Thursday 26 March 2020

I covid this quarantine

Well, don't some people have all the luck? Er, maybe not all the luck - I'm talking here about 800 of the passengers on the cruise ship Vasco da Gama having to be sent into quarantine because of Covid-19 concerns - but certainly some. The ship is due to finish its cruise in Fremantle tomorrow, and the Australians on board are going to be evacuated to - get this - Rottnest Island!
The other 420 passengers, including over 100 Kiwis, will have to stay on board till Australia works out how to kick them out of the country repatriate them; but, meantime, the Aussies will be on Rottnest Island for two weeks' quarantine! Now, I've been to Rotto, a couple of times, and being stuck there will be, believe me, no penance at all. A half-hour ferry ride from Freo, it's a mostly flat island with lovely white sand beaches where the warm, clear blue Indian Ocean laps in. There's a pretty lighthouse, a little town of 300 residents with good places to eat, and no vehicles (apart from a few emergency ones) so the trail of roads linking the beaches and viewpoints are busy only with bicycles and walkers. There are tall, twiggy towers where ospreys nest, New Zealand fur seals frolicking around in the water, meadows of seagrass, dolphins and - it's Australia - sharks.
Also - again, it being Australia - the island has some dark history. It was a prison for thousands of Aboriginals for about 40 years, and lots of them died there, most of them, rather ironically now, from influenza; and five men were hanged there. Then it was a boys' reformatory, equally unhappy; and an internment camp during both wars for, first, local Germans and Austrians, and then Italians. Not many laughs in that lot.
Eventually, though, it became a nature reserve, home to many species of shorebird and a variety of animals, most notably - and this is why those quarantinees are so lucky - quokkas. These, against very stiff competition, have to be Oz's cutest marsupial. They are SO gorgeous! The island was named for them by some clearly very shortsighted Dutch explorers who thought it was a nest for giant rats. In fact, they are little sweeties, fat and furry, about 30cm high with a stumpy tail, round ears, bright shiny eyes and a permanent smile. 
Even better, they are bold/friendly and will come right up to you. Of course that's especially because naughty tourists have trained them by feeding them - but they would be like that anyway, that's just how they are. No-one can look at a quokka without both grinning back, and cooing. Cuteness personified. So, those Aussie passengers can consider themselves very lucky, having an enforced holiday on a lovely island with quokkas galore. Almost worth risking coronavirus, wouldn't you say?

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