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PYRAMIDS FROM THE SKY

Christian " Wispy" Baker escaped Australia for his love at the height of lockdown and didn't look back.

Wispy was in cruise control on a busy highway at pumping Snapper Rocks last week . The smooth goofy-footer is quite the surfer, but some may not know that he also has a romantic side. Check out his travels in the heights of lockdown for his love, scoring perfect waves in the process.

Below is an excerpt of Christian “Wispy” Baker’s feature from Issue 584 named ‘Pyramids from the Sky’.

LEAVING AUSTRALIA

FROM ISSUE 584.

Issue available on stands now or read the rest of the story in Tracks Premium.

My reason for leaving Australia put me on the path of an age-old quest, compelled by the same longings that have led many a man to make either the best or worst decision of their lives. Worldwide travel restrictions saw me confined to Australia while my girlfriend was stuck in her motherland, Spain.

Being separated from my love as a virus wreaked havoc around the world, it felt like I was a character in some kind of old romantic novel. Two people on opposite sides of the world, no way to see each other, subjected to impossible circumstances and no sign of when they might reunite. This went on for months, with little hope of any kind of return to normality.

As fate would have it, an opportunity arose through my employer, McTavish, to work abroad. It was my ticket out, our chance to finally see each other again and of course, chase some waves along the way!

I remember talking with Bob McTavish about my situation. He was on my side from the start, urging me to get out of Oz and back to my girl. He confessed that losing me from the factory team indefinitely was going to be a tough pill to swallow, but the mere mention of an adventurous journey into the unknown seemed to stir something in the scallywag shaper. I half wondered if I’d triggered memories of his fabled 1964 escapades, when he stowed away to Hawaii on a ship.

Sydney airport was wild; the proverbial ghost town at 7:30pm, which would have been peak hour in normal times. Driving up to departures, the carparks were all empty while inside the doors, two check-in counters were open with a few passengers and some official looking airport staff milling around in some semi-organised fashion.

With travel documents in hand, all printed and neatly organised, I felt like a school kid handing in an assignment I’d been working on for months (I had been). I passed them over along with my passport to the airport staff. After a couple of stern questions and a shuffle through my documents, I was directed to a roped off zone alongside a few other confused passengers, all of us awaiting the call to Border Force in Canberra to approve our boarding passes.

Check in done, boarding pass and passport in hand I was hoping to grab the obligatory beer and snack. Instead, I was met with nothing but vacant restaurants and shops in between halls of empty boarding gates. Looking up at the huge screen that’s usually lined with flights, all I could see were the two flights leaving that night, a pair of lonely listings tucked into the corner of the screen.

Taking off triggered a strange feeling of unease, the likes of which I have never experienced before. All the pandemic hysteria from the past 12 months was rolling around in my mind, along with the statistics, stories, restrictions, news reports; the head-noise amplified by the uncertainty of not knowing when or how I would actually get back home. My stomach churned in a way I’ll never forget.

It wasn’t until my second leg of the flight to Europe that these feelings subsided. I noticed we were flying over Cairo, and with the sun fully up and not a cloud in the sky I thought,

‘maybe I’ll get lucky and catch a glimpse of the pyramids’. I moved back and forth from either side of the almost empty back end of the plane, looking out the windows scanning the ground for the ancient structures. Eventually I gave up, figuring they weren’t on the flight path, or we’d already gone past them. So, I sat back in my window seat and resumed my sideways glare back towards earth. Moments later, there they were! Standing tall just shy of the city, clear as the day itself! Right then, the unease left me, replaced by the realisation that the world was still there to explore, still functioning, outside the restrictions and border closures. Still full of people, adventure and life.

Touch down in Madrid quickly confirmed the contrast between Australia and Europe. Sleepily stumbling into the terminal, I realised that it was all systems go, queues, departure lounges, security checks, restaurants and bars all full. There I was thinking Europe was struggling with extreme lockdowns and harsh rules only to find a very normal way of life unfolding.

Our loose itinerary was framed around Marina’s work while squeezing in my own overseas duties. A rough plan was made, flights were booked, and fingers were crossed as the volatilities of border closures, lockdowns and quarantine rules all threatened our movements.

Issue available on stands now or read the rest of the story in Tracks Premium.

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