Sunday, January 16, 2011

Not my fault

I would like to make it clear that I take no responsibility whatsoever for the terrible floods in Brazil. I have never been to Brazil. The nearest I ever got was eating a fresh Brazil nut in the Amazon jungle in Peru; but the young people flaunting their perfect bodies in front of us last Sunday at Palm Beach were, I thought, Brazilian (on the basis that I couldn't understand what they were saying so obviously it couldn't have been Spanish) - does that count?
Seriously, tragic stories from Brazil. And seriously bad ones still from Australia, as mop-ups uncover bodies in Queensland, flooding spreads in NSW and Victoria is badly affected. Also, Tasmania, where I'm going in just over a week (calamity, worryingly, now preceding me as well as following on my heels): two teenagers airlifted to safety after being swept along Cascade Gorge, which was on my itinerary, and where I have been previously. It's a huge, er, gorge between rocky cliffs, very spectacular, especially when viewed from the ski lift arrangement that spans it, on which you're suspended below a cable and move very slowly across the surging waters.
Near Heathcote, in Victoria, we went up to look at Lake Eppalock, to see the phenomenon of the spillway not just wet but actually foaming with water: the first time it had been put to use since it was built in the 1990s. Our host was still taken with the novelty of it all, that the lake was 107% full so soon after a time when "We thought we were going to lose the lake". It'll be a lot more impressive right now, I bet.
And back in Queensland, in Charleville, our guide there was still astonished by the floods they'd had just 4 weeks earlier, when Bradley's Gully overflowed and swept through the town from behind while everyone was watching the stopbanks on the Warrego River out front: half a metre of muddy water right through the town, including the bottom floor of the historic Corones Hotel, scene of high society in the first half of last century but the elegance now faded, and many treasured items spoiled by floodwater. Poor Jane, the tourism lady, found herself playing lady's maid, hand-washing gowns over and over, flushing the fine dirt out of seams and hems.
Australia's fine red dust is probably the most-cursed dirt on the planet: up in Broome, the pearl-masters deliberately chose to wear white linen suits to show how rich they were, able to afford not just lots of sets of clothes, but also the laundry maids to wash out the pindan dust every day, in water that had to be filtered over and over before it could be used.

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