I worked in Cape Tribulation until November, and then my time in Australia was coming to a close. I had always planned on returning to Canada in December – my visa expires in January, and I wanted to be home for Christmas.
I left my job at the end of November and spent the last couple of weeks exploring more of beautiful Queensland. Highlights included:
Visiting the outback with my friend Sarah:
We went along something called the “Dinosaur Trail”, based on an area in the outback where they’ve found a ton of dinosaur fossils:
Going through the Atherton Tablelands, a stunning region close to Cairns. I spent a lot of time camping, birding, and looking at waterfalls:
Hanging out around Cairns at my other friend Sarah’s place, and selling my beloved Subie (it was very bittersweet!):
From Cairns I flew south. It had taken me over two months to drive from Sydney to Cairns, with many stops along the way; it took just a few hours to fly back. I loved this flight because for much of it, you could see the Great Barrier Reef:
I spent three days in Sydney, staying with my cousin Richard once again! (He hosted me three times this year – a very kind human!). I touristed around the city a little bit, managed to see my friend Mary again, and had the most amazing final dinner with Richard.
And then… I was off.
Flying during a pandemic was a very strange experience. The Sydney International terminal was abandoned – I was the only person in line at check-in and security, and didn’t see another passenger until I reached my gate. It was a big plane but only had twenty-five people on it (the flight attendants nearly outnumbered us). Everyone got their own row, plus several empty rows around them in each direction. Since there were so few of us, we also got double blankets, pillows, and snacks! (Score!)
I had a brief layover at L.A.X., where I was stunned at how many people there were. Everyone was wearing a mask, but a lot of people seemed to forget about social distancing when they were standing in lines or more crowded areas. The plane was about 2/3 full; almost everyone had an empty seat between them and the next person. From the conversations going on around me, it seemed that most of the people on plane had either been on holiday or visiting family across the country. I kept my distance from everyone as much as I possibly could.
I had a second layover in Washington D.C.; my plane from L.A. landed late, so I had to race to make it to my gate (I got there just as boarding began). It was a much smaller flight, and to get on this one (which was Canada-bound) you had to have either a Canadian passport or exemption papers; they also checked everybody’s temperature before you were allowed to board.
Everyone got on board, and then…. we sat. For nearly an hour, without moving away from the gate. Finally, they announced that a bird had somehow gotten into the cockpit with the pilots, who were trying to figure out how to get it out.
After half an hour more, they had everybody disembark. They still couldn’t get the bird out (somehow it had burrowed itself into the plane). It was both hilarious (especially for a bird-lover like me, who secretly loved that this bird had managed to claim the plane for itself) and alarming (I was about put my life into the hands of people who had been bested by a sparrow).
They got a new plane ready for us, re-boarded everyone, and then, after a three-hour delay, we were finally on our way. We landed in Toronto without too much fuss. The Toronto airport was empty – the people on my flight were the only ones around. From there I took a cab to the apartment where I’ll be undergoing the mandatory, two-week quarantine for anyone entering Canada from abroad.
I am halfway through my quarantine now and it’s going smoothly so far. I imagined it would be a great time to get some work done and be really productive; instead I’ve mostly slept, watched TV, and played games via Zoom with family and friends. That’s okay. It’s a very strange ending to a very strange year.
Ultimately, I am so glad that I was in Australia for 2020. It had a lot of highs and lows, but it was an adventure unlike anything I could have predicted. I’ll always remember where I was and what I was doing during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m especially glad that I had the last few months in Queensland, where COVID cases were practically nonexistent, life was almost normal, and the weather was beautiful.
I don’t know when my next adventure will be. Probably not for a while, as I can’t see myself travelling again until a vaccine is in widespread use and/or travel is deemed safe. But, until that time comes, I’ll make the most of being close to my family and friends again and try to enjoy Ontario (my home province; I don’t think I’ve spent a full year here since I was 17). And I’ve got two full journals and thousands of photos, to help recall every moment from my first trip to Oz.
Thank you, Australia, and all the mates I’ve met this past year – it’s been a beaut!