Another reason we had to leave the tranquility of Lady Musgrave Island, aside from restocking our fresh food supply, is that we need to make a plan to “reset” our visas by leaving the country and re-entering, and for that we require reliable internet. Visa regulations — whether or not we need them before we arrive, how much they cost, how long we’re allowed to stay, whether we can renew and if so how and for how long, etc. — are one of the sometimes challenging bureaucratic annoyances of longterm travel that vacationers don’t often have to worry about. In the case of Australia, a country of immigrants and a long-distance destination for nearly everyone who visits, there are pages of types of visas and regulations on the official website, which we miraculously navigated well enough before we arrived last December to get a 12-month, multi-entry visa, allowing us another 12 months on each re-entry up to the date of issue. It’s odd they use the date of issue for the start date and not the date of entry into the country, but that’s the rule, and since ours were issued in early September 2016, we need to leave Australia and return by that date this year to renew for another 12 months.
Why are we staying so long? Cyclone season! Most cruisers on a “fast” circumnavigation, or who have more cash and stamina than we do, arrive in Australia before the beginning of cyclone season, cruise or land travel until the end of cyclone season 6-8 months later, then move westward into the Indian Ocean. We knew we wanted to stay longer and slow down for a while but that means waiting until the end of another cyclone season before we can venture north again, then west to Indonesia. And that means a total of 18-20 months Down Under, and a different, longer, visa. All we have to do to stay legal is leave and come back. Ha!
Australia is far from everywhere so I’m trying to minimize the impact on our fixed income budget while maximizing the adventure. Our plan is to fly to Darwin, pick up a rental car, do some land touring either in Kakadu Park or further to the Kimberley, then make a quick and relatively inexpensive flight to Bali for a couple of days to reset our visas. All our Aussie friends assure us air travel within the country is cheap and with that in mind, and no small amount of excitement to finally be exploring some of the more far flung areas of Oz, I fired up Kayak and Google Flights to book the trip.
That’s when I discovered that airfare is cheap if you’re flying from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth. Try originating from anywhere else and you end up flying through one of those cities anyway, and since airfares are based on air miles traveled, the fares from anywhere near where we happen to be right now are just crazy. A flight to Darwin is coming in at nearly $1000/per person. Add on a rental car, lodging and food, plus the quickie trip to Bali, and we’re right out of our budget, which you may remember took a big hit when we had to replace a lost propeller in Brisbane. Rats.
Ok, we are nothing if not flexible and I’m determined to find a cheaper but still fun way to reset our visas. Looking at a map, the closest places to our location are New Zealand and New Caledonia. We were just in New Zealand for a fab road tour of the South Island, but hang on. What’s so bad about spending a long weekend in Auckland? We could do a little shopping, maybe rent a car and drive up to the tippy top of the North Island, a place we’d missed on our other two sojourns. It goes on the list.
New Caledonia comes in a distant second, mostly because we weren’t so enamoured the first time we were there. A third option came to our attention when we remembered that while we sat in the marina in Brisbane getting a new propeller fitted we watched cruise ships leave port a couple times a week sailing for Vanuatu and New Caledonia. We remember these ships from Anietyum, Port Vila and Noumea. It’s a regular one-week run and consulting some last-minute booking sites we learned this is our cheapest option by far, since cruises are all-inclusive. No hotels or meals to factor in, no airport transfers to arrange, no muss no fuss and easy on the budget.
I laid these three options out for Jack and we agreed we should be responsible adults and do the budget friendly cruise. One week on an all-inclusive ship with 2500 vacationing Aussies desperate to pack every moment of their work break with high-intensity partying and shopping couldn’t be so bad, could it? And we liked Vanuatu a lot. My finger poised over the “Book It” key for a long time before looking up at Jack. “I hate going backwards,” I said. “Me too,” he said and we both sighed. What to do?
I shared my frustration and indecision in a Facebook post and not long after a friend replied with this:
Instantly I felt the sharp slap across the face Cher administered to Nicholas Cage in Moonstruck and heard, “Snap out of it!” She’s right. Tiny budget or not, we live on a yacht. We’ve been to places most people will never visit. Some of them we never even heard of before we started this adventure. What are we bellyaching about?!?
We came to our senses. We do hate to go backwards. We are on a tight budget. But good grief, you only go around once. We’re going to Bali!