And just like that, it’s done.
For future inmates, you need to know that checkout is a process, with systems and paperwork.
We were at the “easy” end of the scale – not going far, someone to pick us (and our copious luggage) up at the appointed time. If you’re not isolating in your ‘final destination’, I believe they will organise transport for you, at least back to the closest airport (including flights).
You have a 15 minute slot in which to exit, and you must not leave your room before your transport has arrived, and it is the appointed time! In your room, you are asked to bundle up all the linen and towels into big plastic sacks, and not leave anything in the room – apart from your keys.
Some anxiety as the departure time loomed and the nurse still hadn’t appeared to do our final healthcheck. Without those forms, you’re not going anywhere. And a post-departure chuckle as I read the form more fully and noticed the “do you have joint pain” question – I’m assuming Peter’s consistent, persistent arthritis doesn’t count?
You’re on your own getting your luggage to the lift and down to the lobby – once there, the army guys are standing by to help, which was awesome. We had a LOT of luggage – 3 checked suitcases and 2 cabin suitcases, plus handbags, 2 bags of leftover food & drink (I wasn’t about to abandon my beautiful supply of cheese), the bucket of cleaning materials I’d bought to keep our space habitable, the bicycle, windtrainer (super heavy) and back with footpump and cycling shoes.
At the appointed hour, we ferried it all to the lift lobby on our floor, and then when Pip arrived, I held the lift door open while Peter packed everything in. It was a mission!
Paperwork completed in the room (including a health check from the nurse) to be handed in, passports presented (they have to be sure the right people are escaping), and then as you leave, put your mask in the bin, sanitise your hands and THEN exit the gate. Peter caused much consternation by choosing to put on a new mask – we all thought he’d forgotten to bin the ‘hotel-contaminated’ one… he was unco-operative, and only crossly explained when things got heated!
The only missing piece of the process was the bill. Because we chose to leave, knowing we would have to isolate on return, we have to pay for our two weeks in a 4 start hotel – apparently they will send the bill in the due course. Okay. At least the hotel made sure that we paid for all those barista coffees before we left.
And then, just like that, in the car and away we go… home sweet home! Hugs from Izzy and Matthew, hugs for Koki – the realisation that there is NOTHING in the fridge or pantry, so Uber Eats to the rescue (oh dear!)
And the million dollar question – was it worth it? Or put more directly, asked by Pip: “If MIQ is still a thing next year, will you go to visit Rob, Jenna and Alfie again?” My answer – “hell yes!” While I am hopeful that Fortress NZ will be a little less “fortress” this time next year, we simply don’t know. But having experienced the sense of mental wellness that has come from reconnecting with family, I can honestly say I would do it again without hesitation.
In the words of my good friend George, reflecting on the Mark Twain quote below, “Now I see why the world looks more prejudiced, bigoted and narrow-minded, after no overseas travel for about two years.”