“It’s an extremely roundabout way for us. We’ve got to go north, then north-west, then eventually head south down the Hume,” Mr Edwards said. But, after bushfires turned the couple’s one-week holiday into three long weeks, at least it is a route out.
Mr Edwards had considered leaving Mallacoota before Tuesday. Around the new year, embers fell near his campsite and emergency sirens erupted. The retiree and his wife rushed into their boat and were forced hundreds of metres from shore for several hours.
“We were [otherwise] safe during the fire, they [emergency services] said we were in the safe part of the caravan park down near the foreshore,” he said. The couple chose to stay and look after their caravan, car and boat.
Fellow Melburnian Peter Nicolopolous, 66, who arrived two days after Christmas, also considered leaving but wanted to stay and protect his boat and car.
“It’s hard to describe it … to see dawn come through, then by about 7.30am it’s starting to get darker and darker. Then at 9am you can’t see five metres in front of you it’s that dark,” said Mr Nicolopolous.
“No power, no lights, nothing. Just black and smoky.”
The immediate danger to Mallacoota has receded over the past week. The main daily event for holidaymakers became afternoon community meetings, at which they repeatedly asked when they could leave by road.
“Otherwise it was just sitting around,” Mr Edwards said. “We hired a couple of DVDs. We’d go down to the boat harbour to watch things unload from HMAS Choules, and watch people evacuate.”
Despite the boredom, Mr Edwards was not feeling relief to leave the community that has become a second home.
“It’s sadness for the town. It really affects me actually,” he said, choking back tears on the phone from Mallacoota.
Mr Edwards said Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, who donated $70 million to bushfire relief effort, spoke at a community meeting on Saturday about the optimism of rebuilding the town.
In addition to holidaymakers who chose to stay in Mallacoota while others were evacuated by helicopter or Navy ship, Tuesday’s convoy included some residents of Mallacoota.
Michael is a reporter for The Age.