Deciding to go and getting ready
During the 2019/2020 bushfires lots of small communities took a huge hit to their economy. To help them get back on their feet they need visitors. Not to do any work or to donate money or anything. Just visit and spend a few dollars in the town. Things like top up with fuel, buy a cup of coffee or a meal or stay a few days in the local caravan park.
Omeo is a place that we really like and the caravan park is, to us, a pretty special place so we decided on the spur of the moment to head off for a long weekend.
So, here we are. It’s nearly 1.00am on Saturday and we want to hit the road before 11.00am on Saturday. We made the decision to go at around 9.00pm and started getting our stuff together. While Jenny was getting the boxes packed I did a hurried oil and coolant check, pumped up the air helper springs, put the auxiliary battery in the back of the car and got the pile of general clutter out of the back of the Land Rover.
We’ve still got stuff to do in the morning – drain and refill the camper water tank, do some shopping for food and plonk and stuff for the weekend and get the camper and car packed and fueled up.
Apparently the Australian Army and others are staying at the caravan park and the Omeo Caravan Park facebook page talks about cricket matches and a sausage sizzle for Australia Day so a good time should be had by all. In this post we’ll be putting up a couple of photos of the devastation caused by the fires as well as pictures of anything that we find interesting or novel.
The trip up
As ever the trip from Moe to Bairnsdale was pretty boring but it started to get a bit more interesting after we went through Bruthen. For a start the road gets a great deal more twisty and steep.
It was also where started to see the results of the fires.
In amongst the destruction were peoples homes that were nothing but twisted wrecks. I’m not showing them out of respect for those that have lost everything.
On the way you can see a lot of the Tambo River. Normally it’s crystal clear but not now. It looks more like a latte or hot milk chocolate. The ash piled up around the river bends looks, quite frankly, disgusting. In the past , when we’ve travelled to Omeo, there have been sandy beaches on the bends. Not now though – it looks more like vast expanses of Vegemite.
As you can see by the dashcam screenshots the destruction was quite complete. In a lot of places a mere two or three weeks after the fires went through we could already see green shoots both in the trees and on the ground. The bush has wasted no time in getting the regeneration process started.
As we got closer to Omeo there was less and less evidence of the fires until there was no evidence at all apart from a lot of smoke in the air.
The rest of the trip up to Omeo was uneventful and we arrived at the Omeo Caravan Park safe and sound. Went to see Sandy in the office and she gladly took our money for three nights and pointed out where we could set up.
By the time we got sorted out and and had finished faffing around with the annex and the poles and guy ropes it was time for some cheese and bikkies. While we snacked and reported back to the family as to our whereabouts there was a constant stream of ADF vehicles returning to the caravan park.
When dinner time came around surprise, surprise we weren’t that hungry so we just had salad wraps for dinner and after a bit more sitting around we went to bed.
Thus ended day one.
Sunday dawned bright and clear and noisy. The noise came from a bunch of Australian Defence Force Bushmaster vehicles leaving for their tasks for the day. The Army personnel were both Australian from Townsville (3 Combat Engineers Regiment and 3 Combat Signals Regiment) and from Papua New Guinea and they were there clearing dangerous trees from roadsides and re-opening various tracks and roads that had been closed by the damage caused by the fires. There were about 190 ADF and PNG armed forces personnel there engaged in the work.
The next item on the agenda was a trip to the Omeo Show grounds for a cricket match between the “locals” and the ADF / PNG as well as a “sausage sizzle”.
When we got there at the appointed time the sausage sizzle hadn’t quite started and there were a few games of touch footy and soccer going on. No evidence of a cricket match at all. We sat in the car for a while just watching the proceedings and talking to a Chaplain from the PNG contingent until eventually a mower was used to closely crop a cricket pitch sized area in the middle of the oval. Eventually teams were formed and a game of cricket got under way.
The “rules” seemed a bit strange though. Talking to one of the players afterwards we found out that runs meant nothing – it was about how many times you went out. Whilst the scoring was “interesting” some of the batting and bowling techniques on display were quite bizarre.
We watched the cricket and talked to various people for a while and went back to the caravan park for cheese and bikkies. Again, there was a steady stream of ADF vehicles and personnel returning from their tasks in the bush.
We sat around talking for a while and decided to get dinner at Lou’s Red Food Van. Nothing had changed since our last visit. Big, good and tasty meals at a keen price. Lou’s pizzas, dim sims and doughnuts seemed to be a big hit with the military people and as one of them said, “some nights you’ve just got to have pizza”.
After dinner we sat around talking with Lou, and others, until it was time for a shower and bed.
This promised to be a good day. As usual it dawned bright and clear and noisy. The ADF and PNG contingent were having an open day. We sat having breakfast and drinking coffee while we watched them get everything set up. When the appointed time came around we wandered off to have a look and a yak.
There was a variety of military vehicles on display ranging from Bushmasters in various configurations up to very large Mack trucks. Lots of M.A.N. trucks too.
The Bushmasters were being used to ferry equipment and personnel to the work areas as well as one providing a First Aid post. That was equipped as a fully functioning ambulance.
The trip home
Our long weekend at Omeo was at an end. Big thanks to Lou, Sandy,Peanut and Pirra for a great weekend.
After getting the camper and the car packed and hooked up it was time for the “big off”. We left at about ten thirty am and headed off. The trip down was uneventful but it was pretty depressing driving through the fire effected areas again. We carried on to Stratford and pulled into a wayside stop and had a bite to eat and continued. We turned off towards Maffra and about half way between Maffra and Tinamba this happened. The car is dead.
After a few minutes of wondering what to do we called or a flat top that could get us, the car and the camper home. Lots of money later we arrived home and unpacked.
Now starts the hunt for a new engine or a new car or something.