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By Gcina Ntsaluba

Journalist


How quarantine grounded an adventurer

The experience has taught him to appreciate the small things in life that he once took for granted.


Life in isolation can be a tough ask for people who love the outdoors and spend most of their time hiking and exploring nature.

During a catch-up phone call with a friend of mine in Germany recently, he told me that he was desperately trying to come back to the country to visit his family and bury his brother, but did not want to be quarantined.

With very limited or no flights available between Frankfurt and Johannesburg because of the international lockdown, he was worried that he would miss this big occasion.

Thinking from the top of my head, I said to him, why don’t you call the department of international relations and cooperation, or the embassy, and tell them that you need assistance with getting home.

He sent e-mails to both and, strangely enough, someone responded that my friend, Albert, had been put on a list of South Africans stranded in Europe.

There would be a flight available, departing on 16 April, from Frankfurt.

He was obviously very chuffed with the news and started calling his family in South Africa to let them know he would be leaving Europe in a few days on his way home to Port St Johns on the Eastern Cape Wild Coast.

With much excitement, he boarded the flight to Johannesburg after a three-hour journey by train from his home to the airport in Frankfurt.

His initial plan was to land in Johannesburg and make his way to Durban before heading to Port St Johns – hopefully in time for the funeral.

However, after landing at OR Tambo International Airport, he was immediately taken to a quarantine facility at the Birchwood Hotel for isolation. And that’s where he still is.

What he thought would be a few days’ stay became two weeks. Under government regulations, this is what he had to go through before he could see his family.

Counting down the days, he tells me that it feels like a solitary confinement prison cell, sitting there all alone, day-in, day-out.

I could understand where he was coming from because Albert is an adventure tourist and a qualified tour guide, who spends most of his days outdoors.

He is not used to being confined in small spaces for such long periods of time and this was driving him up the wall, so to say.

He is not allowed visitors and says he is yearning for the freedom to go surfing or fishing again. The experience has taught him to appreciate the small things in life that he once took for granted.

He says when something you love has been taken away from you, you tend you appreciate it a bit more, which I totally agree with.

For someone who grew up in the villages of Transkei as a young bare-footed boy, Albert says he is thankful for his upbringing because it has taught him to respect nature and appreciate the little he has.

Maybe each and every one of us has learnt something from spending so much time isolation and I am sure some of you can relate to someone like Albert.

Gcina Ntsaluba.

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Columns Coronavirus (Covid-19) Quarantine