November 23rd, 2020Out of the frying pan …into ???
“Out of the frying pan…into ???. In the first of our series, Trentham’s Peter Young talks about his near escape to New South Wales and southern Queensland.
A FLUKE of timing saw my wife Sally and I spend most of Victoria’s lockdown in a 19×7 foot aluminium box trundling around pleasant climes in northern NSW and southern Queensland.
Our annual grey and bald nomad trek to skip Trentham’s Winter saw us head north across state borders just before they closed.
We had mixed feelings during 116 days of caravan travel, wondering whether we should discreetly smudge mud on them to disguise our Victorian number plates.
We were relieved to be in what were low coronavirus risk environments compared to home.
We felt slightly guilty gambolling about in shorts and T-shirts while family, friends and neighbours were doing it tough in Melbourne and Victoria.
And then there was something I would never have expected as a white, elderly, privileged and probably entitled (ew…this coffee has beans which were burned and is too cold!) Australian male (what we used to call the “pale, male and stale” demographic in my corporate days).
We occasionally felt like despised Australian refugees in our own country.
There was the road worker in southern NSW who gave us the finger and shouted obscenities about going back where we came from; the man in a NSW service station who stood toe to toe shrieking at me that we had no right being there and letting me know he had photographed our number plates and was alerting police; the frequent embarrassed pauses when we dutifully filled in cafe and shop coronavirus tracing forms while staff stepped back, cleared their throats and said: “Oh…that’s…a Victorian postcode!”.
One major chain caravan park where we had pre-booked sent a message saying we were no longer welcome (not in words that blunt, but I can read between the lines).
A TV bulletin we saw early on incorrectly reported Victorians were being ordered home and an angry letter to an editor demanded that Victorians who had poured into NSW just before the border closed (e.g., us!) be rounded up and sent home.
And I was reminded, when arriving in Queensland, of a day back in the 1970s when I crossed the Berlin Wall into East Germany through Checkpoint Charlie.
As we approached the border in stop-start, bumper-to-bumper traffic, our Victorian rego plates were spotted and police ushered us off the highway into what I called “the lane of shame” – a sorry straggle of Victorian vehicles lined up by the freeway.
A burly cop eventually appeared, took our drivers’ licences, looked at us, looked at them, looked at us…and then asked for our Queensland Border Permit. A passport to travel within Australia.
He then examined our documents and receipts proving we had been in NSW and not Victoria for the past month, smiled nicely, and said: “You folk have done the right thing, welcome to Queensland”.
However, having noted all of the above, we were more often welcomed with either sympathy and concern about “poor Victoria” and, quite frequently, with “thank goodness you have brought your tourism dollars here – we are really missing our Victorian visitors”.
Back home now, and pleased to be here, despite some apprehension around the place about the horde of Melburnians descending on us.
Knowing how we were made to feel in our own country up north, we are making them feel welcome.
As long as they mask up, socially distance and use sanitiser.
Above, Sunshine Coast hinterland
Words & image: Peter Young
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