I know, it’s been a long time between blogs. Almost six months to be precise. I’ve made several attempts to start writing, but each time I’ve come up smack bang against the mental wall of denial and disbelief. It’s been too hard to put the reality of the situation down on paper. But…as they say, it is what it is.
Just like everyone else on the planet, our world changed in March this year due to Covid. Our Indonesian visas were about to expire after 6 months, and we needed to leave the country in order to renew them. So we booked a 3-week trip back home to see family and get our new visas at the same time. We took Toucan up the river in Sorong to Helena Marina and gave her a good clean and locked her up, then made our way to the airport. The rest is pretty much history. One week after getting back to Sydney, the borders slammed shut and here we’ve been ever since – separated from our home, and with our cruising life in suspension for who knows how long.
In truth, it could have been far worse. We could have been stuck in a foreign country with no visible means of support and a high risk of contracting Covid. Our hearts go out to the many cruisers around the world who’ve found themselves in impossible situations, unable to stay but with nowhere to go. One friend of ours in Sorong has been separated from his wife since March, when she flew to the UK to be with a sick relative. Other owners stuck overseas, whose boats are at the limit of their legal stay in Indonesia (3 years) have to get their boats out before copping huge fines for over-staying (up to $20,000 per month). But if you can’t get in, how do you get out??
For us, we’re in the next best place apart from being aboard Toucan – we’re safe and have our family and friends around us, and they’ve been simply AMAZING! For the first few weeks we desperately clung to the belief we could find a way, any way, to get back to Sorong. Every day Bruce would come up with a new scheme – ‘Maybe we can buy a cheap boat and sail it back?’, ‘What about chartering a light plane?’. All very illegal of course, and becoming more ‘007’-ish with each passing day. The idea of two sixty-something-year-olds parachuting into Sorong under cover of darkness was the final straw. ‘NO!! Just accept that we have no option; we have to stay and be patient.’
Everyone has been incredibly generous in offering help. After ‘couch-surfing’ with our youngest son and fiancé and various friends for the first few weeks, Jackie and Ron offered us their granny flat in exchange for Bruce’s handyman skills around the property. It’s been a godsend, and what a beautiful view to wake up to every morning.
Geoff Sherman (aka The Pirate), who joined us in the Caribbean and across the Pacific, has loaned us his car on a semi-permanent basis – another godsend.
Others have loaned us winter clothes (we only came for 3 weeks, remember, with a wardrobe of mostly t-shirts and shorts), invited us to dinners and lunches and shared laughter and wine. We feel incredibly blessed to be supported and surrounded by such wonderful people. It’s a difficult and disorienting time for everyone – Melbournians are enduring their second lockdown, interstate borders are still mostly closed, and many people are struggling mentally and financially. What extraordinary times we live in.
The other day I read a phrase I hadn’t come across before – ‘the liminal state’. Liminal means ‘threshold’ in Latin, and describes a state of transition, or suspension, between one place and the next, or between one stage of life and the next. It seems an apt description for what we’re all experiencing during this time when the world has stopped – this state of suspension, waiting, waiting, for it to be over, to go back to our lives and normal activities (but will it ever be ‘normal’ again?).
So how do you function when there’s no certainty – when days stretch into weeks and weeks into months? Luckily, Jackie has plenty of work to keep Bruce busy. For me, it’s about finding things to occupy myself and maintain a good routine. It’s been impossible to go back to psychology as I can’t commit to a foreseeable timeframe. Instead, I’ve been getting back into daily yoga, daily walks, and completing a course in proofreading (something I can continue to do remotely when we’re back on the boat). It’s good for my body and brain and helps me feel productive.
Who knows what the future holds? We’re still hopeful of getting back to Toucan by the end of this year, and we know she’s safe where she is (albeit in need of a lot of TLC). But we’re questioning our plans after that. We’d intended to keep travelling west, but we suspect the world post-Covid is going to look very different with so much poverty and desperation wreaking havoc amongst disadvantaged populations. Depending on the season, we may stay longer in Raja Ampat (there’s still so much more diving we want to do!), but perhaps we’ll retrace our steps east into the Pacific or make our way back to explore our home waters once more.
All we can do right now is stay hopeful, appreciate the small pleasures life provides for us every day, and be thankful for our wonderful family and friends. Stay safe everyone.