I'm just breathing a sigh of relief.
The events of the past 36 hours have made us aware of the uncertainty of all we hold near and dear.
You never know.
The day began perfectly, It was overcast and quite hot when we left the hotel, but we're Australian, we live with the heat and when you're on holidays you make the most of the day. Port Arthur is one of the Southern most areas of the Island and is generally cooler.
We had a discussion earlier in the day, should we go on the tree tops tour or go to Port Arthur?
I'm not too good at swinging through trees so we decided on Port Arthur.
We took detours off the main rd to visit beautiful secluded bays there was no one around and I took a walk out onto a muddy island to get photos of the pelicans and swans.
We stopped at Denally at a riverside restaurant. It was quiet and peaceful. There was no breeze we sat outside overlooking the jetty and the fishing boats and because we were on holidays we decided to have the traditional scones and jam and cream for morning tea.
A real treat.
You know when you meet someone and think "I'm sure I know you"
The girl behind the counter did the same.
She delivered our coffee and we realized she was a friend of our son from years past.
I shot these photos outside the restaurant as we left, green foliage, weather beaten wood etc… (as you do)
Driving out of the town, I looked up to see the bakery just down the street and I commented on how busy it was.
We continued sight seeing and finally arrived at our destination of Port Arthur. The clouds disappeared and the temperature rose.
2.00, we joined our tour.
I'm not good at standing in la group and listening and I wandered off taking photos.
It was around 2.30 pm that the announcement was made by our guide that the road back to Hobart was closed due to fire.
We felt a little nervous about the situation but there wasn't much we could do, we were in the same situation as the rest of the tourists visiting the site so we soldiered on. Its a fascniating place and part of our heritage.
Gradually the sun became blocked by a huge cloud billowing over the horizon and the realization of the seriousness of the situation rippled through the crowds.
Everyone was on the phone trying to make sense of the apparent chaos.
We were by the ocean so the nervousness of being trapped wasn't a concern. The water looked very inviting I can assure you.
We were advised that we needed to evacuate to Nubeena Civic Center some 10 kms South.
"Go have a cuppa in the restaurant and take it easy" said the jovial assistant. Nup, "Lets go" I said to Keith and we were one of the first to leave.
Already the crowds were arriving at the centre……but we were unaware that many of them were locals evacuated from Denally which had been almost burnt to the ground just an hour earlier.
Then I began to thin about that little restaurant and Jamie's friend. Is it still standing?
The bakery we talked about a few doors down from the restaurant has gone, the Police station, the school and 60 other premises in the area. We listened in disbelief as we were told that most of the town had gone.
How could that be, we were there a few hours ago.
We had to register, and a lone man behind the counter served tea and coffee and water from the tap. It was most welcome.
Dogs, cats, sat with their owners, an occasional scrap broke out. A crate full of puppies and the Mother dog was bought into the venue.
There were two distinct groups of people, locals who had left in a hurry and trapped tourists.
Some of the tourists spoke no English and it must have been confusing for them.
The hall began to fill and the noise and temperature rose rapidly. The Fire service called us to attention every hour and gave us an update on the fires but to be honest they weren't getting much information either.
The power finally went out and all communication with the outside world ceased.
The Lions club bus arrived and it was like the loaves and fishes… they provided sausages, and bread and when that ran out is was bacon and bread and I even saw a young fisherman arrive with bags of freshly caught salmon. He donated his catch. Everyone in the community was amazing.
Stranded Girl Guides distributed fruit and candy.
Around 7.00 pm it was so congested in the hall so Keith and I decided to move back to the car, at this stage there were 100's of cars parked on the oval. They were also parked down the street and outside the town snaking in a long line down the coast.
People gathered around the battery radios to hear the latest news.
What can you say?
Another young couple shared their chairs and food with us.
The sun was setting and people began to retire (on the bare ground) I read my textile book and tried to ignore the indignities of enforced homelessness. No toothbrush or clean underwear.
But we were the lucky ones, its not permanent for us.
"We are going to evacuate you all by ferry" he said.
"We need you all to leave as soon as possible, leave your cars.
Line up and give me your name and I will allocate you a time"
I wrote about the departure in a previous post and the fact that Keith decided to stay with the hire car. So I gathered my cameras, some money and we almost ran the 1/2 km to the ferry.
I've written a previous post in rather an emotional tone about the hire car company, their attitude was less than sympathetic.
No, they didn't loose money after charging us $980 for 6 days hire of a badly maintained tiny Hyundai Getz.
Their attitude was so different to the tour company we were due to travel with today.
On the other hand I'm feeling desperately sorry for the people who have lost everything. Our problems amount to nothing. Keith arrived back with very emotional stories.
On the dock this afternoon human resources were giving aid and comfort to those who have been uprooted from their homes.
People are donating food for people and animals. A foster program for lost dogs and cats has grown and I think this is the true spirit of the average Tasmanian.
The road could be out for 5 days. There is no electricity of phone service so for safety most people have been urged to leave by boat.
100's of hired vehicles are left abandoned and the other companies have been understanding.
There is a cost in this situation… but the value of a life is paramount.
Thanks a million to all those who are giving.