Bush Scents – a reminder to be grateful

It’s been a big few days on the farm. It might be Christmas time but nothing stops except that Paul tries to give the young dads who work for him a bit of time off – this means that the Farmer and his Wife have more to do in their gum boots.  Yesterday we had a lull in the middle of the day so we headed into Launceston for a little bit of much needed time off the farm.

Pauly had a 25km run to do for Cadbury Marathon training. I dropped him off right on the outskirts of Launceston then he ran into town to meet me where I joined him for his last 12kms.  We ran through city streets, weaving our way to Heritage Forest.  Heritage Forest is like a little taste of the bush right in the middle of the city.  It’s lovely.  Gravel paths, Australian native flora including big old gum trees.  The Eucalypt; think of a tree that says Australia and it’s the gum tree every time.

A Gum that sits in the corner of our farmhouse garden

A Gum that sits in the corner of our farmhouse garden

The sun was beating down on the leafy canopy and a slight breeze was blowing. The scent of eucalyptus gently drifted down to the path below.  This scent isn’t like smelling a jar of concentrated eucalyptus oil that takes the breath away.  It’s a soft, light scent that’s clean and refreshing.  Very Australian.  Very reviving.

My mind wandered. There are many scents and odours out in the Australian bush.  As a regular runner of country roads that  pass by farm land and native bush I get to experience them all.  Freshly opened silage pits?  Run faster, they’re pungent and stinky.  Roadkill?  With marsupials that hop and become disoriented in headlights at night, unfortunately the roads always have a few dead animals.  Put that with the warm weather and it’s another reason to run fast.  But then there’s the gentle scent of freshly cut paddocks for hay and silage (alright for those of us who don’t suffer with hay fever which I don’t).  Native peppers with their spicy, sweet fragrance which is brought out even more with the sun shining down.  Wattle when it’s in flower is a lovely fresh scent too.  I could go on with many uniquely Australian flora and their characteristic bush scents.

A Tasmanian Bush Pepper, one of three in our garden

A Tasmanian Bush Pepper, one of three in our garden – we have two male bushes and one female.

The pale yellow flowers come first then the pepper berries grow. They are used in Tasmanian cuisine to provide a unique and classic flavour. Native Bush Pepper cheese is one of my favourites.

The pale yellow flowers come first then the pepper berries grow. They are used in Tasmanian cuisine to provide a unique and classic flavour. Native Bush Pepper cheese is one of my favourites.

But there is one smell that brings distress.

Smoke.

Bush fires are a grim reality in the Australian bush particularly in the summer season.  People who live in bush fire prone areas must have a Bushfire Survival Plan.  This means that they have a well thought out plan and then monitor the information provided by Fire Services and decide what part of their plan they will enact – leave early enough or stay and take shelter in their homes.

On Christmas Day while Paul and I were enjoying the quietest and most peaceful Christmas we’ve ever had (we did work too but it was still a lovely day) part of the Great Ocean Road experienced catastrophic bush fires. Two main areas burnt and now over 100 homes are gone and many hectares of bush.  And let’s not think how many Koala trees have gone.  Too sad.  The Great Ocean Road is in the state of Victoria on the Australian Mainland.  Louise, Pauly and I ran The Great Ocean Road half marathon in May this year; the half marathon course forms the second half of the full marathon course.  The part that was burnt was in the first half.

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I will never forget my excitement at seeing a Koala in the wild for the first time while on the Great Ocean Road Half Marathon in May this year. 
Running along in the half I stopped and pointed him out to all the 100s of runners but I was the only one who stopped.
Tasmania doesn’t have any Koalas in the wild.

You can see his round little bottom in the fork of the tree.
I hope he is ok.

The Great Ocean Road Marathon is the only Australian marathon to be on the World’s top 40 Marathon list. It’s simply stunning.  Rugged coast line.  Beautiful bush.  Runners have the sea on their left and bush and hills on their right as they run from the little seaside town of Lorne to Apollo Bay taking in a number of little coastal hamlets and villages along the way.  An undulating road that draws overseas travellers from everywhere which is closed one day of the year and we runners are given the opportunity to do what we love (run) in one of the most beautiful places on this earth.

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The two above photos were taken by me in May, they don’t do the place justice.

Now part of this course has been decimated by fire; all that is left are charred remains.

The smells after a bushfire are pungent and strong.  Nasty, singed and scorched.

But with fire comes renewal. Drive through any bushfire affected area a year later and trees that you would swear were dead as dead will have sprouts of young green leaves.  The Eucalypt is a survivor.  The seed pods (gum nuts we call them) have adapted over the years to like fire – fire and heat release the seed; heat and fire are actually needed for the seed to be freed and then to land in the ground and grow.

Australians are like gum nuts. We don’t let hard times keep us down.  We rally together and we rebuild and grow.  But still when I think of those who have lost their homes in this beautiful place, my heart is heavy and my eyes well up.  It’s a time of grief right now for what is lost, but like the Eucalypt I’m sure that give the locals a year and new homes will spring up along this iconic Australian road.  The trees will regenerate and grow and Koalas will be back in time.

What does this teach me? Looking up into the leafy canopy of that big old gum tree yesterday and taking in the lovely scent of the eucalyptus I learnt again to be grateful.  Not to take anyone for granted.  To cherish people and relationships above things.  And it teaches me to be even more grateful for a body that can run in these beautiful places.

I’m seriously thinking that I need to go and run Great Ocean Road Marathon in 2016 as a show of support.

Happy running 🙂

Ps to warm your heart check this out, this is a Koala saved by Victoria Police in the Wye River area of the Great Ocean Road.  It made me cry. I love Koalas.

12 thoughts on “Bush Scents – a reminder to be grateful

  1. So sad for the people on Christmas Day who lost their home! Here in the North of the U.K. There has been terrible flooding, many people had their homes flooded twice, the scenes on the TV have been horrendous. But they too have communities who are rallying round, helping with the clean up etc, people are very resilient, I think I would just sit and cry should this happen to us.

    • I’ve watched the terrible flooding in the UK with a heavy heart too, I can’t imagine being flooded twice! These disasters really do show the resilience and kindness of communities. I’d be doing my share of crying too Shaz.

  2. Sometimes bush fires get reported on TV here, if they are big or go on for days. It looks so terrifying. You can’t escape if you are surrounded by fire. The great ocean road does look beautiful. I expect that it won’t be the same for a while, but it’s good to hear that things recover quickly.

  3. I too was filled with despair when I heard about the wild fires along the Great Ocean Road on Christmas Day. I admit I was thinking only of the families who lost their homes … I hadn’t considered all the animals that lost their home too. Or worse.
    I fell in love with koalas when I visited Australia many years ago. To me, they are the poster-child for innocence and are simply adorable.

  4. I’m running the Great Ocean Road half this year as it’s technically local for me. Heartbreaking to see what they’ve been through but also amazing and wonderful to see how the local and wider community have kicked in to support them when they need it, providing for both human and fur friends. And I’m an absolute sucker for a cute koala 🙂

    • All the best with your training Gill 🙂 It must be difficult to be so close to where all the devastation has been. I signed Paul and I up yesterday and booked accommodation so it all feels real now. I hope that those fires are out soon. Terrible sad for everyone.

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