When Anita Donaldson and her family boarded a flight to South Australia on December 19, they had no idea they would find themselves stranded without the possibility of returning home for at least two months.
The family of four from the small town of Cowaramup in Western Australia's south west flew interstate to visit Mrs Donaldson's in-laws in Port Vincent, on the east coast of the Yorke Peninsula.
Now, in the wake of WA Premier Mark McGowan's announcement that the state's hard border would remain shut past the projected February 5 deadline, they're stuck far from home, without a plan.
"We made a considered decision to leave, with the blessing of my husband's employer and the knowledge that the kids had a nice long break from school," Anita said.
"I had recently given notice on my employment so there wasn't an urgency if we did get a bit stuck.
"And we are all double vaccinated, so we felt confident we would pass any requirements to be able to get home."
When Anita, husband Brian Weeks and sons Mack, 14 and Sully, 12, departed, South Australia was listed as a 'medium risk' state.
"While we were here, it transitioned to a higher risk," she said.
"We found out on Christmas Day that our G2G Pass was no longer valid, which was really concerning because we had flights booked to return home on January 5.
"Then Virgin Australia cancelled the flight, because no one could fly so there was no point sending the plane."
Anita said the family heard that South Australia had moved to an 'extreme risk' state on New Years Eve.
"At that stage we could still apply to come home, but we would need to spend 14 days in hotel quarantine at our expense, and provide PCR tests before flying.
We can't make any plans without knowing when we can apply, what's needed and when, whether we can quarantine at home, or whether any flights will be available.Anita Donaldson
"South Australia is suffering an extreme shortage of those tests as well as RATs, which aren't accepted by Western Australia anyway.
"We booked new flights for the 6th of February, knowing that was after the February 5 opening date.
"We discovered we couldn't apply for a G2G pass online for any arrivals after February 5, so I called the COVID-19 Hotline."
IN OTHER NEWS:
At the mercy of intermittent phone reception, a 2.5 hour time difference and many hours waiting on hold to obtain up to date information from official sources, the family found the only advice they could get was to "keep checking back online until you can apply".
"It's really frustrating and so hard to get definite news," Anita said of the difficulty securing the right advice.
"We want to make a plan with all the steps in the right order, with the necessary testing completed and all our ducks in a row.
"But we can't make any plans without knowing when we can apply, what's needed and when, whether we can quarantine at home, or whether any flights will be available.
"My husband and I are going to get our boosters tonight, we have done the right thing all along and want to comply, but we still don't know if we have to wait for the kids to have their third doses or not..."
The frustrated West Aussie said current restrictions around getting home were stricter than they were at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I've known people who were able to isolate in their own homes in regional WA, and that was long before vaccines were available," she said.
"The thing is we were always counting on Mr McGowan to stick to that February 5 date.
"There are many healthy, vaccinated residents who just want to go home."
Anita said the family had so far relied on family and friends to keep an eye on their home and garden, with a quirky pet requiring special attention from one young neighbour.
"I have a bearded dragon who eats grasshoppers and cockroaches, which I actually breed as food for the dragon," she laughed.
"So the task of caring for pets is a bit more complicated, having to actually breed and manage the feed!
"Others have been helping with watering of the garden and plants, but we never expected to have to ask them to do that for so long."
More serious matters are starting to hit home, with the issue of dwindling prescription medication and a looming work deadline approaching.
"Brian works in the wine industry, and with vintage coming up there just isn't someone to take his place, he really needs to be home for that," Anita said.
Despite the delays, the family are looking on the positive side as much as possible.
"We are in a truly beautiful spot, we are staying for free with people who love us.
"The kids are crabbing all the time, we're right by the beach... it would be just like if we were forced to spend this time by the ocean in Gracetown, swimming each day and enjoying our beautiful surroundings.
"But at the end of the day we have stuff to do, school and work and lives and a home to get back to, we really just want to be able to make a plan to fly home."