(A Lex Report)
Since the big rains two weeks ago, life has been in full-flow. With no reception and limited access for infrastructure I resorted to good old human (and nature) interactions to know how to best be of service. I have had to do many “Lex Reports” that I felt to create and share one for all you who dare to dive in.
Monday: After cleaning up the few mm of water that made its way into our home, we picked up my boat to head into Mullumbimby. On the way into a fully submerged town, we helped 8 stranded horses and their owners who had pulled them out of the water and barbed wire. Four of them were banged up pretty badly and one of them (“Cherokee”) later had to be put down. The rest are safe and sound now taking refuge in our surrounding paddocks.
Tuesday: On hearing my close friend Tristan had attempted to get back to his place at the 8th creek crossing in Upper Wilsons Creek and hadn’t been heard from since 2pm the day before, I boosted up the valley to look for him. I navigated landslides, fallen trees and debris before swimming across the causeways and hiking up the mountain to find him peacefully drinking tea at home. We then floated down the river on inner tubes to find his car which had been swept 1km downstream and was now wrapped around a tree. The rest of the day was spent doing recon and welfare checks before I came home to a delicious meal prepared by my beloved.
Wednesday: Telstra crashes and the drop-ins begin. A friend Mickey popped by knowing that I would be up to something adventurous.We loaded up Black Betty and headed up the valley to get to the more remote sections of the community and check in on people, drop off supplies and see the severity of the situation. There was a huge landslide after the 10th crossing that took out half of the mountain, the road access for about 500m and a friend's house (Thankfully, he and his dog made it out). It was like walking over a warzone finding shook-up people along the way. The road had been completely destroyed photos don’t give it justice. The interpersonal, kind moments in the community have been so incredible.
Thursday: Pulled together a team and a doctor for welfare checks and a dog rescue. This day really showed the importance of good communications and local intel by sharing with those who were just heading up who we’d already checked in on. At this stage the Civic Hall was a buzz of support and communications with missions heading out to the cut-off areas. It was incredible how the community made it all work in the organised chaos. We then headed to the vet with the dog and the man who had lost his house and everything he owned. After some heartfelt moments, plenty of pup affection, a song and a syringe, man’s best friend drifted off for the long sleep.
Friday: I headed back up the valley with Jahsim and a bunch of supplies. We did drop-offs to people in Huanbroook and Wanganai who were still completely cut off via road and required choppers or big hikes to get in or out. The focus was getting fuel and supplies to the top of Upper Wilsons Creek. Incredibly the locals (Brown's family and friends) had made the road passable by 4wd up to the landslide already. We Lugged 25L jerry cans over the landslide, throwing them in moments to get over crevasses and big trees. After side missions of clearing chopper landing sites and putting excavators on tracks we made it to the end of the non-road to help the “OG of the Valley”, David Oliver, fix his water which runs his power. We gathered shopping lists and made our way to town for debriefs, getting home at 10pm-ish and trying to wind down.
Saturday: Systems were gaining momentum. Teams were getting team leaders. Waivers were signed. With clear objectives we headed up the valley again. With an epic team of 9 who dubbed themselves “Black Betty Bitches' ' along with a seperate crew of 3 focused on water pumps and water systems we made our way to the headwaters of this whole event. It was an enjoyable day spent supplying and adhering intel, defining paths across landslides, fixing roads and scoping out the situation.
The golden moments are those we shared eye to eye, as one mob, caring for each other and exploring the new landscapes. The last few days life has been getting back online (literally) and life starts trying to find its routine.
My missions turned from being on foot to being in a chopper helping drop supplies, pick up people and check on remote communities that our hub hadn’t heard from. I was asked to be involved in the meeting with the leaders of the government agencies who are now boldly taking over operations.
The meeting was in a hangar in Lismore and flying over showed the damage down in the flood-plain communities. I could write a whole post about the serial nature and dynamics around the meeting but I’ll just share briefly here. We (myself, Rich and Luke) and some representatives of the communities further west met with the “incident coordinator”, police, army, ADF and state emergency representivies, on how to best manage the “Handover”. I was struck by how disconnected and late the response, intel and attitude of the public servants were and the overly simplistic centralised solutions. I shared a clear message of the need for them to listen, collaborate and support community efforts as they are already happening and will continue happening regardless of what they think they are doing. I shared the importance of local liaison people especially in isolated and indigenous communities. We had to leave the meeting while Luke, our data legend, stayed to establish good relations and intel sharing.
Something I have noticed through all this is how beautiful these natural phenomenons are when the force of nature meets nature. The upturned trees, new waterfalls, sediment and nutrient distributions etc… but when these natural forces collide with man's creations they’re considered a disaster, which creates pollution and all the negative associations we have with these events. Many people have shared how if the water raised 1cm more things would have been way worse. I think this was Mother Nature reminding us who really calls the shots. I hope we are listening so we can work on soothing her.
I have learnt so much during this time and am so grateful for life. Water is life. Life can be strong sometimes so let's support strong people, communities and environments.
There are so many legends who have/are given/giving so much during these times and many I had personal interactions with I would love to mention here but haven't due to (trying) to keep this brief. The ripple effects of the kindness and efforts you have put in will last long after the flood levels recede.
I feel a deep gratitude for my beloved partner Magdalena for caring so gracefully for me, our home and the community during these times. There are so many unsung heroes out there doing the menial and magnificent tasks that keep life in good flow and I deeply appreciate you all. I trust we will navigate all the work, information and changes we are presented with during this evolutionary leap we are taking together. Water has always been such a powerful force in our lives, let us honour the majesty that it is.