CQ man trapped by COVID-19 in a mountain paradise

COLOURFUL Central Queensland identity Barry Large is settling in for an extended stay in a mountainous area of Luzon in the Philippines after a desperate attempt to catch a flight home failed amid the chaos of the global coronavirus emergency.

Mr Large, a youthful 75, was an adviser to former long-serving Capricornia MP Kirsten Livermore (5 terms 1998-2013). He also ran as a mayoral candidate in a Rockhampton City Council election in the 1990s.

His home is in Clairview but he visits Luzon for five months every year to escape the brutal CQ summers.

Here is his coronavirus story:

Well here I am, in the mountains on Luzon.

Stuck. Why am I stuck? Answer Qantas.

Am I worried? No.

Like many companies these days the last thing Qantas wants to do is talk to a customer.

I was due to fly back to Australia on April 2.

I had no advice from Qantas there might be a problem.

But thought I should bring my booking forward.

So I went online to manage my booking but when I clicked on change it told me to contact the Qantas office.

Impossible from where I am.

However I had my lawyer in Rockhampton try.

He spent five hours over two days on the telephone trying to contact Qantas on my behalf. Could not get through.

Then I saw on CNN that Qantas was cancelling all flights from late March until May 31.

I wonder what late March means?

In a flurry of activity I made four bookings to return to Australia. Paid for them all. Cancelled some.

Then I started to get emails to the effect that my flight had been changed from the 25th to the 26th but my flight out of Singapore on the 25th was not changed.

The saga continued but I cannot contact anyone.

This was then complicated by local lock downs which meant I needed to get authorisation from the local mayor to leave or be turned back at a checkpoint.

I had no confidence that if I spent the seven hours travelling to the airport I would not be stuck somewhere en-route.

So I determined to stay where I am.

I have had to call Qantas on many occasions because their on-line booking system will not allow me to travel where and when I want.

After I talk to someone it is fixed.

Barry Large visits the butcher on Luzon while taking precautions against the spread of COVID-19.
Barry Large visits the butcher on Luzon while taking precautions against the spread of COVID-19.

But talking to someone is always a problem.

Normally they say they are busy and will call back.

OK, but the call back comes from South Africa.

And that person can only do what the system will allow.

So I have to keep trying until I finally get an answer in Sydney – the government should put a special tax on companies that outsource jobs to foreign call centres.

In the past two days I have had emails and four text messages from Qantas.

All useless and of course they are “NO-REPLY”

Am I worried? No.

You may ask, why not?

Because the Yanks are coming.

Barry Large relaxes on the balcony at his Luzon home.
Barry Large relaxes on the balcony at his Luzon home.

I am reminded of Churchill writing on his response to the Japanese bombing of the US base at Pearl Harbor.

Churchill wrote. “I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful”.

He understood that when the US cranked up its unlimited capacity the allies would surely win the war.

I expect the same to happen here.

This virus will not be allowed to destroy the western world economy.

I would suggest enough damage has already been done.

This virus with an unknown but small mortality rate will kill people but so will poverty, starvation and death by debt.

I hope to be back soon to help with the bounce back.

- Barry Large,

Clairview

Footnote: Mr Large, a man of good humour and forthright opinion, explains his strong connection with the island of Luzon.

I discovered this place 10 or 12 years ago.

The temperature never goes above 25 and the minimum is rarely below 12.

So for the past few years I have been coming here in early December and returning home early April.

I somewhat jokingly refer to myself as a climate change refugee.

I do not need 11,000 scientists to tell me the climate in Rockhampton is different to the 1940s, 50s or 60s.

I lived it.

And since I retired six years ago my choices, for summer in Australia, are to either sit all day in the airconditioned bed room or join the old blokes sitting all day in the shopping centres.

I would rather be here where I can still be useful and my efforts are appreciated.

As I don’t need or have a car here and costs are generally lower, I find it cheaper to live here than home.

So for our winter I spend a lot of time out from Clairview fishing. At 75 I’m not sure for how many more years I can continue with this split lifestyle.

If my cardiologist had his way I would be living 100 yards from the Wesley Hospital in Brisbane. But sitting about in fear waiting for God is not something I could do.

Barry Large and Kirsten Livermore in Kirsten's office as she packs up after Parliament was disolved. Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin
Barry Large and Kirsten Livermore in Kirsten's office as she packs up after Parliament was disolved. Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin


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