Day 364: A year on the road but no great celebration

Esperance Day 66

Today is the anniversary of the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria that claimed 173 lives.

46°C, gale force winds and the fires raced through the hills just 40km from where I was sweating it out in the inner suburbs of Melbourne. To mark the occasion it’s officially a national day of mourning and is bringing out plenty of pent up collective grief. (Australia with a population of 21 million has raised $380m for those affected.)

Bizarrely, despite the continuing drought in Southeast Australia there’s been buckets of rain in the burnt out countryside in the last weeks and everything is looking unnaturally green for this time of year. The surviving eucalypts, long used to excessive heat treatment, are sprouting new branches and leaves from the main trunk and from a distance look like green fluorescent pipe cleaners. (I guess people these days have little experience of the pipe and lack knowledge that there was a method evolved for their daily clean.)

Here in the South east region of WA it’s the third Catastrophic fire day for the season.

They’ve decided after last year’s infernos to invent a new category of danger beyond the old highest Extreme: a bit like Spinal Tap’s volume set to 11.

No real rain for weeks, gale force winds straight off the northern desert, temperatures above 38°C, (or 100°F), humidity levels at 4%, the vegetation is naturally combustible.

One of the reasons to stick around for summer in the relatively temperate Espy is to avoid camping out in the shrubbery in these conditions.