I didn’t know if I could get through, but I had to try. I just had to. I can’t explain the feeling.
I decided to stick to the back roads – I didn’t want to attract attention using the main roads and possibly being pulled over and being told to turn around.
The first road block was on the way into St Andrews - I diverted right and got around that one - they were none the wiser
The second road block was in Yarra Glen - again I diverted right and missed the road block - had I gone through the centre of town I would have been blocked - but luckily I didn’t - I snuck between the two road blocks.
I took a small normally unknown and unused road, a road that I used to travel down when I was traveling to and from school on the school bus many years ago - the roadside was ablaze (I was still in the outer suburbs of Melbourne) trees burning like candles - horrible stuff. Little did I know that worse was to come.
The next road block was Healesville - I really didn’t think I had a hope in hell of getting through - but I though what have I got to lose?
I talked to the RTA guy manning the road block for a while - for 2 reasons - one for him to gain my trust (at 3.30am in the morning) could be interesting and two to pass the time and wait for the false dawn to give me some light for what I knew was coming.
I left that road block at about 4.10am - on the proviso that I SMS him the road conditions and when I got through - how where the townships on the way. Deal done - I left that road block - keeping in mind I had not seen a soul for the past 20-30km - no-one of the road - they were all being pushed in the other directions - supposedly away from the fire
The Black Spur journey was pretty uneventful - lots of bark rubbish, a few small trees - but that was it - got to the other side and things seemed untouched - for about 3km and then I entered HELL.
There was lots of smallish branches on the road - both sides of the roads were glowing - buildings smouldering and power lines down - everything I had known for the past 20 years gone :(
That was only Narbethong.
I turned off the Maroondah Highway into the Marysville Road and 2nd HELL broke loose - I was confronted by a fallen tree - the trunk almost as large as a large passenger car - no problems - I could see a way around it - so I did. - SHIT :(
The next 15km was pure hell - took me 1 hour to travel. Every 10-15 metres I was swerving from one side of the road to the other - avoiding fallen trees - most still burning/smouldering to some degree.
The next obstacle was a tree in the township of Granton - I couldn’t get around it - there was a gate to the right - I turned the car in to see if I could see a way around the tree - but couldn’t - not immediately. so I backed out. My fear was that I would discover a septic tank with my car and be stuck forever. I put the headlights on the tree and got out of the car to try and figure something out - before I could do anything - a torch wandered from the house ( YES a house still standing) - I learnt that she, yes she had fought the fire by herself and saved one of her houses. I got talking and with a little lateral thinking - we figured out I could drive down her driveway and then over a fallen fence before using another driveway to get back on the road.
That favour cost me 1 litre of water - she HAD NO WATER - the tanks had melted.
I also found out that only 6 houses remained in that settlement - can't recall or wasn’t told how many houses were there previously - but I was told everyone was accounted for - that is all that matters
Part 3 to follow.............................................