In the last post I was bleating about the lack of suitable canoeing rivers on my doorstep and reminiscing about our previous property, Braeside, and the Mole River, which ran fifty metres from our front door. We sold Braeside in 2007 but regularly return around New Year’s Eve to camp by the river with friends. In 2011 we were starkly reminded why it is not a good idea to have a river fifty metres from your front door.
Queensland is awash. Bundaberg, Emerald and Rockhampton have already gone under and now the rains fall in the south-east. An “inland tsunami” flashes through Toowoomba and the LockyerValley. At last count the death toll stands at twenty. Brisbane, the capital city of Queensland, is inundated and thousands of homes and businesses are destroyed. Just west of Brisbane a brother and sister live in a house that fills to the roof with muddy water. He returns the following day in a boat and finds his esky and a water-ski. She wants to know if he found any of her shoes.
The media coverage may stop at the border but the rain does not. Tenterfield, on top of the Great Dividing Range like Toowoomba, is cut in two by a swollen creek. The angry water, fuelled by more heavy rain, heads west. Friends watch as the waters rush across their paddocks – and rise. They pack up and leave but the roads are cut in both directions so they sit on a hill and admire the water views.
On the rich lucerne flats of Mingoola another friend evacuates in the dark of night at 3am, in a tractor, towing a ute containing his father and four dogs. The tractor is washed from the road and the ute drags like a lure behind a fishing line. Five walks through floodwaters are made. Behind him lies a 700m lake where his lucerne once grew and between the lake and the river is his house.
The Mole River rages. An 87 year old man, who has lived here all his life, refuses to leave. He sits, with his daughter, on their kitchen table and watches as his beloved river flows through his house.
Others have built their homes above the river’s clutches but can only stare in disbelief as the water takes $55,000 worth of pump and piping – that was installed the previous day.
The native plant nursery will not need watering for some time.
And of Braeside? The glorious Mole River literally breaks into the house, smashing through the brick verandah wall and shattering the recently restored stained glass windows. It bursts into the bedrooms, upending cupboards, and tears apart the fireplace in the kitchen, adding ash and soot to the mire. It continues to come, drowning the carved wooden balustrades and forming a torrent a metre and a half high down the hall, before taking more verandah on its way downstream to Mingoola. Thankfully no-one is home.
For once I appreciate the lowly spring fed creek that runs, at times, way at the bottom of a Rocky Springs gully – far away from the house; and from a river somewhere.