Strong tides and winds slow the last leg of our journey from Broome to Darwin on the Reef Prince. We arrive in port an hour late for our mandatory COVID tests. Jayden cooks the golden trevally the fishermen caught and serves it with chips for lunch. A nurse arrives on board at 1pm to begin testing us for COVID.
The crew line up, then I’m the first passenger to have the swab jabbed up my nose. Many eyes are watery as we settle down on sofas and chairs for the estimated four to six hour wait for our “expedited” $13,000 results.
Rumours swirl about why we are being subjected to the tests, including that someone phoned in a tip-off that we had a COVID case on board.
The hours slowly pass as we sit on the back deck in the cool breeze. As the heat of the Darwin afternoon settles over the boat we move inside to the air-conditioned dining room.
The sun sets and still we wait. I’m disappointed as I was hoping to head to the famed Mindil markets, which are only held on Thursdays and Sundays. We leave Darwin on Saturday afternoon. Damn.
The crew are going a little crazy about the delay because it’s eating into their time off shore. The Reef Prince needs to refuel and reprovision before they can relax in the city.
Another rumour swirls that the delay in our “rapid” test results is due to two repatriation flights landing at the airport bound for Howard Springs, plus the Coral Geographer is also in port, with 120 passengers disembarking.
More rumours swirl that we might need to stay on the boat overnight. Anxiety levels rise.
Finally at around 7pm they start calling names for people to head to the wharf for processing. Passengers are called out in groups of four. DD heads off without me, despite my test being before his. Instructions about what to do are sketchy, he doesn’t realise he won’t be allowed back on the boat and leaves without his book, hat and backpack.
At around 7.30pm it’s just me and three other passengers whose names haven’t been called. Our results still haven’t arrived. I become a little mournful and upset about such a blergh end to a wonderful holiday.
Just when I’m starting to get really nervous they agree the final four can disembark. I turn myself into a human packhorse with all DD’s bits and bobs plus mine. We’re not even at a proper spot to disembark and have to swing ourselves over onto a metal ladder.
A few passengers engage in a heated exchange with staff from the port authority. The staff are adamant that we were supposed to be tested for COVID before we boarded the Reef Prince.
We finally arrive at our hotel a little before 8pm and wander out looking for a drink to soothe our frazzled nerves. Mitchell Street is near our hotel and its going off like a frog in a sock. There is loud music pounding out from various crowded pubs.
We feel like sitting somewhere a little more peaceful and I remember a fellow passenger Paulo saying he wanted to visit a cool Korean bar called The Loading Bay. It’s not far and we head there for dumplings and bibimbap, teamed with a few cocktails.
We raise a glass to finally being allowed into Darwin, then head back to our hotel for our first night in a bedroom that doesn’t rock in the night.
The rest of our brief Darwin sojourn before we head back to Sydney includes me doing a virtual job interview from the hotel room (spoiler: I found out last night I didn’t get it), DD buying an indigenous painting, heading to Darwin Sailing Club for the most amazing sunset and a twirl around Parap Markets.
We also run into some of our fellow passengers at a bar and spend a few hours laughing and reminiscing together.
And now I’m back in the real world, which was a bit of a shock to the system and has its own, scary COVID crisis unfolding. I’m not in lockdown yet, but it can’t be far off now.
I’ve been watching a show on Netflix with the eldest called Sweet Tooth, have you seen it? It’s about a terrible virus decimating the population and the terrible things people do in the face of the crisis.
A bit chilling, but fascinating the same time. There are plot holes you could drive a bus through, but I thoroughly recommend it.
OK, enjoy your weekend and normal HouseGoesHome programming returns on Monday. Stay tuned …
Song of the day: Blondie “Heart of glass”