was being confronted directly by it 6 weeks later, disrupting my travel. In the 6 weeks I had been away it had gone from Wuhan, China to ravishing Europe. Sweden was beginning to get hit hard as many Swedes had gone on winter break to the ski-fields of Italy and returned with it. The implications of Covid-19 at this time I was blissfully unaware of, but it would end up dominating our lives over the next 2 years. Within a mere 4 weeks of me leaving Sweden the world was beginning to shutdown and the international travel market was beginning to contract very quickly hence my problems with flights.
Anyway I departed Sydney airport for the tropical coast of Queensland the day after Mardi Gras among a mass of hungover Mardi Gras participants heading home. While not participating in the festival, you could not miss it as Sydney had been draped in Rainbow flags for several weeks.
I arrived in Brisbane before my hosts did as they had made a visit to New Zealand prior to my arrival and returned after me. Their lovely daughter took care of me as well as their furbabies and in particular one cat who latched on quite happily, although I suspect as the sole supplier of food, I was a big hit. On my last visit I attended Emma & Ben’s wedding, this time around I got to meet their daughter Arabella. Emma’s sister also announced she would be tying the knot and got the chance to meet her Mitch.
As I said Covid-19 was dominating the news and it just happened my friend Nigel McMillan (Professor of Virology at Griffith University) was one of Australia’s expert spokespersons on the pandemic. Nigel would sporadically disappear into the bowels of the house to give a Zoom interview to news channels educating the world on Covid while we sat on the upper floor of the house following him on TV.
After a few days in Brisbane it was now time to make a mad dash for home. The route would take me from Brisbane to Sydney, on to Hong Kong with a stop there for a few hours before heading for Copenhagen via London Heathrow. I arrived into a deserted Hong Kong airport early evening, and found I was almost the only one in the Cathay Pacific Business class lounge which normally be buzzing with 200-300 passengers awaiting flights. Much the same greeted me on my arrival into Heathrow. A sign that the world and everything was beginning to shut down. After a quick visit to the duty free to acquire more Game of Thrones whiskey for my collection, it was onto the flight for Copenhagen. As our flight prepared to depart we were treated to the view of an early morning landing of a British Airways A380. I have been trying to get a flight on an A380 for almost 10 years but have never managed it. One day, one day I will manage it! As the flight climbed out over the English countryside we had magnificent views of Windsor Castle and cruised high above the clouds out over the North Sea towards Copenhagen as we retraced the same route I traveled in the opposite direction just a few weeks ago.
Home at last and glad to be back to spring as it had been the depths of winter when I left. My colleagues even manage a joke at my expense on my return to work, turning my office into a bio-hazard zone complete with assistant Billy to help me 🙂 I would only realise within a few days of my return how lucky I had been in getting back. I touched down in Europe on the 5th March and the Schengen borders closed on the 9th of March. Had I not come when I did, I would not have been able to get back for the better part of 6 months. Not long after Europe closed its borders, New Zealand did the same and their borders would remain closed for almost 520 days as they had managed to keep Covid out through strict quarantine lock-down measures towards the outer world. I could well have been stuck there. Unknown to me at the time it would be 3 years almost to the day before I would get the opportunity to fly home again due to the chaos in the international travel market and the lack of flights (Feb 2023, I will be heading down under). In the time that has passed, Covid-19 has ravished Sweden with approx 20 500 deaths as of today (Oct 2022). Thank god for the vaccine for it could have been worse. Even after 3 doses and 2.5 years of safe distancing, I succumb to one of the Omicron variants in the summer of 2022. It was no walk in the park. Little fever but terrible joint & muscle pain and a hacking cough depriving one of sleep for almost 2 weeks. The after effects of shortness of breath and lack of energy persisted for almost 6 weeks. Anyway this brings the posts on the 2020 trip down under to a close. On to postings of adventures since then and the preparation for the next visit to Kiwiland 2023
Keep safe everyone.