Originally posted at http://puzzling.org.
Today’s life lesson: where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Useful, yes?
This year, my mother, Steph, and I are all working part-time, and so we have met in the Blue Mountains once a month or so, give or take, for a picnic.
Today was looking dicey as it was, with forecast temperatures of 35°C or so. That’s high for the mountains, where I’d normally think one would escape Sydney’s heat, but this is the new, improved Australian climate where the heatwaves come out from the desert, and those heatwaves do not play by any former rules about which are the cooler bits of the near-coast inhabited land and which are the warmer bits. To the desert heatwaves, everywhere is an opportunity for a blast furnace.
I felt super-organised and accomplished, remembering to bring hats for both children, food for both children, sunscreen, and a picnic blanket. Did you pick what I missed? No? I forgot a bib for A, so she ended up evenly smeared with yoghurt. It may be good for her skin? Steph didn’t come today so I can’t do any comparative parenting skills today. Actually, yes I can: my mother bought me a new dress, so she wins.
There was a decent breeze, which is great news for the picnickers sweltering away, but otherwise terrible, because wind and dry heat means fire.
This even occurred to me at the time. What didn’t occur to me was to change my plans for the return journey.
My mother had to leave at 2, but we had all day and I thought V might be interested in seeing Wentworth Falls. We unloaded in the carpark in one of the narrowest parks I’ve ever had the misfortune of finding (naturally, the car next to me was both fancy-looking, and metallic orange). Lucky I’m not pregnant or I would have been trapped in the car. We trudged along the flat ground to the upper lookouts, and V was already dawdling and whining. So, we had to be done right? No. He perked right up when he saw the dusty steps descending into the bush.
The Prince’s Rock Lookout advertises itself as a 20 minute return trip, and I’d say that’s an overestimate even for someone carrying a baby and accompanied by a four year old. It’s basically a few hundred steps with the odd turn. But nevertheless, going down there when it’s 35°C with a kid and a baby without any water was not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. However, that’s not today’s cautionary tale. It was actually quite fun, because V was enchanted with the rainbow in the falls. And he’d promised me faithfully at the top that if I let him walk down, he wouldn’t complain when we had to climb all those steps coming back up in the heat. And he didn’t, although he twice took up my offer of a rest whenever he wanted one. I do admire his stoicism when he’s determined (and he’s been a good walker for a while, we did Daydream Island’s short walk end-to-end several times a year ago). I nursed A at the bottom, and at the top I got them back to the car reasonably quickly so that we could hang out somewhere with ambient temperature below our body temperature and V and I had a drink there.
V pointed out politely how much fun this would be in winter, which, he observed, is colder than summer.
However, the closest we came to grief all day was driving east along the Great Western Highway. A siren sounded as a fire service SUV flew along the highway while I was re-fuelling the car. I saw a few isolated plumes of smoke ahead and rang Andrew. Ahahaha, so self-deprecating, they really look like small fires but I’m just being cautious (half an hour too late, see hot walk without water), and emergency services are out and about, so, just in case, what does the Rural Fire Service say? He said he’d call back if there was an issue and to take silence as a good sign. On we drove, until traffic slowed around the area the smoke was (stickybeaking, I think) and we saw a number of fire trucks (V says nine, I think he’s guessing but that would be about right) and the police poking about. I still didn’t think it was terribly serious, until I saw that they had helicopters up, Elvis the massive one among them, within sight of the road.
On we drove. I explained to V I didn’t want to stop for food nearby since it was a good idea to get well clear of a fire if one could. Five minutes later, Andrew rang, saying that the Google feature formerly known as Latitude (and, in our household, Stalkitude) was showing me at Warrimoo, where an emergency alert had just been issued. Nope, I reported, I was 10 minutes drive further towards the city. Good news!
On we drove. At the M4 service centre, I had two messages, one from Steph hoping that I wasn’t stuck in the mountains. The other the Rural Fire Service outreach message, which must be an all-cell broadcast around Blaxland and Warrimoo, telling me that if I didn’t have a fire plan in place, that an emergency was in progress, and now was the time to leave my property.
It would still have been OK. I don’t live there, so I have no property to defend. The fire was possibly dangerous, but small. At worst, if I’d been still up there when the road closed, I could have stayed somewhere up there for the night. (It opened again around about the time the kids went to bed.) But next time I’m up in the mountains in summer and the breeze is up, I’ll look at the fire reports, and the next time I see smoke in the Greater Sydney area, I’m not going to bother with the cutesy “I’m sure it’s nothing” business.