Sydney to London and home!

After a couple of days at my nephew’s house in the Central Coast, NSW, Richard was still struggling to shake off a cold which he had picked up in Tasmania, so we decided to get tested for Covid (24 May). We had to have a negative test at the airport before we would be allowed on the plane to come home so thought it was the prudent thing to do. The guy at the clinic said that it was possible Richard was positive as although he didn’t have the traditional symptoms of loss of taste / smell etc his cold could be the sign and, as we were living in someone else’s house, he should isolate immediately until the result was known.

So we went home, told the family what had transpired and – absolutely confident of a negative result – they said it was fine for Richard to come down to have dinner with us. But we decided to be cautious and he stayed upstairs so got dinner delivered to his room, watched a few movies, and I joined him later for the night.

At just gone midnight the phone pinged and, stupidly, I picked it up to check. OMG Richard was positive! Thankfully I was negative…. What a damn nightmare….. So I woke him up, told him he had to isolate in this room for seven days (according to NSW rules) and I moved downstairs to share the sofa with Budd for the rest of the night. Stressed out by the news I certainly didn’t get much sleep.

In the morning I spoke to both Jamie and Hayley and offered to move out as we didn’t want to put the whole family at risk. They were happy for us to stay and quickly tested everyone and they all came up negative! Phew….so very grateful to them for letting us stay in the circumstances. But that meant Richard was stuck upstairs being fed and watered whilst I had to finish all the packing…. First, though, I checked the airline rules and it was definitely a negative test to get on the plane or, alternatively, a doctor’s note to say that the patient was fit to fly which required more than a week’s gap. So I phoned the airline to see whether we could just move our flights out by a week – and the answer was no! They couldn’t find an alternative route and they couldn’t offer us a flight until the end of June. OMG Australia really didn’t want us to leave! Very distressed by all this the family were amazingly supportive and Jamie and I sat down and worked the internet hard to get a resolution. We found one – rang up again – to be told that we couldn’t change airlines the credit was only with them and no refund at this late stage… So absolutely devastated yet again.

So I decided to put all my efforts into the packing and organising and, finally, managed to get it all sorted within our (original) luggage allowance. Feeling a bit better having achieved something, after dinner, I had an early night and did actually manage to find an alternative routing home – with the same airline – for the following week. But it was nasty! A 12 hour layover in Los Angeles is not anyone’s idea of fun…. Anyway, by this time, Richard was feeling much better so we did a RAT test. And it was negative!

We had a long conversation and decided to take a gamble and stick with our original flight plans praying that Richard would return a negative result on the official airport pre-flight test. Jamie and Hayley were happy for us to return if we didn’t make it onto the flight so at least we knew we had a roof over our heads if we needed to unpick it all. In the meantime the Sydney rental car company had rung and insisted that I return the car as it needed servicing and it’s registration was expiring…yes, seriously! Oh no, I said, not going to happen. Not going to drive two hours into the City – incurring lots of tolls – when it was their error. There are local offices nearby so I’ll go there and swap the car out. The girl was going to drive the replacement up from Sydney and offered to drop it off but I didn’t want to be constrained by timings so decided to go to the nearest Central Coast office instead. When I got there they tried to palm me off with a VW Polo – I refused! I was driving a mid-sized VW SUV and needed the room for our luggage….so I sat outside while they all ran around like headless chickens and finally found me a MG SUV. Not great, bit basic, but at least it was big enough…. Was not impressed to be honest!

So the rest of the week was taken up with cooking for the invalid, delivering ice creams on demand LOL, and trying to take the load off Jamie and Hayley as they were both working pretty hard. So I kept busy and did a few trips out to the shops and even to the Gosford waterfront just to chill for a little while when the rain stopped and the sun came out.

On the Monday morning Richard was finally let out of quarantine so we had lots of hugs with the family and took some photos before we said our sad farewells.

Budd looked completely dejected but it was probably because he realised that he wasn’t going to be able to scrounge another doughnut out of me. He has definitely mastered the starving hound look so very well under those big eyebrows LOL.

We drove to the airport and were pretty nervous about it all – although we had both returned another negative result the night before. We parked up in the car rentals area, walked into the terminal, and went straight to the testing centre.

We had our tests and then went and had coffee and a toastie whilst we waited. After 30 minutes we got the amazing message that both tests were negative! OMG I was so damn relieved – we just looked at each other and I nearly burst into tears all over again. This had been a really difficult time for me emotionally – especially as I’m used to being with Richard 24/7 and it was just plain weird with him not being there constantly….. This old girl is definitely turning into a bit of a wimp!

Elated we returned to the car, having nabbed a couple of trolleys on the way, and proceeded to the airport hotel. We were lucky that our room was ready early so we checked in and dumped all our gear then, whilst I was uploaded all the tests results etc onto the airline app, Richard took himself off to return the car keys. OMG we really are going home! We had already decided not to eat at the hotel – the last time wasn’t great – so later on we wandered into the terminal and treated ourselves to a McDonalds. Yes, seriously! Then we returned to our hotel room and lazed around enjoying a celebratory glass of wine.

Tuesday 31 May we left the hotel very early and were in the international airport terminal by 7am. We had to queue to check in (online system had fallen over) but that was fine. The airport wasn’t as busy as we had anticipated and we got through the whole security system and near to the gate by 9am having stopped for a bite to eat along the way.

We then flew Sydney to San Francisco and were relatively impressed by the United Airlines Premium Plus Cabin – only three rows, good seats (like domestic US 1st), and enhanced food offering on china with proper cutlery. So pretty happy. We arrived into SFO and made our way through the long immigration line, got checked in, picked up our huge array of bags and, with the help of a sky cap, re-checked the baggage for our next flight.

We then sat at the next departure gate for a long while before finally boarding for the flight to London. Again Premium Plus and everything was the same but the servers were nowhere near as nice and we had to physically go and get drinks as they didn’t answer the call buttons. Oh well, never mind!

Arriving into Heathrow – absolutely shattered but very happy – we gathered all our bags up, cleared the immigration line (which was pretty long and tedious) and shuffled our way through to the arrivals area. And there we had the biggest shock with our friends Ron and Carolyn waving “welcome home” banners waiting for us. Well we had been in Australia for 809 days!!! What a wonderful surprise – felt quite emotional yet again LOL.

Finally we were crossing the threshold of our home after 54 hours travelling. Had been an epic journey and it was lovely to open the door and just go to bed! We were so grateful to Clive and Val who had spring cleaned the house for us so it was ready – thank you both so much!

Since then we have been relaxing at home and really enjoyed watching the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee coverage. Loved the pageantry and who could not have enjoyed tea with Paddington Bear? Such a special weekend of festivities – felt very proud!

So, finally, after purchasing Morpheus back in 2008, leaving her in the US Virgin Islands until we finally went cruising in November 2012, we have sailed 33,466 nautical miles. So we only reached Australia but it is only 21,600 nautical miles around the world if you follow the equator so this puts our travels into a bit of perspective. We obviously miss Morpheus but the time was right to say goodbye and we have no regrets…..

We have had the most amazing adventure of our lives – we have definitely lived the dream – and we have many more dreams and adventures waiting for us around the corner once we get our ageing bodies fixed up a bit LOL.

Right now we are very excited about seeing all our friends and family again and looking forward to all the amazing reunions ahead of us. There will also be some sadness about those who passed away during our travels and whom we never had the opportunity to say goodbye to. So lots of change and I’m not sure how we’ll cope with being land lubbers again for a while but, have to say, am definitely enjoying the unlimited hot water, the access to a dishwasher and washing machine very much so far LOL. Oh yes and got very excited at Sainsbury’s where I could buy alcohol in the same place as our food! And, then of course, there is the delights of M&S food – and only fellow Brits will understand this one….

So that signs us off for this season. There is one last blog to come as I have had lots of questions about how to sell a boat in Australia without a broker – so will do that at some point. In the meantime just going to enjoy being home!

Bye for now