We’ve passed the Tweed Initiation! Life has been exciting up here. Thursday (30th March) we had an impressive amount of about 700ml rain in a day – surrounded by water we felt like we were back in our former Scotland Island house. But there was more to come that night. It was dark, noisy, scary and power went off so we couldn’t see what was happening here or further upstream via internet. However, we passed the Tweed initiation test well! Those who have been here longer than us can no longer say that we haven’t seen a ‘real’ flood. Our house and garden are as though it didn’t even rain but the fences didn’t fare so well – especially our brand new regen fence. Some of it survived and stands draped in vegetation litter. Amazingly my kayak tied to the fence survived. Our river-side land now stands much higher on possibly a foot or more of silt. I remember learning at school about the fertility of the silt deposited on the Nile floodplains – well it happens on the Rous river too! We are very happy this didn’t happen 2 years ago. We moved here on March 26th 2015 (2 years and 4 days before Debbie sent us her love) and didn’t know anyone or anything about local matters.
We helped our neighbours fix their fences – worse than ours. Grahame has picked up lots of tips from Martin – will come in handy when we get to fix ours. The cows were bored confined to a few small paddocks but it will be some time before we can let them out so their owner came and took them back. They even increased in number – a new calf was born during the flood.
Ironically the worst part was having NO WATER inside the house when outside it was everywhere! No power means no water for us and power was off for several days. Guess what – a generator and solar panels have instantly been escalated to the top of our ‘to do’ list. We were however, more prepared than we thought – found a 15l container of water and lanterns in our camping supplies.
Numinbah road was littered with trees and landslides so we were cutoff in both directions – the causeway wasn’t even visible. …not that we wanted to go anywhere! However with no phones, internet or news of any sort we were concerned about Chillingham village so walked up on Saturday, climbing over the huge tree blocking the road. Rounding the corner, we were delighted to see Bucks farm, Chillingham Village store and hall looking as though nothing had happened. We were even more delighted to see Trevor’s bridge standing in all its glory over the pond. Further on play equipment from the preschool strewn on the broken walkway was a saddening site and a preview of the extensive damage to the preschool we saw later on. The good news is that the landcare plants some of us planted behind the preschool and next to the fire brigade over 2 Sundays were still alive. Judy and Milton’s house had been ankle-deep in water but with the help of friends a lot of cleaning up had been done by the time we arrived – a big job but they were cheerful. Unusual things happen in a flood – a freezer full of frozen food had turned up in their garden – owners unknown! On Monday we made it into Murwillumbah and saw the devastation and heartbreak of some small business owners in South Murwillumbah. But the cleanup has been well done and everyone is helping each other and doing what needs to be done.
Power eventually returned after several days, then NBN and phone after several more days.
Chillingham village houses as well as Murwillumbah have been badly damaged as have many roads. Lismore and Murwillumbah made the news but Chillingham didn’t – no news centre here and no road access! At the Chillingham Community Centre last Sunday we held a free sausage sizzle. It was a wonderful event – such a special community and so good talking with locals, some I hadn’t met before. Natural disasters like this are draining emotionally as well as physically. Tweed council, SES and fire brigade have been fabulous. It took some time to open our roads and get power reconnected because most of the Tweed council trucks and equipment were flooded – there were only 2 working, that employees had illegally taken home for the night! 4 handsome firemen arrived at our place last week to check we were OK. They were from Sydney. I was very happy to know that they were checking all properties – because everyone was cut-off both physically and electronically (no power, internet or phone) I was concerned for older farmers etc. The SES people at the sausage sizzle, some also from Sydney, were also fabulous – talking to people and asking how they could help, washing out flooded homes etc. Cleaning up after a flood is a big job. We now have a porta-loo in a tree beside our river as well as garbage bins – and I found a toy racing car. The good news is that our river regeneration program is still going ahead despite the damage to fences.
All pretty-much back to normal now, except for the fences. Life continues to be an adventure.