Tales of Travel in the Trans-Tasman Bubble

Author DaQua ◦

Farewell’s bade and hugs all-round the excitement of flying again was building – it was time to leave the Covid comfort of the Territory, relative to the rest of the world, and try out the Trans-Tasman Travel Bubble that had taken so much time, patience, and negotiation to bring into being.

Living in the Territory, albeit on a temporary basis, was, in the early months of the Covid -19 Pandemic not dissimilar to living in a bubble – with very tight police controlled restrictions on the movement of people in and out of our town of Alice Springs, and the remote communities of Central Australia. This early action, kept us safe, as we watched with disbelief and horror at the unfolding events in neighbouring states, and many countries across the world, as Covid -19 spread far and wide.

Over the past 18 months, we have all had to adjust, in our own way, to our own personal circumstances, in our own time. Many separated from loved ones, both within Australia, and much, much, farther afield. I for one, had been used to being a ‘global granny,’ frequently travelling across the hemispheres, from north to south and back again, visiting with my children and grandchildren in Alice, Australia and in Dunedin, New Zealand; leaving my parents, now in their mid 80s, my home, business, and extended family and friends behind in Wales – taking for-granted the ease with which I could return…….. with which I could fly.

Today’s flights were not only going to fly me from Alice Springs to Melbourne but then on to Auckland, New Zealand. A safe travel bubble. All the permissions and travel authorities in place there was little between me and my kiwi family now, but the vast deserts of the interior and the breadth of the ditch – the Tasman Sea.

Despite my appreciation of the impact of Covid -19, well, as much as is possible when gleaned from news reports and family and friends around the world, nothing quite prepared me for the sight of all the grounded aircraft glinting in the sun as we thundered down the Alice Springs runway and took to the skies. A silent engine salute to the aircraft still flying and a sober silent reminder of just how Covid-19 has clipped our wings.

Taking off from Alice Springs airport by Da Qua

The flight crew, from behind their masks and latex gloves, did their utmost to remain upbeat and welcoming. It was reassuring. It wasn’t a long flight, I relaxed into the view of the expanses of the landmass beneath, the heartbeat of Central Australia, the gathering clouds and with it the setting sun as we began our descent into Melbourne.

And then 15 minutes before landing came the announcement from the flight manager…

“…..would those passengers connecting to flights to Auckland please illuminate your call button.”

In a lightening flash of thoughts I had already explored the possibility of being advised that – the borders have closed – the bubble has burst – the flight is being turned around – before finally breathing again, (Thank you Mid Merry Yoga), and settling on the most sensible deduction – given we were delayed out of Alice and currently stacked above the flight path in a holding pattern waiting to descend to that final approach – could it have been possible that after all this time we fellow passengers had missed our connection to launch into the Bubble and over the Ditch??

Was the sun really going down on the rest of my planned journey to New Zealand?

A further announcement was made as our descent began.

“Would all passengers kindly remain seated when the seat belt sign is switched off, to allow for our passengers with International connections to New Zealand to disembark first and swiftly.”

The hike from the domestic terminal to the international terminal was a route march – at great speed. One fellow passenger who caught up with me at the International terminal hand-luggage security belt, exclaimed that he had been trying to keep up with me and thought that he could walk fast. “Ah well this granny hasn’t seen her boys for over two years and I am not missing this connection.” We laughed – a true moment of connection and understanding passed between us – he too was flying to see his family after three years of being apart. I felt thankful the ‘timing’ of my last visits with all my global family had not been as long as that.

I thought about him long after he had waved goodbye cheerfully, smiling with that big open Islander smile as he boarded the Air New Zealand flight at the next gate. Glancing around my own fellow passengers respectfully keeping their distance, and wearing their masks, as we boarded our own flight, I could see that the majority of those patiently taking their seats were of a certain age – the age of older parents and grandparents. Some may say that’s most of the kiwi population, but joking apart, I wondered if their hearts were beating quite as fast as mine – I wondered if their families were waiting – I wondered if his family was waiting – like mine.

For those contemplating the trip across the Tasman in the Bubble be prepared for the possibility of changes to flights, border controls, self-quarantine and Covid-19 testing requirements – even after landing.

We are travelling across borders in a different age – the Coming of Age of Covid-19, but as long as we are prepared for the consequences of the uncertainty that this holds we can get out there and see our families, and support our own and our neighbour’s tourism industry and vital local businesses.

Fly High , Fly Safe, Da Qua