Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Great Aussie Flood of '09

For a little over a week, I've been helping out at Bellingen Canoe Adventures as part of the WWOOF program. They're located in the Bellingen Valley on the eastern coast of New South Wales, Australia. Basically, I help out with their property and business and they give me a place to sleep and stuff to eat. Not a bad deal, and it's nice to stay in the same place for a bit after traveling for so many weeks.

I thought this would be a great opportunity to practice my canoe and kayak skills before the Un-Road Trip, as I've already got a two-day kayak trip planed in Florida. I did get a chance to go canoeing twice- then it started raining. Seven days later I'm still waiting for it to stop. Apparently, this happens once or twice a year and could last anywhere between a week and two. On Monday morning we had to bring all the canoes up from the beach to prepare for possible flooding, and three-person canoes are not light. By Monday afternoon a few of the surrounding communities got cut off after a few bridges went under water. It rained through the night on Monday, and when I woke up Tuesday morning, the water level must have come up at least fifteen feet. I watched the news in the morning to hear that Bellingen was flooded and cut off. The water was nowhere near the house, but if you drove less than a mile in any direction you'd reach a "Road Closed" sign, mostly submerged in water.

And so we did the only thing we could. We went canoeing down the road and over the cow pastures. It was amazing. After living in the area for a few days, it was cool to see it from a whole new perspective.

We paddled by the tops of trees, and the roof of a building. And we saw islands of cows. Basically, the farmers build up these little mounds in the pasture to prepare for exactly this situation. The wildest part was the bugs. They were everywhere. The surface of the water was covered with little spiders and crickets that were somehow floating by spreading out their feet just right. All the signs and fence posts above the water were coated with a layer of spiders and beetles and flies, and when our relatively dry canoe came by, a lot of bugs wanted to hitch a ride. Within half an hour, the canoe was swarming with bugs. I was assured that the spiders would be so relieved to be out of the water that they probably wouldn't bite me. And the bugs weren't the only critters looking for dry land. A neighbor had seen a python taking shelter near their deck earlier in the day, and when we passed a raised shack, (that used to be in the middle of a field of myrtle), it was buzzing with skinks and water dragons.

The water went down fast as well, and by the next day we could get into town again and I was free to continue my trip. Last night I took the train into Brisbane, and weather permitting, I'm going to try to work my way north. There's been some flooding up there as well, so I'll see how far I can get. Or if I do get stuck in a another flood, I can put my improved canoe skills to the test.

In Un-Road Trip news, I'm starting to figure out exactly how I'm going to start out the trip. I'm thinking, walking, street car, light rail, and dog powered tricycle.

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