What really happens in hotel quarantine
Two senior Adelaide journalists have spent the past week locked up inside a Brisbane hotel room after returning to Australia from Kathmandu, Nepal. Anthony Keane and Paul Ashenden discuss their time in isolation
Ashenden: Well mate, it's been an interesting week or so. Who would have thought that a trekking expedition to Nepal would culminate with 14 days stuck in a Brisbane hotel room. Not long after enduring three weeks of perhaps the most strenuous holiday imaginable, we've now got two weeks of perhaps one of the most sedentary existences possible. How are you holding up?
Keane: Better than I thought I would hold up, big fella. Like you, I'm one of the lucky (unlucky?) ones who could get a computer system sent from work and have been back in the virtual office for most of the week. But it's still a very different existence. Spending 14 days locked in a room that's only about 8m long is not what I'm used to. And I find myself peering through the door's peephole when I hear plastic meal bags being delivered in the corridor just so I can see another real human. But after being unable to shower for three weeks the freezing Himalayas, the modern amenities here are awesome. And the food! How good is the food? I'm loving it.
Ashenden: Yeah, we could spend a lot of time talking about the food. I'm certainly not complaining, because we're supplied three meals a day, but it's always a bit of a raffle what and when is going to be delivered. It's a set menu provided by Queensland Health. I've nearly had enough of eating out of a polystyrene box and using plastic cutlery though. The portion sizes can be a bit hit and miss, but it's great that we are still able to order in food like pizza or other takeaway through Uber Eats - I've had a couple of mates in isolation in Sydney and Melbourne who weren't allowed to do that.
Keane: The timing of meals is a mini-adventure too. Our first night's dinner was delivered after 8pm but it has gradually shifted earlier - sometimes as early as 5.45pm. Their meal-delivery system has strict rules: they knock three times on our room door and we must wait at least 10 seconds before opening it and collecting our food (giving them time to escape). Today someone knocked just twice - what a rebel! Waiting for meals always keeps us on our toes. Speaking of that, what sort of exercise are you doing to keep fit and sane? I'm loving Chris Hemsworth's Centr app with its free trial and workouts, pilates and yoga. Reckon I'll subscribe after the trial period.
Ashenden: Damn straight. I've never really done organised workouts before, but I'm loving the Centr app as well. I've been doing a yoga class before breakfast and then, depending on what time meals arrive, a more vigorous workout in the afternoon. People might be surprised to know that these rooms aren't really set up for a gym class, so I've rearranged the furniture to make some more space. I can even using a skipping rope that the kind-hearted wife of one of our fellow detainee … I mean isolee … I mean travelling mates brought in. Speaking of that, how exciting is it when something gets delivered to your door?
Keane: Yep - I've never been so pumped to receive a HDMI cable delivery in my life! Those delivery moments are certainly highlights, and we've been overwhelmed by the generosity of friends, family and workmates sending goodies our way. My stash has included Tim Tams, Mint Slices, Kit Kats, Cadbury Chocolate blocks (notice a theme here?) biscuits, chips, fruit, soft drink and whiskey - I ordered that last one myself.
Ashenden: The support from everyone back home has been amazing. Apart from the fact that we can't go outside, we really aren't missing out on much. We're in a brave new world of video conferencing where most people who are lucky enough to still have a job are working from home. It's been pretty amazing being able to help to put out the newspapers from our makeshift hotel-room offices, communicating with colleagues all working from their loungerooms. Speaking of communication, it's also been great to stay in touch with the crew we spent three weeks trekked with to Everest Base Camp.
Keane: We've had Messenger chats, Facetime calls and also used Zoom. I did parent-teacher school interviews with my wife using Zoom this week and have had many calls and video chats with family and friends. They call this isolation and social distancing but I've never felt more socially connected. And it's not isolation for all of us here in hotel lockup: three of our Base Camp blokes requested a triple room when we arrived and have stuck together. Make of that what you will. Any thoughts on that?
Ashenden: Three blokes, with all the bloke-associated sounds and smells, confined to a small room, with two beds and one bathroom between them … I don't know what they were thinking. At least their antics have provided some entertainment for us on the group chats. Another mate looks like he's going to finish a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle. When we arrived, I had visions of movie and book reading marathons. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) this new virtual office scenario has meant work has taken up nearly all of my time. I can't wait to get back to SA though - even though we're going to have to spend 14 more days in self isolation at home.
Keane: Ah yes, back home. Our three-and-a-half weeks away from our families becomes almost seven weeks including two in a locked-down Kathmandu and two locked up in Brisbane. Then it's two more weeks locked in our homes, but it will be brilliant to be back in Adelaide where I hear some people are being paid in toilet paper rather than cash. On that note, I had to request some more toilet paper from the hotel yesterday. They sent me only one roll. Must be a shortage here too.
Originally published as What really happens in hotel quarantine