'Sorry folks, park's closed'
The dream is the same night after night.
It’s the scene from National Lampoon’s Vacation, only instead of Chevy Chase’s beleaguered Clark Griswold finding the turnstiles locked at the entrance to Walley World, I find myself barred from the departure lounge in the international terminal at the airport. The bumbling John Candy has been replaced by a smirking Scott Morrison and the friendly Marty Moose has morphed into our dead-eyed Head Border Nazi Peter Dutton.
“Sorry folks, park’s closed. The moose out front should have told you,“ Scotty sneers to me through the side of his mouth whilst giving a snide wink to the potato-headed moose now standing beside him. Just like the desperate Clark Griswold being pushed beyond the tolerances of any ordinary man by the final petty officialdom standing between himself and his Shangri-La beyond the gates, I reach into the paper bag in my hand and pull out a gun, only this isn’t Clark’s cute little BB gun it’s an oversized Bugs Bunny-style cartoon pistol. I point it into the leader of Australia’s bulbous midriff and feel a wave of revulsion wash over me as he shits his pants - again.
“Listen up, Fat Arse,“ I say to Scotty, “You do what I say and there won’t be any problem. I just sat through six months of lockdown bullshit hanging on the hopes of a little late-season backlit Indo entertainment. The potato says you’re closed, I say you’re open. OK...let’s ride."
Cheerful background music fills in and the scene is transported to a hollow left in tropical warm water, an offshore breeze carries the sweet smell of clove cigarettes and satay ayam into the uncrowded lineup and a gorgeous line of swell starts bending itself towards where I’m waiting at the top of the reef...
...then I wake up.
I wake up to northerlies, sharks, and wobbling windswell. Borders shut. Cut off from the outside world. No chance of Indonesia…my precious.
Our government’s bizarre behaviour in not allowing Australians to exit the country is still in force. The reasoning behind this decision appears to be completely arbitrary and not backed by any medical science. No explanation has ever been put forward attempting to explain why we aren’t allowed to leave the country. If a foreign nation is willing to allow Australians to enter and there is transport available then there doesn’t appear to be a single justifiable argument for having us imprisoned within our own borders.
As long as the travelling surfer is willing to undertake quarantine upon return to Australia and thus ensure there is no threat of spreading the virus then it should not be an issue. If the government is allowing fruit pickers and international students to enter Australia then a returning citizen should never be refused entry. Wait your turn and in you come - this should not be unlawful.
Meanwhile, reports and video of the various travel destinations we would normally frequent are filtering in daily. This visual documentation of the waves we're all missing is having varied effects. Some are pleased that Indonesia is taking a well earned break from the overwhelming culture shock of relentless mass tourism, others empathise with the locals over their plight of having their predominant income stream shut down. Some people delight in the novel sight of seeing those familiar perfect waves roll through a lineup which is not dysfunctionally overcrowded.
There's also a sub-group of wave riders who mostly feel dejection when they lay eyes on the waves they’ve been denied due to overzealous governmental decree.
We all know Kelly has parked up in Bali and is shunting his ever youthful frame through those perfect waves the island is reknowned for. Reactions to his example of the determined tube pig are mixed. Some find the idea of bucking convention and chasing the surfing dream to far flung islands during the time of COVID to be irresponsible and reprehensible. The thought being that even if the travelling surfer themselves is not infected, it portrays a poor example and that we should all restrain and martyr ourselves in a pious show of solidarity.
One thing is for certain, I’m not on my own in pining for a bit of holiday relief. The traditional Aussie urge to spread our wings and GTFO has been seriously curtailed. With the international borders shut our desire to jet to Indo, Fiji, Africa, and Hawaii has been redirected into a flooding of the regions.
Travel website Wotif.com released data showing searches for domestic travel to have shot up. Over this same period during recent years, searches increased 180% for Coffs Coast , 300% for Coral Coast, and 600% (!) percent for the Yorke Peninsula.
Stories of unprecedented crowds have already been flowing back from those areas which normally experience manageable numbers during the winter surf season. The North West desert was reportedly as crowded as a mosh pit - state border restrictions the only thing preventing an invasion of biblical proportions. The South Oz border opening means there will be a flood of East Coast surfers ready to pounce. This may even be compounded by West Oz surfers looking to escape the curse of the Fremantle Doctor. Ironically enough, the Queensland coast might even see a percentage of its locals fleeing south as they attempt to escape the pasty white southerners who intend to chase the golden sunshine and easy living on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts.
All bets are off now that the eternally damned Victorians are finally unleashed from the winter of their discontent.
Evidence of the exodus is already apparent. This little holiday town and the ordinarily quiet November period already looks like the Christmas inundation.
To be honest , I reckon it’s not a totally bad thing having Aussies explore their own backyards. Huey has blessed us with some of the greatest coastline on Earth and a chance to rekindle the good old family camping trip should never be overlooked. Now is a good time to get out that old tent, pack the bikes, fishing rods, and cooking gear, and reacquaint the gang with the good times of an Australian beach holiday. Reintroduce the family to the joys of nature and see if a few days without phone reception allows them to find a world beyond their electronic devices.
Have fun and I’ll catch you later. I’ll be busy filling my thirteen-foot boat with jerry cans as part of a cunning plan to get to Indo by hook or by crook. Life’s too short to miss a year at the best waves on the planet.
Who knows…maybe I’ll even forget and forgive, let bygones be bygones and invite ScoMo and Dutto to climb aboard the Sea Wok and we could all enjoy the high seas journey to Indonesia together.
Together they’d make an awesome anchor.
// CARCHARODON DUNDEE