Yesterday, major bush fires in the Southern Highlands, centred on an area from Bargo to Yanderra, forced the closure of the Hume Highway in both directions. Consequently, I couldn't get home to Bundanoon.
Like Charley Boorman and Ewen McGregor, I took the long way around (involving a route through Campbelltown, Appin, Bulli Tops, Wollongong, Albion Park, Jamberoo and Robertson). The journey home usually takes an hour. Yesterday, it was a two and a quarter hour extravaganza. This is not a whinge. Many people were evacuated from their homes. Some lost their homes.
I'd never before seen so much smoke. When driving from Appin to Bulli Tops, I passed underneath a colossal belt of deep purple-grey smoke. It was as if a volcano had erupted. It was unnerving. I put my foot on the accelerator a bit more than usual. Funny how mortals don't cope too well in the presence of a restless god!
Driving up the Hume Highway this morning, I cut through blackened voids where trees had been reduced to skeletal, pathetic things. Roadside signs were illegible. Smoke from several still-grumbling fires had turned the sun into a surreal neon mandarin. A lifeless, burnt swamp wallaby by the carriageway struck me. As did the comforting home-and-content-on-a-winter-Highlands-night smell of smoke. Everything was sepia-infused Gothicism. Or the point where Gothicism meets horror. It was startling how close flames came to houses near the Bargo turn off.
Congrats to all the RFS, police and emergency teams who tackled things with fearlessness and tenacity yesterday. And won. No one died.
LJ, October 18 2013.