The Start Of The Journey

Charly // January 12 // 0 Comments

Where to start this story.... that's a good question. 

Let's start sometime in late 2019, when the bushfires were raging about Canberra.  That seems like a good place.  I don't even remember when they started, the bushfires that is, but I do remember being on 'fire watch' - watching for updates about where the fire that had started near Canberra was travelling, whether it was under control etc etc etc.

Nothing new, not really.  Well, perhaps it started a bit earlier than usual, like September instead December, and fires just kept burning about the city.  Now, when I say 'about the city', they were a couple of hundred of kilometres out and a concern but not a threat.

The memory of 2003 however, when the weather conditions were similar to how they were in September 2019 were there.  How we were showered with ash for weeks, the skies dark with smoke and the air thick.  It was similar, but not quite the same.

Our fire fighters and emergency service people did a marvelous job at keeping the fires as much under control as they could but December 2019, they got worse.  A fire started up to the South of where I live and came so very close to my suburb - at one point, it was about 2.5 km from the house where I was and our street was in the 'zone' where the fire would travel if it spread.

We lived in a state of 'ready to evacuate' for weeks.  I recall packing boxes with things that were important and packing some of those in the car, I had a bag with clothes in it that I lived out of, and telling my gaming group over Discord that if I disappeared without notice, I was evacuating. 

We'd wake every day with smoke so thick in the air, that it was hard to breath. We couldn't go outside without industrial facemasks and my eyes watered constantly when I was in the house, even though we had doors and windows shut tight. 

The photo's I took really don't do justice to what it was like, but these were what most of our days were like. The sun angry and red overhead as it tried penetrate the thick smoke that lay over the Tuggeranong Valley.

It was during one of our gaming sessions that my Hawaiian friends asked me to come over and spend New Years with them.  I couldn't because I'd agreed to house and pet sit that week but we made plans and it was agreed that I head over on February 8th, 2020 and spend 5 months there - to celebrate both their birthdays and have some fun.

New Years Eve 2019 was something else. My kids had gone to Nowra to celebrate with their Dad and were planning on spending the week there. I was looking after the house and pets - a bit concerning with all the fires about, but nothing too bad. We had a plan of action if it was needed.

Then I got the call, Nowra was evacuating and they were getting a police escort down the highway to Canberra. The fires that had threatened Nowra jumped and now the town was under threat.  For ourselves, the fires to the south crept ever closer - I could see the flames on the hills near us and I was waiting for the call to go. 

Fortunately, that call never came. I did however, spend much of New Years Eve waiting to see my kids arrive in the drive.  When they did, I was extremely relieved.  To say it was a subdued New Years Eve would have been an understatement.

Life moved on though and my bags were already pretty much packed, I spent the weeks between then and February working and cleaning.  Tidying the room that I rented in my daughters house and leaving it as a tidy and orderly as could.  I was, after all, only going till May but maybe they'd want to let people use it and I was ok with that.

February 8 arrived!  I caught a Murrays Coach to the Airport, boarded my flight and headed to Hawaii for five months. 

Now, at that point, there were reports of an illness affecting people returning from China.  No one thought a lot about that - it was a virus but seemed to be controlled by isolating those affected and only affected some coming in from China and Asia, in general.

"No, sir" I answered, when asked by the guys at the gates in the US whether I'd been in China in the last 14 days. 

And that was it. It was a virus. No big concern right? If only we knew...

... And here starts the story of my 5 month holiday that turned into nearly 2 years of not being able to return home ...

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