Gerd and Nancy Peters landed in Bali just before travel restrictions went into place. The Langley couple are still there, months later, waiting to return home. (Gerd Peters/Special to Langley Advance Times)

LETTER: Langley couple hanging out in Bali during COVID

There are worse places to be during what one local reader calls his pineapple pandemic

Dear Editor,

Our Pineapple Pandemic.

After spending hours online, we finally found a place.

We had been planning a return trip to Bali since before Christmas, a break to escape the post winter rains.

Having been in Bali before, we longed for the warmth that only close proximity to the equator can provide.

After paying the AirBnb’s host for a 30-day stay at a large private pool villa – more than we would normally spend but it was worth it for four weeks in paradise, we purchased plane tickets and started counting down the days.

We both attempted to pack light for a change, as I was trying to prepare my wife for a trip to Europe where I envisioned a team of porters hauling an array of suitcases loaded with shoes, straightening irons, and overpriced shampoos.

Slowly, the days passed until our departure date.

CNN was starting to talk more about this new “China virus.”

Trump waved it off as the flu, April’s warm weather will take care of what’s left.

We left Vancouver on March 12, around the same time social gatherings were to be limited to 250 people or less and 64 COVID cases had been confirmed in B.C.

After a brief and routine layover in Taipei, Taiwan we arrived at steamy Ngurah Rai International Airport Denpasar, Bali, where we were discreetly scanned for elevated temperatures at customs and immigration.

Travellers that exhibited symptoms of illness or abnormal temperatures were quietly diverted out of the line for secondary examination and screening.

After the usual delays, our still formidable selection of luggage hit the belt. I balanced the luggage on one baggage cart, the stack of slippery hard shell suitcases tended to slide with every bump. I had to stop and reload the errant luggage a few times, my wife just walked faster.

Finally, we exited the terminal where we searched for the driver holding a sign with my name among the smaller than normal fleet of taxis and private transportation vehicles.

During the next week, we became acclimated to the 15-hour time and humidity differences.

We swam, shopped, snoozed, and explored a few local bars and restaurants at our leisure.

The Seminyak trendy shopping streets were unusually empty.

Australia had called its citizens home shortly after we arrived. All entry to Australia was to be closed.

The next week I received the first of many emails from EVA airlines advising us that our return flights had been cancelled.

No explanation. This turned out to be a trend, rebook only to be cancelled, the emails in my inbox were always the same, flight cancelled. Taipei had closed its airport to all transit.

Prior to our departure we had registered with the “Canadians Abroad” website and had been receiving almost daily embassy updates as to the current escalating pandemic situation in Indonesia.

Our options for a flight back to Vancouver became limited to a few highly inflated, multi-leg routes, involving airports in regions that had higher COVID numbers than here.

We made a conscious decision to remain in Bali, based on the current situation here and the continued state of emergency at home.

It has now been over three months and counting.

Fortunately we are retired, on our own dime and our own time.

Bali, to date, has relatively low COVID numbers.

We FaceTime with family and friends at home, have storage insurance on our vehicles at home, and obtained a locally purchased accident/medical insurance policy for expatriates that has more exclusions than benefit. I’m still reading the ultra fine print pages of exceptions. Our comprehensive Blue Cross travel insurance expired months ago, non renewable from abroad.

We are mentally and physically healthy, safe, surrounded by beauty and in a warm climate.

The villa’s owner Glenda, lives in Perth, Australia and due to travel restrictions is unable to visit her own place here.

She was kind enough to reduce our rent for the remainder of our stay.

As you might imagine there are plenty of empty hotel rooms and villas available.

We are within walking distance to some local produce markets where inexpensive and fresh fruit and vegetables are plentiful due to reduced demand from restaurants. Chicken, seafood, eggs are all available in markets and online.

Currently all remaining shops, stores, and restaurants must close at 9 p.m.

Eighty per cent of the once thriving shops that cater to tourists have closed, many permanently.

The few restaurants that are open have social distancing in place for the remaining tourists and Aussie expats that still wander out for a pint.

Beaches, parks, and attractions are still closed to the public.

No large gatherings are permitted, social distancing is encouraged, and mask wearing has been a way of life here for years.

Eventually we will get home.

In the meantime, we are socially distancing eight degrees south of the equator.

See you in July or October.

Gerd and Nancy Peters, Langley (via Bali)

P.S. We have been roaming for years, in 2013 with plenty of miles left on our odometer we embraced retirement.

Retired on a Friday, by Monday we held one way tickets to explore Cuba. Three months later, it was mid June and we were fortunate to get on one of the last Air Cubana flights home.

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Gerd and Nancy Peters landed in Bali just before travel restrictions went into place. The Langley couple are still there, months later, waiting to return home. (Gerd Peters/Special to Langley Advance Times)

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