Our Big Lap - NSW
NSW - tick! Been there, done that. 12 hours in the car was all it needed.
Not long after COVID-19 lockdown, March/April 2020, we started to make real plans for our long-term idea of travelling during a school term. It seemed to be the right time. Andrew was working from home, with no pressing return to the office, my work is some-what portable, if not at least flexible and the kids were a good age (if there is such a thing). William will be starting High School in 2022, so we figured time out of school before then would be best. When Andrew's boss and the school principal both OK'd the idea, we set the ball in motion, with all plans really hinging on the covid border closures and travel restrictions down the track.
We kept a peripheral eye on the state of covid affairs, but things would change so quickly, as the virus would spike in certain areas, and disappear from others, We were definitely never going to have any real concrete plans in place. We just knew we would probably be avoiding Victoria (sorry guys!). However, travelling anywhere over Christmas/New Year, requires an in-advance booking. So we settled on Kangaroo Island then Aldinga Beach, South Australia, and hoped for the best. I had fallen in love with KI, during our Christmas holidays last year. We were there in Jan '20, when the bushfires flared up really badly, affecting most of the island (which is a story for another time). I was pleased we were booked to visit the caravan park we had missed out 11 months earlier.
So, we're booked in, have caravan, have permission, borders are open. All was good. Until the month before our departure date, and Adelaide gets covid. SA locks down! With still weeks before our bookings, and restrictions changing daily, I tried not to pay any attention, until the week before we were due to leave. And sure enough, by then it was good again. We didn't even need to complete a border application pass to enter SA!
The week lead up was hectic. School finished on Wednesday (I still don't get that - that is not the end of the week :P ), there was a flat tyre in there somewhere, eating up precious hours, and I was doing my best to finish off editing sessions, and get orders out before we left. By Thursday I thought about packing the van (we were planning to leave on Sunday - that's enough time to pack for a 4 month trip, right?) Apparently someone in Sydney's Northern Beaches had tested positive, but it's fine, because the premier says they want to keep borders open for Christmas. Friday a few more people were added to the "cluster" and suddenly we needed a border pass for SA again. Saturday things were getting worse, and we just wanted to pack up and get out ASAP. During the week Andrew had been working on the exterior lights on the caravan, there was some problem with a fuse or something. So Sunday, we just needed to put in the few last minute things (like clothes for any of us), and we could be off. But of course, not before there is more tweaking the van lights and a heck load of tidying up in the house.
Eventually we were on our way!! We drove for a good hour before stopping for lunch - as you do when you don't leave home 'til 20 past 12. And guess what, another blown fuse *face palm*. We unloaded the contents of the boot, to the side of the road, to access the fuse panel. Andrew did his magic, and we were on the road again. We drove another good 30 minutes, before we received a call from my brother in law. He & my nephew were already on the road, heading to Narrandera. We would meet them there and travel together for Christmas & New Year. He said he'd been informed that South Australia's border would close at midnight and anyone entering from Greater Sydney after that would have to quarantine for 2 weeks.
What does that mean? State your source please! A quick google search revealed several recent news articles and clips confirming the midnight cut-off. D'oh! OK. "Greater Sydney". What's included there? Surely sleepy ol' Wilton doesn't count? Sux to be them though, my b-i-l lives in the CBD :( OK Google - how far away from SA are we? 9 hours, 36 minutes. ETA 11:30pm. Oh easy! Time to spare! "Boy's, you don't need to pee, right?" "OK, we'll go for it" said Andrew, "but we may not be able to drive in the dark". The fuse wasn't actually fixed at the last stop, but we would just have to wait and see what happened.
I tell you, that was the fastest 9+ hours I've ever spent in a car. Sorry Narrandera, hope to visit you next time, but we were going straight for the border. We had to try. Google (and the internet coverage) was our friend. I did as much research as I could - which was the fastest route? Where were the border checkpoints actually located? Can we still go through VIC (Mildura), to get to SA? Is there another border crossing from Wentworth? Where will our pit-stops be? How far can we go on fuel? I relayed all useful info to Andrew and my b-i-l. The boys enjoyed as much screen time as their hearts desired, and took their toilet breaks in record time :D After I'd spoken with local SA police we knew our best options were through VIC, which would be quickest, but they had their own restrictions coming in place, or cross over past Wentworth, north of Mildura. They confirmed this road included 128km section of dirt. Given that our van is as old as me, this was not a completely appealing option, but it's what we chose against the unknown of needing to pass through another state instead. We also confirmed the 30 minute SA/NSW time difference would work in our favour :)
11:42pm, pitch black, dirt road, in a very unspectacular fashion, we pass a sign that says "Welcome to South Australia". There was not another soul in sight! We did it, we were across the border before midnight, no checkpoint, no questions, no worries. Now to find a place to stay. I was searching WikiCamps when my brother in law rang. He was about 15 minutes ahead of us. "So, there is a checkpoint here, and I just need some further information..." What?!? You can't put a checkpoint 30mins on the wrong side of the border! We won't get there before midnight! Oh my goodness, we've come all this way! What are they going to say? Oh, but don't forget the time difference! I glanced at the time on my phone, which automatically updated - still only 11:40 something pm. The car clock said its nearly 20 past 12am. So, almost exactly 12 hours since we'd left home, we were granted access into South Australia - 10 minutes before midnight, local time ;)