HI everyone from the East coast of New South Wales Australia, which has had more than its fair share of bad stuff this year!
Our ordeal began before Christmas 2019 with the 'unprecedented' 'apocalyptic' bushfires that were raging up and down our coastline for weeks and weeks! Our little town (pop: 400) is on the Princes Highway (Highway 1) south of Sydney and some fire brigades were based in our community hall, but whenever the fire threatened our township, they were off dealing with fires elsewhere... we had thousands more fires in this state than we had fire crews to deal with them all at the same time!
So it was down to our wonderful neighbours who were determined to stay and defend their properties. If it weren't for them, our town would have been totally obliterated (as was suggested it had been on our local Rural Fire Service app - not comforting at all when we were evacuated and had to rely on social media for updates on the fate of our beloved home and B and B).... Our town was surrounded by fire on all sides, and one of those pyro storms shot across the hills behind us (west), while over those terrible few weeks, fire was also being pushed up the coast from south of us, down towards us from the north, and also running up the highway just east of our place!
Accepting guests or otherwise was very much a spontaneous choice at this time, and in most cases guests had already cancelled or we had to ask them to as our part of the township is accessed by one road only both in and out. Bless them, many opted to let the payments go through regardless and reschedule their stays at a later date. Two of those parties are staying with us this Christmas-New Year only a full year later than planned!
On Christmas Day, nobody around here dared leave home in case we couldn't get back, as the highway was being closed sporadically both north and south of our town, so we invited some neighbours over for morning tea. One of them brought some bubbly, which I can't deny, really did help me relax a little, and they returned the invitation for an afternoon meal across at their place, where the imbibing continued, and we all managed to relax a bit for a while, but it was probably the last time we smiled for several weeks after that!
We had to evacuate three times, on each occasion, for different periods of time, depending on the fire direction and when the highway was closed, sometimes for several days. It was a really eerie experience, at the height of our holiday season, seeing authorities tell holidaymakers to: get out of here! go home! Now! and long lines of cars queued up at petrol stations to get fuel to drive back home, but a number of these petrol stations couldn't provide fuel as they had lost power!
Every time we had to evacuate, we thought we had seen our home for the last time, and are still quite amazed it survived. Certainly we were more fortunate than many hundreds of other people who lost everything, not to mention those who died, and the billions of animals that perished in those few weeks across our state alone!
When the fires had taken their toll in our region, the fundraisers started up, and we attended everything we could to help those less fortunate than ourselves. One of those was to help farmers who had lost stock, fencing and feed: it was called "Buy a Bale", and when a friend of mine in Scotland heard about this, she said she and a friend wanted to donate 150 pounds between them. What wonderful friends!!!
I was very fortunate too, that my little business qualified for a small government grant due to loss of business throughout the holiday season, and this was adequate to compensate me for my losses.
Then, after the two months of non essential travel due to the Covid issue, from 1st June, my B and B was inundated with bookings, many mid week as well as weekends, which is not so common in our winter, but I ended up having to block out extra days between bookings for a bit of breathing space! We have been booked steadily ever since, and these summer holidays commencing this week, we are fully booked to the end of January, not even a single available night has been left unaccounted for. After 5 1/2 years, while doing pretty well, still, this is a first! So I am rushed off my feet now, and grateful for it, if exhausted.
I am just incredibly grateful that we got through this horror episode with the support of wonderful townsfolk helping each other out, and many beautiful guests who were keen to come back to stay again and help contribute to getting our tourism economy and so much more, back on track. Another, more recent plus that I have noted is that our wildflowers have never responded so well as they have to the extremes of last summer, nor have we ever had so many deafening cicadas!
We have only just had our borders opened up again to other states, so I expect to see the demand continue for some time yet. One news headline the other day suggested that many popular holiday towns in our state are virtually hanging out 'No Vacancy' signs at the entrance to the towns!
Thanks for sharing your experience of what has undoubtedly been a challenging year for you @Bronwyn38 - it certainly sounds like a scary experience. You have done so well to bounce back and have your best year yet though, congratulations! It's also lovely to hear that some guests re-booked albeit a year later than originally planned 😊
Great to see the roos are still there, and that you and your neighbours came together to support each other too - I'll bet a few people have gotten more friendly with their neighbours this year.
I hope you get a little bit of time for R&R in amongst all those bookings 🤞
Thanks @Bronwyn38 for personalising your story. The bushfires that devastated SEAustralia were beyond words.
May I wish you well in all your current and future ventures.
May you also get time to breathe though your bookings, if not, make time...... stay safe. 💐
If 2019-2020 summer and 2020 Covid19 have taught us anything: it’s to take care of self.
Many blessings for Christmas and the New Year🎄🦘
Thank you @Cathie6 for your kind words! Yes, indeed, it was impossible to verbalise what all this did to us at the time, it was just so UNREAL and NOT HAPPENING(!) except it WAS HAPPENING! An experience such as this past year, certainly helps one to re-evaluate one's priorities in life!
What a wonderful frightening, sad, but happy story Bronwyn, you guys are the epitome of what it is to be an Aussie.
Country folk here have to live a different life to city dwellers, everything you do requires a conscious decision that involves nature. Country people live for their environment, not just in it.
We all have an independent water supply in the form of rainwater tanks, series of garden sprinklers on the roof, many have standby petrol water supply pumps and firefighting equipment. You never know when your property, or your area, will go off-grid through falling timber. It seems there is never enough rain......or there is too much of it.
But would we ever change it?......no chance, we have the best the world has to offer in Australia , but more than that, we have Aussies like you Bronwyn! You have been to hell and back and what are you now doing....you are making other peoples lives great providing outstanding accommodation for which you are being justly rewarded.
Good on you Bron, have a great Christmas and lets all look forward to a bloody bonza new year hey!
Hear, hear! @Robin4 - we would dearly appreciate a quiet, peaceful 2021!!! And thank you so much for your very generous words. We contributed very little to the efforts compared to many: just trying to do the right thing by the authorities and not get trapped if our one access road was blocked, tended to be at the forefront of my mind. A poor team of firies who came down from the Central coast to help in our region, were the ones who lost their fire truck to the flames when it broke down (hoses melted I think). in Parma Road, Falls Creek, just South of Nowra... Seeing video footage from inside their truck while they were calling for help and being told it was too dangerous for another truck to come in to get them, was absolutely heartstopping, especially when they were about to be engulfed by flames... they had no choice but to walk out of the fire on foot.... Another video showed a fire rushing up to a specially equipped truck - from inside the truck - that ran water on its roof to stop it being incinerated.... this was really creepy to see, and it wasn't until a bit later I realised there were no firies in the truck at the time but it did survive to continue its task.
Thanks for saying, @Lawrene0 - believe me it did for me too, at the time!!! And another day, I cried on my drive home after one of our evacuations when some rain hit the car windscreen... oh for joy!!!!
Hi @Bronwyn38 ,
Thanks for sharing your story. It gives me goosebumps just reading it. It must have been a harrowing experience for you and you family going through the protracted bushfire season. But you survived and your property still stands - that is truly a miracle and a blessing. It is heartwarming to note how grateful you are when some others around you were not so lucky.
Here’s to a wonderful and promising 2021. May you, your family and your town bounce back like the roos and the wildflowers!
Thank you so much, @Jason1470 .. yes... it's bad enough that bushfires usually impact places once, as they charge through, but we had it coming at us for weeks, from different directions.... that really does wear you down! So, here's to a wet summer this year! Cheers.
@Bronwyn38 , double Wow, holy cow (or should I say Roo!). So glad to hear your local hero's could save your town, thats the stuff nail biter movies are made of and as @Lawrene0 said, the last pics a perfect ending to an awful fire storm. Bless you, your family, friends and neighbors and pray we will all have a great 2021 (comparatively) . JR
Many thanks @Melodie-And-John0 - it's not an experience I would recommend.and we are definitely looking forward to a very boring and sedate Christmas and summer this time round!! Wishing you all the very best for the festive season too! Kind regards. Bronwyn
Many thanks indeed, @Heather133 ... I confess I am mildly surprised that that photo has been so evocative for several people - of how it felt for me at the time! I really appreciate seeing this. Wishing you and yours a truly joyous festive season and safe and prosperous 2021!