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March 30, 2003
How to buy petrol in Yackandandah
I'm in Yackandandah for the weekend, and being here is a reminder that I'm a complete coward.
Two months ago the town was threatened by bushfire, and the moment I realised the danger was the moment I packed up and left. In the event of an emergency, I'm the kind of person who runs around in a circle, flapping and squawking. As an emergency seemed imminent, it seemed better for all concerned if I wasn't there.
There's a walk around the back of the town where, on a clear day, you can see Mt. Bogong, the highest mountain in Victoria, 60 kilometres away. Two months ago, I stood at the highest point on the walk and looked out. The township of Yackandandah was still visible, as was a small stretch of farmland beyond it. The view was then abruptly curtailed by a huge, rolling cloud of smoke. Bogong had utterly disappeared. Yackandandah stood in the flight path of an oncoming cloud of smoke.
Not long after that, on a Sunday morning, I woke up in a sea of smoke. I couldn't see the trees on the other side of the valley. The place was deathly quiet. I was scared. A sea of smoke is nature's way of saying "go somewhere else. Go there now."
So I did that. I drove into town and went to the petrol station. It's the old fashioned kind, with the bowsers right on the street. A couple of cars had got there before me, and in a moment of rashness, I decided I'd come back later. It was a stupid decision.
I parked the car and decided that I probably had a little bit of time to do some writing before I left town. I'm not sure how much I got done, but I do know that I got distracted by the computer. Time passed. Eventually I looked outside, and noticed that visibility had dropped substantially. I was alarmed to discover that it was just after 5pm. I'd been there for six hours longer than planned, and the petrol station had closed. The sky outside looked as if night had fallen, but sunset was still three or four hours away.
I suddenly realised that the fires might well be very close, and that I might not have enough petrol to get to Beechworth, the next closest town.
So I did what I always do. I panicked. Luckily, I was doing that while standing on the main street of Yackandandah.
A teenage boy rode past on his bicycle, and I asked him if he knew about petrol stations in Beechworth: where they were and if one might still be open.
He asked me the time, and then he said: "no, they'll have all closed."
There was a pause, and then he asked: "how desperate are you for petrol?"
I looked at the blackened sky and the deserted street. I had visions of running out of petrol halfway to Beechworth, and being helpless to flee a wall of flame engulfing the car. I gave him an honest answer: "I'm very desperate."
And he said the last thing I expected: "well, if you can hang on about ten minutes, I'll go and get the key to the petrol station."
I looked at him more closely and realised why he looked familiar. He was the same kid I saw working at the petrol station a few weeks before.
A few minutes later he was filling my tank up. As my fear of being burnt to a crisp approached maximum intensity, he remained calm and courteous and happy to help.
Yackandandah is a beautiful town, and it has all kinds of tourist attractions. There's a fascinating museum, an underground goldmine, and a streetscape classified by the National Trust. I'd add the petrol station to that list. It's in the middle of the main street, a few shops away from the bakery. The petrol is a little more expensive than what you'd pay in bigger towns, but there are reasons for that, related to Yackandandah's small size and distant location. More to the point, the people who run it are keeping it open as a service to the town. As I discovered, it's an essential service, and that speaks volumes for the people who run it.
If you're in the area, I'd appreciate it if you could buy some petrol here. I want that petrol station to stay open and stay alive. There's a young bloke who works there who deserves to have a job.Posted by Sean Hegarty at 04:01 PM in the Yackandandah category | Comments (1)
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