THE new year started on the roads for many Victorians, as they raced to get home from New South Wales ahead of Friday's border closure.
Peter Carr's earliest memory of 2021 was a group of young people on the side of the road jumping up and down and cheering.
He and wife Beth Carr were driving through Cabbage Tree Creek, having finally made it across the Victorian border from New South Wales.
The Kangaroo Flat couple spent about four hours of their 37th wedding anniversary in the car, waiting to make it past Genoa.
They had been holidaying in Pambula when they heard Victoria was closing its border with New South Wales.
Mr Carr said he and his wife were among many Victorian holidaymakers at their accommodation to pack up and head for home when the news came.
"The whole park just mobilised," he said.
It's the second year a major news event has impacted the Carrs directly, having been evacuated from their usual holiday spot of Narooma last year due to the bushfires.
The couple made it back to Bendigo shortly before 3pm on New Year's Day, but their adventure wasn't over.
The testing queue at Bendigo Health was so long when they arrived that they opted to isolate at home until screening clinics reopened in the morning.
Some of the families waiting outside the clinic for testing earlier in the afternoon had speedier experiences at the New South Wales border.
Several came through Albury. Others came through Hume Weir, and some from Tocumwal.
Echuca police Acting Sergeant Darren George said there was some panic from travellers eager to get back to Victoria after the border closure was announced.
He said the crossing points at Echuca and Barmah were backed up for kilometres on Thursday.
"Moama was gridlocked for kilometres in every direction," Acting Sergeant George said.
"We have heard stories of people sitting in their cars for five or six hours.
"Some people thought Barmah might be an easier option, rather than Echuca-Moama, but that was backed up for kilometres back to the highway."
Acting Sergeant George said there was another rush on the Echuca-Moama crossing on Friday morning.
"A lot of people were calling us and complaining about not being let in by other motorists but that was all on NSW roads," he said.
"People in Perricoota Road [in NSW] couldn't turn onto the highway to cross the border. We were pretty powerless."
He said there were times when it was slow going.
A lot of drivers and travellers had questions at the checkpoint.
"Most weren't locals and they were all curious as to what was happening and what the rules were," Acting Sergeant George said.
"The locals just show their licence and go."
Several of the families awaiting testing at Bendigo Health on Friday said there had been confusion over when they had to get home and what restrictions would apply when they arrived.
Many said they became aware of the border closure through loved ones in Victoria, rather than media outlets in New South Wales.
The Department of Health and Human Services reported a "very high" number of calls to the state's coronavirus hotline on Thursday night.
"We understand this is a stressful situation and we apologise for delays," it said in a social media statement.
We have removed our paywall from this storyabout thecoronavirus. This is a rapidly changing situation and we want to make sure our readers are as informed as possible. If you would like to support our journalists, subscribe here.