Lithgow local, Isaac Trounce recently arrived in Poland with his girlfriend after a torturous six months in stuck Morocco when the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread worldwide and with no way to escape.
Isaac had been in Morocco since January where he played gigs at bars and restaurants to pay his way while he stayed at a hostel in Taghazout.
When the COVID pandemic swept across the world, Isaac and his friends decided not to buy into the panic and instead chose to wait it out until things settled down in the country before moving on to meet his girlfriend who lives in Poland.
"I was in the south of Morocco, playing in some restaurants and I was helping out with a friend in a hostel when the virus started to get to this sort of critical point where a lot of countries started to close their borders and at that point, a lot of people started to panic and started to leave Morocco and try to find last minute flights back to their home countries," Isaac said.
"I wasn't really sure how the situation would turn out, along with a lot of people at that time there were there was a lot of discussion about what what the virus meant and how, how we should be reacting and whether everyone was overreacting... and we'd be able to return home shortly after all of the panic ended."
Things quickly got out of hand and Isaac was then determined to get on a plane to Spain where he was expecting to meet his girlfriend. But just as quickly as the virus had spread, Isaac realised how bad things had gotten.
"I went to Marrakech, which is a large city in the middle of Morocco and I tried to book my flight," Isaac said.
"And at that stage it wasn't possible at all, the flights were booked. And the airport was just full of mostly Europeans. They were also stuck and also trying to get on last minute flights."
The airport was just full of mostly Europeans. They were also stuck and also trying to get on last minute flights.
Ever the opportunist, Isaac decided to make the most of his predicament and head back to the hostel and help the friends he had been living with. Isaac spent the next couple of months at the hostel which saw increasing numbers of other displaced foreigners turn up who had been unable to head home.
As the pandemic continued to spread, Isaac would watch the country's state of emergency continue as end dates were extended month by month. Isaac said it felt like there would be no end to the crisis and he, along with many others, began to plan ways to get out of the country.
This was in March, Isaac would not reach his destination until July.
Isaac's gigs dried up when the bars and restaurants closed their doors and he didn't feel comfortable asking for money from back home even though, as Isaac admits, his parents and friends would have been happy to help out.
"So I found a place where I could volunteer. And so I worked for a place for free. And they provided me with my accommodation and various things, I was volunteering at an animal shelter," Isaac said.
"I was helping with 120 dogs that were sick and being looked after by a small group and was also really struggling because all of their volunteers had gone back to Europe when the virus set in."
Isaac then hitchhiked from south of the country to the north, to the port city of Tangier, in the hope he could catch a ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar to Spain where he would meet with his girlfriend.
I've been patient for a long time and now I've had enough.
"I was just sleeping in my tent. Sometimes people invited me to stay with them in their homes," Isaac said.
"I was camping in my tent by the port where I was trying to buy a ticket to get onto the ferry for three days. And then when that was no longer possible I went into Tangier, which is the port city."
When, despite his best efforts, he was unable to board a ferry, Isaac managed to book a flight to Madrid. But as fate would have it, this wouldn't be the escape from the country he was hoping for either.
"I booked two flights that got canceled the day before the flight was supposed to go out. I was talking to people at the ticket office and saying you know, 'I need to get to Europe, I know that there's boats going, how do I buy a ticket because the ticket office at the port told me that I need to book online'. And I showed them online that the site is down. They say 'oh, an embassy needs to book your tickets,'" Isaac said.
The next step
Fed up and with nowhere to go, Isaac took to Facebook on July 10 to express his frustrations.
'So the multiple emails to the Australian Embassy have amounted to nothing. I have had no luck buying a ticket at the port for the ferry to Spain and the flight I booked to Valencia has been cancelled. I have been in Morocco since the end of January,' Isaac wrote.
'An angry Facebook rant might not solve my problems but maybe it can draw some attention so that I can finally get through to someone that can help me leave Morocco. I need assistance in getting permission to travel to Europe.
'I've been patient for a long time and now I've had enough.'
When it seemed like he had exhausted all of his options, Isaac found reprieve a few days after writing his post and was able to purchase an airline ticket to the spanish capital of Madrid.
I'm exhausted but so happy to be back with Zuza again. Looking forward to being able to relax for a few days in the time to come.
'It's all been very much appreciated and I feel lucky to have so many people eager to help me out. It means a lot, so thank you to everyone,' he wrote in a Facebook update.
Isaac was reunited with his girlfriend in Madrid on July 17, more than six months after he realised he was stuck in Morocco due to COVID-19. He took to Facebook again to share his good news.
'After about six months in Morocco I have finally been able to take a flight. Flew to Madrid last night and Zuza and I will be flying to Poland this evening before Poland closes its borders,' he wrote.
'Thanks again for everyone's advice and help over the last week... I am overwhelming [sic] grateful for all your help and I hope I am able to do the same for you in the future.
'I'm exhausted but so happy to be back with Zuza again. Looking forward to being able to relax for a few days in the time to come.'