How hot does it have to be for the paint on roadside signs to melt? Google has no definitive answer, but whatever that temperature is it was reached in many spots during the recent bushfires along the highway that runs the 300 odd kilometres between Nowra and Eden in NSW.
The scorched earth and blackened trees either side of the Princes Highway are the cliché image from the Christmas/New Year period, but it is the roadside signs which more chillingly tell the terrifying story of the blazes.
They look comical at first glance, as though painted with some form of Liquid Paper which has run before drying. The reality, of course, is more sobering.
There is little one can add to the millions of words already penned about the devastation wreaked upon this idyllic stretch of Australian coastline which plays host to hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.
Every segment of every community along the tourist route has been – and will continue to be – affected by what transpired during the week following New Year’s Eve.
Lives and property lost, a charred landscape left behind with little in the way of wildlife to be seen or heard and what must be nightmarish memories for those who lived through it.
But now, with the crisis phase all but in the rear-view mirror, comes the next and in many ways more difficult step.
Trying to answer the unanswerable question: what next?
Among those at the forefront of the emergency and reeling in its aftermath are the region’s golf clubs, predominantly the 34 affiliated facilities across the Illawarra, ACT/ Monaro, and Far South Coast District Golf Associations, though a small number of other entities as well.
Golf undoubtedly is a community of its own, but it doesn’t exist outside the broader community.
More especially in small towns like those affected by the fires, golf and the clubs that support it are evacuation centres, function centres, restaurants, employers and more.
They are part of the fabric of community and were at the forefront not only of the drama – where several proved safe refuge for hundreds of evacuees – but will be crucial to the rebuilding which is to come.
All have their own stories to tell, and over the coming days and weeks you will find some of those stories here.
Golf NSW, through the Golf NSW Club Bushfire Relief Fund has begun distributing grants to clubs impacted by the disaster as the recovery gets underway.
It is an important first step but the rebuilding process is well beyond the scope of a single organisation.
It is a process that will likely take years, but as you will read and hear even with the memories still fresh – and in some cases fires still burning disturbingly close – there is a determination and resilience among those affected to get back to normal.