Escaping the Taliban

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September 4th 2021
Published: May 1st 2022
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Today we finally make the long trip home... well that’s assuming our beloved Qantas doesn’t cancel on us at the last minute …again. We decide it would probably be a good idea to make the most of our last few hours of freedom given what awaits us in Melbourne - locked down except to get food, or to exercise for no more than two hours a day, all within five kilometres of home, and a curfew. I’m not too sure what time the curfew kicks in. Our flight gets in quite late - I hope they don’t make us sleep at the airport.

We head down to Elizabeth Quay which is on the banks of the Swan River next to the CBD. It was only opened in 2016 and looks to be an entertainment type precinct with cafes, restaurants, hotels, and a ferry terminal where you can catch a ride across the River or out to Rottnest Island .....and there are bike paths. I’ve also read about a structure here called Bell Tower, and I’ve been salivating at the prospect of capturing award winning panoramic shots from its lofty spire. It’s Saturday morning and Perth’s cyclists appear to be out in force. They seem very intent on running down any pedestrians who’ve got the temerity to get in their way, and we narrowly avoid a couple of nasty collisions. The sun‘s decided to grace us with its presence, and the whole precinct looks very attractive. We reach the base of Bell Tower. It doesn’t look very big; ironically just about every other building here seems to be "towering" over it, even the few that are still being built. We go to buy our tickets to get us to the top. Hmmm. It seems that the only view the tickets are going to get us is of the bells, and even then we can only look up at them from the Tower's base. There goes another award winning photo op. If I’d wanted to see bells I would have gone to a church, which would probably also have had a climbable tower from which to take award winning happy snaps. We read that there are 18 bells here. Twelve of them are from the 14th century and were previously in St Martin-in-the Fields Church in Trafalgar Square in London. They were given to Perth as part of the 1988 Bicentennial celebrations. They’re apparently the only set of Royal Bells that has ever left England, and are known to have rung to send off old Captain James Cook when he set off to “discover” Oz. I’ve got to stop using that terminology; our indigenous folk had been here for 50,000 years before Cooky turned up.

We’ve still got a bit of time to kill so we decide we probably should see a real Perth beach before we head back to lockdown. I saw a dirty surf pounding in in the half light and freezing cold down at Fremantle a couple of nights ago, and it looked more like something out of northern England in the depths of winter than the golden sands we’d been given to expect here. We head west and eventually arrive at Cottesloe. This is more like it. It looks like surfing central. The water’s well dotted with black wet suit clad enthusiasts looking to catch that elusive perfect wave.

We needed to leave the surf a few minutes before we got there, so we’re now in danger of missing our flight. I’m not sure I should give the Google Maps machine to Issy to navigate; I think she's very much hoping we will miss our flight, and having done that fly back to Broome. The road signs seem to have a very different view to Google Maps as to the best way of getting to the airport. We decide to trust the signs. This plan seems to be working well until we have to decide which of four possible terminals our flight will be leaving from. We’ve got no idea, and they all look to be a long way away from each other. Issy tries to find the email telling us which one is ours, but before she has a chance to read it we need to make a decision. I gamble on Terminal 1, but a few seconds later she tells me really we need Terminal 3. We need to do a u-turn, and quickly, but we're now on a busy eight lane freeway, with large barriers down the middle, and turning around doesn't really seem to be an option. If we don’t check in in the next few minutes our flight'll be leaving without us. I say rude words. Lots of them. Issy doesn't seem to share my concern - I think she's hoping her dreams of a return to Cable Beach are about to be realised. We throw our bags into the check-in with what feels like seconds to spare. That wasn't very relaxing. Issy's not impressed - looks like Broome Mk 2's now definitely off the agenda.

As we approach the gate lounge I comment to Issy that a disproportionately large number of the passengers look like they’re from somewhere in the Middle East. We overhear another passenger talking to one of them. It seems that they’ve only very recently been airlifted out of Kabul and the terrifying hands of the Taliban. They’ve now finished doing their 14 days hotel quarantine in Perth and are on their way to Melbourne to be resettled. We've now both got tears in our eyes. They all look so normal and ordinary - men and women, young and old, and children. We’d hate to think what they've had to go through to get here. We get chatting to one of the other passengers who’s been talking to one of the men. She says he told her that he worked for the Australian Government in Kabul and had been trying to get himself and his family out of the country for the last four years. He only succeeded when our beloved government finally realised how much danger they were in when the Taliban reached Kabul much more quickly than anyone expected. They were initially taken to Dubai and from there on to Perth. Of course they all have friends and family members still trapped in Afghanistan facing a very uncertain future. The women all look a bit shell shocked, and apparently none of them speak any English. A large group of Qantas staff seem to have been tasked with looking after them, and they all look a bit teary eyed as well as they wave them off onto the plane. We both seem to have developed a sudden and seemingly irresistible urge to hug anyone in the general vicinity. We land in Melbourne to find a news crew waiting to greet them.

We know we’re home. It’s cold and wet, and Coco won’t let Issy out of his sight.


8th May 2022

Taliban? in WA?!
I hadn't logged into TB since last year and was very shocked to read your blog title. I thought you'd decided to do some extreme travelling in that time! But then saw the blog was referencing WA. Glad to hear you had a great trip last year. I was in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago, and it's nice to see everything starting to get back to semi-normal/normal. Hope you are both well.
14th May 2022

Taliban in Perth
Thx for this. Be reassured that Afghanistan isn't currently on our radar. We're both fine thanks, and will be heading off to Canada to see our daughter and then onto Europe in about a months time. Have you got any plans?

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