Lockdown Way North of Sydney


Looking back over the last few months it seems like divine providence that we finally moved here from Sydney in the first week of February.  “Here” is a small village on the East Coast of Australia named Wooloweyah. Nestled between two national parks, Yuragyir and Bundjalung we are just 5 kilometres from a small town called Yamba and a couple of kilometres from the village of Angourie a place loved by surfers for its famous ‘break’

yam1 .yam2

We sailed through the heads of the mighty Clarence River and into the area on our 34’ ketch, Apsara, in Spring 2017.  We fell in love with the environment here and spent the next three years coming back and forth, being generally very nomadic, until this January when we thought we’d give living on land here a go, taking a 6 month lease on a house by the Lake.


We arrived with a removal van and a trailer load of our possessions still breathless after months of bush fire smoke in Sydney.  Torrential rain followed fire and woke up millions of mosquitoes who plagued our first month.  I would spend hours looking out of the window wondering whether I ‘dared’ to venture out.


Two weeks after we arrived, we had a ‘family’ week up in Byron Bay just as we were hearing rumblings about Corona Virus.  Indeed no sooner had the children and grandchildren returned to Sydney that the battle for toilet paper began and the ‘fear’ virus took hold.  Locals who had lived here for years reassured us that it wouldn’t touch us but nevertheless we witnessed panic buying in the supermarkets and an atmosphere of uncertainty and unrest.  Daughter and daughter in law wondered whether they should join us in the country.   We tried not to buy into the panic keeping ourselves calm and grounded with our daily meditation and yoga practices.  All we wanted was for the family to be safe.

Mixed messages from our government by the score, we gradually settled into what was for us a relatively easy isolation.  Now that I had no choice I accepted that I wouldn’t see the grandchildren for the moment and felt relieved that they had gone into lockdown as a family.  Our pantry was stocked as never before and we just expressed gratitude for the amazing country in which we found ourselves.  Our local coffee shop committed to staying open and we biked there most days buying our takeaways and having arms length chats with what became a close knit group of regulars.

Despite both being over 60 (officially in the vulnerable category) we ventured out somewhere every day whether on foot, for a swim, on  our bikes or kayaks. It felt really important for our physical and mental health and we rarely encountered another human at close quarters.  Our yacht has received lots of attention – recreational boating was banned, but essential maintenance was not.  Vegetables planted, we tended our garden and watched it grow in this gorgeous subtropical climate.

car3 .

The town of Yamba is reliant on tourism for most of its business and within a couple of days the caravan/camping grounds had closed and with that most of the shops and businesses followed suit.  An eerie calm descended very quickly.
Food shops offered delivery services and throughout the lockdown our weekly Farmers Market stayed open – social distancing and hand sanitiser both very much in evidence.  It was interesting to observe people’s attitude towards one another and the way they ‘queued’


In our village children were out and about and the lake became a giant playground in between sessions of home schooling. More and more kayaks and paddle boards appeared at the water’s edge and dusk, in particular, saw unofficial gatherings watching the sun fall in the western sky.  Fabulous sunsets for the east coast of Australia. Dog walkers pass our verandah with a friendly nod and greeting.  Human contact did not disappear altogether in these parts.


Easter weekend brought beach closures as the ‘authorities’ feared an invasion of folk breaking the rules and visiting for the holidays.  With that came the shadowy side of fear and a few homemade notices declaring “If you’re not local, GO HOME” and other such unwelcoming sentiments.  Throughout the lockdown we noticed subjective interpretation of the rules and the judgement that often came with that.  We tried to stay clear of that energy and simply stay in integrity with ourselves.

I had already enrolled for some rich online courses before I’d heard of COVID so they went ahead and have been a great source of learning and mental stimulation.  The women’s group I co facilitate became an online gathering and my book club and supervision group has gone the same way for now.     I’ve met with a few of my counselling clients online and certainly know when I’m zoomed out for the day.  Technology has certainly been another gift for these times.  Facetime calls with my grandson and family  have brightened some darker days.

My concern for friends and family in the UK particularly has come in waves – sometimes huge and rolling.  Hearing personal stories of loss and death  has been so poignant and the tyranny of distance has rarely felt so big.  I think I’ve experienced a sort of ‘survivor’ guilt.

Over the last few weeks our regulations have eased and last weekend saw the opening of many facilities and the ‘grey nomads’ driving into town and the reopened van parks.  Today the Queensland border is still closed so this is almost as far north as the sunseekers can get for now. ( A reminder that we, in the southern hemisphere are in wintertime just now)  Schools are open and we are, as a country, are ‘coming out’.  We plan a cautious trip down to Sydney .  We try not to speculate about ‘the new normal’  - so many new phrases over these past few months  - and take each day at a time.  Our hearts stay open for the many folk still suffering, falling ill and dying.

I am  living on Yaegl Country and acknowledge and  pay my respects to the elders of this land and acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded.

C D 14/6/2020, a recent genealogy friend