Behind The Scenes In Paradise
Behind the scenes of Two Drifters basking in paradise, we’re in bit a of a dilemma. Since coronavirus forced almost all borders in the South Pacific to close, and to remain closed, our plans for the season have gone into a tail spin.
Our itinerary is usually determined by weather, and facing us on 1 November, is the six-month long, cyclone season. Before crossing the Pacific – and long before coronavirus - we had planned to explore French Polynesia until July, and then head slowly to the safety of New Zealand (which lies outside of the cyclone belt), spending time along the way in the Cook Islands and Tonga. A 2,500-nautical mile journey.
However, New Zealand’s borders remain firmly closed to tourists and are showing no signs of opening anytime soon. Their impressive three-week stint of being coronavirus-free ended this week and they now have three new imported cases to deal with.
The Cook Islands and Tonga also remain closed, and will no doubt remain closed until a much-talked-about ‘Trans-Tasman’ bubble is announced, which will enable travel between these nations. However, there’s been no talk about including French Polynesia in that bubble.
Australia is also a consideration for cyclone season – and our insurance company would be as happy for us to be there as in New Zealand – but it too is remaining absolute, with closed borders. This week, Qantas, Australia’s national airline, cancelled all its international flights until late October (except for those with New Zealand) and in an interview, the government’s tourism minister advised, it’s likely the border will remain closed into next year, to slow the spread of coronavirus.
So, we play the waiting game. French Polynesia, which has no active cases of coronavirus and, above all, has had no deaths from its former 60 cases - will open its border to all nationalities on 15 July. Visitors must take a compulsory coronavirus test 72 hours before departure, but there will be no quarantine on arrival. While we support the tourism industry re-starting wholeheartedly, we sincerely hope this doesn’t lead to a second wave.
Unless New Zealand announces by September that it will be open for visitors in November we are unable to move further down the island chain as, once we leave French Polynesia, the prevailing weather conditions will make it impossible for us to return.
If we can’t get to New Zealand or Australia, our only option is to wait out the cyclone season in the northern part of French Polynesia, in either the Tuamotus or Marquesas Islands. Neither of which our insurance company will cover us for, in the event of a named wind storm.
On a positive note, around 250 of the 550 boats in French Polynesia have expressed a keenness to get to New Zealand this year. The Ocean Cruising Club and the Sail South Pacific Rally are actively campaigning the government ministers on our behalf to allow sailors in, asking them to make a maritime safety exception for yachts during cyclone season. We are so grateful for their support during these unprecedented times.
Aside from being out of the cyclone zone, getting to New Zealand means so much more for Two Drifters. The journey and islands we pass through gives us lots to write about in our blogs and for press articles. We also have a tentative commission to write about the America’s Cup, one of the most well-known sailing events that happens every four years, which is taking place in March 2021 in Auckland.
And, most importantly for Skipper and I, once in New Zealand - and without animal immigration hoops to jump through - we can begin our search for our next four-pawed canine crew member. Something we now feel more than ready for.
As we always say, we write our plans in the sand at low tide, as anything can happen and it nearly always does. The situation is a really serious one, but we will make the best of whatever the outcome is. In the meantime, we will continue to explore French Polynesia, and what a special place it is to be.
© Two Drifters Travel