“Debbie is usually that bitchy woman in an office that drinks Diet Pepsi all day and talks to Sharon about all the other women”
I was casually applying a fresh yellow coat to the tractor when Joe approached me to check out my work. Joe’s the farmer who employed me to work on his composting farm out in Mackay, Queensland so I could complete my 88 days for my 2nd year working holiday visa. We were chatting about nothing in-particular, mainly the strangeness of the turbulent weather we’d had over the past few days. He’d suggested it was vaguely due to some sort of Cyclone. I was barely listening, I was more interested in trying to apply an even coat to the tractor, so I shrugged it off, not paying any more attention to it.
A day later, I was indulging in some shameless Facebook scrolling when a Live notification popped up. It was “Hit Mackay and the Whitsundays” Facebook page, they were streaming a live Facebook video titled “Cyclone Debbie” I chuckled at the name. Cyclone Debbie… they couldn’t have picked a less threatening name! As my friend Beth so perfectly put “Debbie is usually that bitchy woman in an office that drinks Diet Pepsi all day and talks to Sharon about all the other women”
In the live video, important people dressed in suits started to appear and began talking into a crowd of press reporters. They were providing information over the movements of the Cyclone. As soon as they mentioned evacuation procedure my ears suddenly pricked up and the seriousness of this situation was beginning to sink in. Cyclone Debbie had been constantly gathering momentum on the East Coast. It was lurking precariously close, stretching the length of Townsville and Mackay.
I awoke on the morning of Tuesday 28th March at around 8am to howling winds and heavy rainfall battering the tin roof of my accommodation. In my usual morning zombie state, I shuffled over to the kettle and flicked it on. No blue light, hmmm… maybe the fuse in the kettle blew, there was no need to panic yet so I walked over to the lamp and flicked the switch to no avail. Yup, this confirmed it, there was no power and more importantly I was not getting a cup of tea this morning. Sigh.
As the Cyclone grew ever closer, the weather really started coming in. I watched eagerly from the window. I was always fascinated by harsh weather. As a child, my Mum and I would switch off all the lights and watch thunderstorms out the window. I could always sense this energy in atmosphere during a storm, it was magic. I will forever be fond of the sudden thump you get throughout your body as the thunder clapped nearby, sending my heart racing and shivers down my spine. However, this was not a thunderstorm, this was something I had never witnessed before.
As the wind grew stronger and the rain fell heavier, I could see the tops of the palm trees hanging on for dear life. The rain became so heavy it was deafening. My accommodation is equipped with a tin roof and no insulation to speak of, so it was as if a Jumbo jet had fired up it’s engines and was idling right outside the door. The furiosity of the storm continued throughout the day and night showing no signs of giving up. I entertained myself by exhausting the rest of my laptop battery by indulging in a few episodes of Bates Motel, after-all the power will surely be back on tomorrow.
By Wednesday morning the Cyclone was starting to ease. The strong gusts of winds subsided for a more sporadic pattern but the heavy rain continued to fall. By this point the rain hadn’t eased since early Tuesday morning, I’ve never known rain like it. The farm yard was completely flooded, the water covering the entrance to the farm to the point it could have easily been confused with a canal. As night time approached, the rain eased into a gentle drizzle and the wind died out, it was eerily quiet. I had become so accustomed to the noise of the rain on the roof it took me by surprise. I retired to bed quite early, it was dark and we had no power so I was lost with what to do with myself. I couldn’t read as I had no torch and I couldn’t play my Ukulele as I couldn’t see the strings, so I laid in my bed staring into the black abyss when a sudden flash lit up the room. A smile grew across my face, I waited patiently for the clap of thunder. A thunder storm was brewing, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! I sat bolt up right, staring out the window, counting the seconds between the flash and the thunder, I felt this childhood nostalgia flood over me, I couldn’t help but think of my parents at that point. I miss them dearly. I then fell asleep that night to the calming noise of the thunderstorm.
I awoke to an uncomfortable light in my eyes, it was the Sun blaring through my window. I hadn’t seen it in so long, I welcomed the blue skies and calm breeze. I’m jumped out of bed and flicked the kettle on. FUCK, still no power. Oh well, I’m sure it’ll return by tomorrow. I grabbed my camera and headed out to assess the damage.
“Whatever I had in the fridge was now smelling and was now a potential bio hazard”
As the bad weather had now passed, our worries diverted to the fact we hadn’t had power in a couple of days. The fridge freezer obviously didn’t work and due to the fact we run electric water pumps we couldn’t use the showers, sinks or toilets. Whatever I had in the fridge was now smelling and was now a potential bio hazard. I was left with few cans of Tuna, Beans, Pepsi Max, Water, Bread and a few breakfast bars, enough to last me a couple more days at most. Oh, and a Maccas run was out of the question as Mackay had total power loss!
One night the inevitable happened. Nature eventually came knocking at my bowels doors and the seriousness of not having a functional toilet immediately sunk in. I would either have to commit to nature by digging a hole in the ground in the pitch black with potential creepy crawlies eyeing up my juicy bum cheeks or somehow do my business some other way. Either way, nature was not waiting and I had to make a quick decision. I settled on spreading a plastic bag over a small cardboard box and promptly squatted… This was the travelling dream wasn’t it?
All in all, we were 8 whole days without power. It had been the longest I’d been without power in my whole entire life. Not only that but I was surviving on Tuna sandwiches. To entertain myself I fooled around on my Ukulele, wrote in my diary and buried my head in a few books I had. I read Slash’s biography which is by far the best and most interesting biography I’ve ever read and I also finished Long Way Round by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, again, another superb book. I was forced to retire to my bed as soon as the sun went down at around 7:30pm each night. Alone and in bed with my nothing but my circling thoughts. In some aspects, I did appreciate the detox from the Internet and also the unhealthy TV series binging. It was refreshing to just have myself to rely on for entertainment. I visited some pretty ugly places in my own mind, I kept going over problems I’ve had in the past with ex-girlfriends along with many questionable life choices, but on the flip side I also replayed through some of my fondest memories with my friends, my family and this adventure itself.
All in all in was another unforgettable life experience, perhaps something I’d never want to go through again, however one thing it did show me was how resilient I am in the face of tough times.
We hadn’t had the worst of the cyclone. Sadly, there are reports of five people who had been killed by the cyclone in Queenland. People have been stranded on the rooftops of cars and houses due to the severe flooding. The cyclone has devastated property and lives all down the east coast of Queensland, lives changed forever, so I count myself as being extremely lucky being in the area that I was, escaping with just a little property damage.