Being camped at a remote campsite and having to flee a rapidly advancing bushfire is probably high up on the list of most grey nomads’ potential camping nightmare lists … and that’s exactly what happened to Hannah Winter last week.
The Port Stephens resident and her partner Clive were camping with friends at Pebbly Beach campground in Yuraygir National Park north of Coffs Harbour last Friday when they got the order to evacuate.
They had been warned by a ranger in mid afternoon to be on stand-by because the smoke was getting a bit thick, but as they weren’t unduly concerned until they saw helicopters and a plane with a siren going.
According to the Chinchilla News, the evacuation orders were given by the ranger at about 8pm. Pebbly Beach, though, is truly remote and access is a drive along the beach and then requires crossing a saltwater estuary at low tide.
The only problem for the nervous campers last week was that low tide was not until 2.10am on Saturday, and that meant some anxious hours waiting until they could cross.
“We went hammer and tong and threw everything into the car, and I just thought god I hope we make it out,” Ms Winter said. “You could really hear that eerie crackling, burning sound, and for that last two hours we were biting our fingernails.”
When the tide was low enough, they made the water crossing and were escorted through the worst of the fire by firefighters.
“It was absolutely terrifying,” said Ms Winter. “The smoke was so thick it was in the car, stinging our eyes, and we could see the fire burning to the edges of the road.”
And the relieved camper was full of praise for the firefighters and rangers who she said did a great job in escorting people out.
The fireburnt through about 3400 hectares of land, including 1800 hectares of state forest and hardwood plantation, and 1600 hectares of National Park Land. While the fire went through Pebbly Beach campground, the National Parks and Wildlife Service said fire crews worked closely with support from the air to ensure there was no damage to any infrastructure in the area.
· Have you ever had to flee a natural disaster while camping? Comment below.