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Travelling North

Luckily, we're not having the dramas Frank and Frances experienced in David Williamson's iconic play as we travel north, but we have been sobered by our stay in Wardell. This tiny town near Ballina is one of many hit by the NSW floods in March this year. Our Penguin camper trailer is settled in the town's Sandalwood Van & Leisure Park, a picturesque 21 acres that includes an immaculate mown circuit designed for walking your dog. Finnegan has taken full advantage of the path.

When you start chatting to some of the campers you discover they're here because their flooded houses are still uninhabitable all these months later. Many are living in tents through the Winter and expect to be tenting until next year at the earliest.

The saddest thing was driving through the nearby town of Broadwater, where scores of houses lie empty as they wait to repair flood damage as well as the leakage of potentially toxic sludge through their houses. It felt like a ghost town.

The people we met were keen to tell their story and determined to stay positive. One woman told us the water had reached her roof and they had to escape by boat. They evacuated to her mother's home but then had to evacuate from that house. Her house is still awaiting an insurance assessment.

There's a Community Organised Resilience Effort in Wardell where volunteers are supporting the people of the region. If you drop into their building, you find everything from nappies to clothing to linen. They've struck some bureaucracy along the way but they're clearly there to help.

It's easy in today's news cycle to move onto the next big story, and visiting the region was a stark reminder that people live in tough conditions for a very long time after natural disaster.

A highlight for Finnegan was visiting Patch's Beach, the emptiest and most dog-friendly beach we've ever encountered. There were some huge trees washed up from the floods. Local fishermen told us that they were at last seeing ocean that wasn't brown from debris. Finnegan romped along the sand like an athlete, but was unconvinced by the water that kept chasing him. Let's face it, he's an inland country dog!

Of course the highlight for Rob was discovering the giant prawn in Ballina. He wasn't sure how it ended up in the Bunnings car park but he was clearly in awe of this majestic crustacean sculpture.

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