It seems that Australia has had about enough of me. The other day I spent $340 on a visa application to extend my stay in OZ until September 2016. With this amount of time, we thought we could spend the coming cyclone season in Brisbane, sail the inland waterways to Coomera around march to haul out the boat and get it fixed. Then in April we would head north, spend plenty of time on the Queensland coast and in the Great Barrier Reef and finally leave Australia in July or so, heading off from Darwin towards Indonesia.
Australian immigration did not approve of that plan. They think I have spent enough time in Oz. In fact there appears to be a strict rule specifying that a foreigner traveling on a tourist visa is not allowed to spend more than 12 months out of an 18 month period within Australia. I have spent about 11 months here with only 80 days outside, which gets me somewhat close to the limit. As result I got granted a visa until end of January 2016 which is a little nasty because I am pretty sure I could have extended my stay until about that time using the existing ETA visa – without spending 340 bucks. On the other hand 12 months out of 18 is still plenty compared to what Australians get in Europe. It sure would have made life easier had someone told us about the restriction earlier though.
As I do not know when immigration will be ready to grant me another Visa I am not willing to take off without my boat – I will not risk having stubborn immigration officers standing between me and my boat, so I have to leave on Qi.
Being forced to leave the country made me a bit sad in the beginning but after looking at it more closely I suddenly discovered, that I was just being forced to do what I really wanted to do instead of doing what was more comfortable.
Going across the Pacific we did not really take our time due to external issues. After almost 3 years of sailing we were also a little fed up seeing palm beaches and blue lagoons every day. We thought a bit of civilization would be just right. On the other hand I felt sorry for not having spent more time in more remote places because we had not gotten of the beaten track in the Pacific and we left out a lot of islands. Going through the pacific East to West is a big journey and we cannot know if we will have the opportunity to do it again.
Now we are forced to leave Oz until end of January, which leaves us with few choices where to go. Due to the coming cyclone season we can not head North, in the East there is only water so South it must be. Going south we can only choose between going to Antarctica or New Zealand which makes it rather easy to decide because we despise cold weather and cold water.
The good news is that after the end of the cyclone season being in NZ makes it easy to reach all of the western Pacific. Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu are just a relatively easy 10 day Sail away and even French Polynesia is not totally out of reach.
So in January instead of sailing through the Barrier Reef and Indonesia we will sail to NZ via Lord Howe and 3 months later, after spending summer in NZ, take off to Fiji.
Fiji was the island we loved best in the Pacific. After a lot of tiny islands with palm trees, pristine beaches and beautiful lagoons in Polynesia we cherished the big islands of Fiji with vegetable markets flowing over with a huge variety of affordable fresh produce. Also there was real land to explore, delicious and affordable Indian vegetarian cuisine and still plenty of palm trees, pristine beaches and the best snorkeling we had seen so far. On top of that we could get in touch with the rest of the world again because the islands have functioning mobile networks and affordable rates for prepaid high speed internet. Paradise !
So Fiji will most probably be our point of reentry to the Pacific Islands. After that we hope to explore Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands which promise real adventure, totally off the beaten track.
We are exited…