After a great catch up lunch with friends in the Yarra Valley, we had a bit of trouble finding a campsite, but found one near Alexandra and camped near the Goulburn River in a spot beside a paddock near a big bull!! The farmer, Ron, who liked to ride his touring bike across Australia while his wife caught the aeroplane, said it was going to be a bit chilly tonight. Frost was on the car when we ventured out of the camper. We both slept in thermals and had down sleeping bags. I think it dropped to zero. We both wore a bini and gloves and fog puffed out of our mouths when we breathed!
We thought we would drive through the Kinglake area to see how the forest had recovered after the fires. Black Saturday’s charred remains are still prominent three months on. The remnant of some homes is only a pad of freshly raked ground, others, piles of fragile bricks and twisted corrugated iron. Excavators stood in the place of roses and azaleas. Charcoaled trunks stand like spears stuck in the barren dirt, covering the hillside and horizon as far as I could see. This spiky mat is becoming softened slowly with the emergence of budding green. Fluffy leaves are now starting to replace the flames, hugging the trunk from the ground to as far up the tree as the bark can carry moisture and nutrient. Limbs and fingers of shrivelled death still poke high into the blue sky.
In some of the gullies the tree ferns are like lacy whirls of fine fronds, green pinwheels against the blackened earth. The fog felt haunting. The silence became damp.
We found a camp north of Melbourne at Lerderderg State Park. Spots were hard to find because many of the parks were closed. Some would be years before they would be open again.