The Great Escape – Victoria to Queensland amid COVID-19

Farewell Victoria!

Prior to COVID-19 arriving in Australia, we had decided to sell our home of 22 years in Victoria and relocate to warmer Queensland.  With border crossings between States and Territories restricted (in the hope of curbing the spread of COVID-19 throughout Australia) we were confident of being able to arrive in Qld and follow the Qld Government’s rules. At that time,  anyone who had been in VIctoria in the previous 14 days would need to  ‘self-isolate’  for 14 days on arrival in Qld. Caravan parks in Qld, including the one we had booked, would not allow  anyone self-isolating. After numerous phone calls and online searches we finally booked a remote cabin at a resort in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, which could accomodate us and the caravan.  Indeed, they advertised for people needing to ‘self isolate’ and offered delivery of groceries at our door.  However, as Victoria’s cases of COVID increased these rules changed again such that anyone entering Qld who had been in Victoria in the previous 14 days would have to go into isolation in a designated Quarantine Hotel, under guard. We decided to stay in NSW for the 14 days before entering Qld and so booked a caravan park at Byron Bay on the coast.  NSW did not require us to ‘self isolate’, so that seemed a pleasant place to wait.  Suddenly, the COVID-19 cases in Victoria exploded and the caravan park sent us notification that our booking had been cancelled.

We had moved out of our house and into our caravan on the front driveway in preparation for the removalists to pack and load our belongings on the Monday and Tuesday. We would then clean the house and farm shed on the Wednesday and Thursday, drop the second car at the transport company on the Friday and head across the NSW border that afternoon, the 10th July. The new owners of our house would move in on Monday the 13th July.

Things in Victoria became increasingly worrying, with neighbourhoods deemed ‘COVID hotspots’ going into lockdown. On the Monday night the New South Wales premier announced that, to stop the COVID spread to NSW, the border between Vic and NSW would be closed the next day at midnight on the night of Tuesday 7th July. Police and ADF (Australian Defence Force) personnel would guard the crossings. Instead of having 4 days to sort things out at home, we suddenly had just 24 hours to get across the border.

This proved the perfect time to get a car bogged in the back paddock. A tow truck was called after endless attempts with a neighbour’s 4WDs to dislodge it.  (We had sold our beloved tractor the week before.)

Once again, our group of wonderful neighbours (whom we will miss dreadfully) offered to do what ever was needed to enable us to leave in time. With removalists still loading our belongings into the truck on the 7th, and a 4 to 5 hour drive to the NSW border (the caravan slows down the trip), we left the house in the very capable hands of our neighbour Garry to oversee the packing and cleaning and lock up, as well as take our second car to his place until we worked out what to do with it. Cleaners were hurriedly booked while we frantically searched for somewhere in NSW that would allow Victorians  to stay for 2 weeks, and then we left. It was not the farewell we had imagined.

We made it across the NSW border before midnight and stayed overnight at Tocumwal.

At midnight police and the ADF staffed the many border crossings creating delays of several hours. For those unfamiliar with Australia, many of our borders have a country town on either side, with people working in one and living in the other; farmers have paddocks on either side of the borders; health care specialties are often split between two towns due to remoteness. People could go online to get a ‘pass’ to cross the borders (the website crashed many times from the volume), but we had no legitimate reason to cross so would not have received a ‘pass’. Thus, we needed to get across the border before it closed.

Having finally found a NSW caravan park that would take a Victorian for a 2 week stay (thank you Armidale) we travelled to Dubbo for the 2nd night before arriving in Armidale the following day. Tocumwal to Armidale is 955km. 

Our stay in Armidale was very pleasant. Even though we didn’t have to self isolate in NSW, we kept to ourselves. Being self sufficient meant we didn’t need to use the amenities and most of the time we were the only ones in the caravan park. In the afternoons a few vans would arrive and then leave early the next morning. Before COVID hit it was quite normal to sit with other travellers in the evening and share a bottle of wine, exchange stories and often form new friendships. But things are very different now. A distant wave and hello is all that happens.  The weather was so cold that the water hose into our van froze overnight and it was mid morning before it thawed. Reminded us of home!

We got to know the local magpies very well.

Armidale is mostly a cattle farming area, but cotton and sheep are also grown here.

Places we visited around Armidale.

Point Look Out

Oxley River National Park

New England National Park

On 22nd July we left Armidale and headed to the Queensland border. Police and Defence Force personnel guarded the crossing and we had to present proof that we had been in NSW for 14 days. Our folder of receipts from petrol stations and caravan parks was read scrupulously until they were satisfied that we had indeed been out of Victoria for 14 days. With a huge sigh of relieve we crossed into Queensland.

Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast will be our temporary home while we start our search for a new permanent house.

Keep safe and well.

Cheers til next time, Helen and Tim