I’ve interrupted my series on my travels to write down my thoughts as our community endures – and prepares for the worst fires in this area in memory. I live on the north coast of NSW, Australia – just north of Coffs Harbour.
This area is normally a ‘subtropical’ climate. Coffs Harbour is a tourist town, and has the famous ‘Big Banana’ as a long time tourist attraction. It is a seaside town, with magnificent mountains behind it which lead to some of the most beautiful national parks and forests. Here is a link to tourism in Coffs Harbour.
To live in this area is such a gift. We have not only the benefits of a large regional centre, such as an airport, large hospital, university etc. – but we have at our doorstep fabulous beaches and oceans full of marine life – and rivers and creeks to explore.
Our property is only about 2 km from the ocean as ‘the crow flies’ but we are up on the escarpment, nestled in a beautiful valley – the Bucca valley. Here we have the best of both worlds – our property contains forest, creek and pasture – yet we are only ten minutes from a shopping centre. We have always felt fortunate living here – and we have been on this property now since 2004 and owned it since 2001.
Finding this property was a ‘homecoming’. All my life I’ve searched for home and finally I found it – just under 20 years ago. We owner built our house after living in a small shed for several years. We had to start from scratch here – putting in a road, developing pasture, fencing, creating our water supply, creating gardens etc. – but it’s been worth all the hard work – because we still feel the same about this place as we did almost 20 years ago.
This place is our retreat and our respite from the worries of the world – it’s our place to explore nature, to admire the forest, to watch the never ending bird varieties. Most people who have visited here would agree that there is something very special about this land. Even trades people or delivery people struggle to leave – and they probably don’t know why! They keep talking, lingering, looking out and saying what a nice spot it is – we call it the ‘don’t go’ vibe!
So now, like every other property owner in this area, our place is under threat. Friday was one of those hellish days for bushfires. In the past few months the fire threat has been very real here and that’s something we have never really had to consider until the last year or two.
Is this a symptom of climate change? Well no one knows for sure – but I would suggest we do everything in our power to slow down the climate change march. As for the ‘climate change deniers’ – well I would say let’s just do everything we possibly can – not argue about whether it is true or not!!!
This year on the north coast it feels different – there was a feeling of danger about two months ago – then a very small amount of rain settled everything down. However, further west, fires have been raging in the forest for months. Friday’s weather conditions were ‘perfect’ for a catastrophic fire day. In fact Friday has changed everything. Friday showed how easily our ‘sub tropical’ north coast can burn at present. Here is a map from the Rural Fire Service showing today’s fires -Sunday.
Fire crews and staff are working around the clock to try and contain these fires – they must be exhausted! I thank them and all the volunteers who are working tirelessly.
We have prepared our property as best as we can and are continuing to do so . I have packed and gone through items I don’t want to lose – and really those items are a very small amount. When the crunch comes you realise what’s really important!
While I have rambled on – what I really wanted to write about was how it feels to be waiting – and I would guarantee that everyone else feels like me. It really is ‘Waiting for the Enemy’. I have a constant feeling of anxiety. I’m struggling to focus on normal life. That’s why I’m writing about this – because it’s one of the few things I can focus on!!
I’m just watching and waiting. I feel dread thinking about Tuesday which will be another catastrophic day. Nothing is guaranteed.
I looked at our forest this morning and felt such sadness. I watched the birds and the wallabies – a new joey trying out its legs this morning….. I stared into the depths of the forest – marvelling at the healing powers it holds…
As for our animals – the horses will have open access to the dam and the big open paddock and the cat boxes are at the door ready.
But I thought to myself – this is how a soldier would feel, waiting to go into battle – or waiting for the enemy to appear. It’s not until you experience a similar feeling (although I imagine it would be so much worse!) that you understand. It’s the waiting…. and the watching…
So – good luck to everyone who is affected. Stay safe and leave in plenty of time.
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