Dramatic live footage of the flames was all over social media, a shock for locals and holidaymakers who turn at the busy intersection without a care, headed to the beach below.
The site is also home to the century-old Tathra harbour masters residence which wasn’t damaged in the blaze. The building that was destroyed, and now sits as blacked rubble, was designed in keeping with the look and architecture of the historic residence next door but only dates back to the early eighties.
That aside, the history the town has with the people who own the businesses inside is deep and on show now as the families involved look to restore their livelihoods.
Karen Levido has been a hairdresser since she was 15. Her salon Blisshas been a fixture at the top of Beach Hill for 12 years.
“The place was looking spico, we did it up five years ago and it was looking just the way I always wanted – it was a mix of retro and modern,” Karen says.
“We had a great little vibe, people would pop in and get talking, it would turn into a party.”
Karen finished a bit early the day of the fire. A girlfriend called her just before 6 o’clock to alert her that something was happening.
“All we could do was stand there and watch it burn down,” Karen says.
Insurance will help Karen get going again in the long run but a community fundraising effort was launched a couple of days after the fire to help get Bliss back on its feet in the meantime.
So far $1,200 has been raised to help replace the equipment and supplies lost, while other local hairdressers have donated salon furniture and bits and pieces.
Karen and her apprentice Chant’e Connolly were also offered a “pop-up” salon in one of the caravans at Tathra Beachside and started cutting hair again ten days ago.
“Cabin 88 is perfect, there is more space then you think,” Karen laughs.
“I really needed to do something ‘now’ and Carmen at Tathra Beachside is so generous and thoughtful.”
In the last 24 hours, one of the other businesses lost to the blaze has also announced plans for a temporary pop-up shop.
Writing on the Tathra Cellars Facebook page, David ‘Croc’ Little says, “It’s been a ‘little’ different to a normal February but things are progressing.
“We cannot thank the community enough for its support and the well wishes that are constantly flowing in. Really does make you love being part of such a wonderful place.
“We will be opening a Tathra Cellars ‘Pop Up Shop’ shortly,” he writes.
“As with all things in this day and age, there is a process to follow so we ask for your patience in the short term. We will keep you posted as to an opening date and location as things progress.
“Looking forward to catching up with you all soon!” Croc writes on Facebook.
Reflecting on her experience, Karen gets emotional talking about the community support that has helped get her going again so quickly.
“I really have been blown away,” Karen says.
“I am so appreciative of my clients who have followed me here [Cabin 88] and everyone who has given – in all sorts of ways, it’s really humbling.
“People are so kind, it’s nice to be reminded of that,” Karen says.
Appointments at the pop-up Bliss can be made via Karen’s mobile number (the number is available from the post office and newsagency) or the Bliss Facebook page.
“I have a strong sense that when things like this happen, there is opportunity in it,” Karen smiles.
“Things happen all the time to people and you’ve got two choices, lie down and give up or move on and try and figure out the next step.”
The investigation into the fire continues. While it started in the laundromat, its cause is not yet known.
The drive between the Far South Coast, Cooma, and Canberra is dotted with sites that make your mind wander.
Dilapidated railway bridges, decaying wildlife, rows of rural letterboxes, and sparkling solar farms, all inspire thought and question for the mindful traveller or curious passenger.
Right now, mixed with the scenic vistas on this 240km stretch of road is a more seasonal point of interest – apple trees heaving with fruit. Red, yellow, green apples bending branches to the ground.
There are dozens of apple trees growing in the harshest of conditions parallel to the highway and old railway line. At some points in this golden landscape, this native from Central Asia is the only show of green life.
How did they get there?
Are they any good to eat?
Growing alongside the Snowy Mountains and Monaro Highways is not the managed orchard environment I thought apples needed – perhaps I’ve watched too many pruning videos on YouTube and forgotten that apples are a tree like any other with their own wild force of nature!
While apples are the dominant feral fruit, you’ll also notice peach, plum, and pear trees.
“People did grow fruit trees and plant tree shelters at some of the stops they made on their journey,” Kathleen says.
“Often you can see tree cover, lone pines, and fruit trees in the oddest places along our highways, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. These are where the horse or carriage needed to stop for lunch or for the night.
“In the days of horse and carriage, people were only able to cover 10 to 20 kms per day, depending on the weight they were transporting and the terrain they covered. Remember everything was a dirt track and ungraded in those days,” she says.
Apple and pear cores, plum and peach seeds, discarded by travellers are also part of the story according to Kathleen.
“You can spot fruit trees along the railway track as well. These were definitely tossed out the window as a passenger finished their prized fruit and have germinated where they fell,” she says.
“These trees have existed in the elements all on their own and are therefore very hardy.”
Our green thumb also believes birds and animals have been a factor in spreading the trees.
“Stone fruit especially could have been carried quite a distance if the seed was swallowed by a cow or horse. Apple seeds could have been carried by birds and deposited in droppings,” Kathleen says.
Weeds are spread in similar ways and are a significant problem to the region’s landholders, however, despite not being a native, the apple trees aren’t considered a pest.
Former Canberra girl, Renee Griffiths O’Reilly says, “They are cider apples so very tart and ideal for making cider. Juice them then add winemakers yeast or alternatively make apple pies with a lot of sugar.”
Akolele local, Deborah Taylor suggests an old-fashioned apple dessert: “Baked apples – cored and filled with a mix of currents, raisins, sultanas, zest and juice of two oranges, butter and brown sugar too if you want to be indulgent”, she writes.
“Bake until soft. Serve with yoghurt or cream. Leftovers are great for breakfast with muesli and yoghurt.”
Show winner, Fiona Scott suggests apple jelly and is generous enough to share her secrets.
“Cut up 2 kilograms of apples into fours, skin, core and all. Put into a big pot, like a stock pot with 1cm of water in the bottom.
“Bring slowly to the boil and simmer the whole mess until soft. Cool, then (the vital step) pour the whole lot into a muslin lined colander over a large bowl.
“A clean old cloth is fine if you don’t have muslin, just rinse well so the detergent remnants don’t make the jelly taste like Cold Power!” Fiona suggests.
“Leave overnight for the juice to drain. DO NOT SQUEEZE the leftover apple, compost it or the jelly will be cloudy.
“Measure the juice and put into the stockpot and bring to the boil. Add 40% equivalent in sugar, i.e. 1 litre of juice to 400 grams sugar.
“Stir the lovely pink mess until the sugar dissolves and continue boiling until it tests as set.
“I put a teaspoon of the juice onto a cold plate and when it is cool give it a push with my finger. Highly scientific! If wrinkles form like skin the chemistry is right for the jelly to set,” she writes.
“Pour into sterilised jars, cover with a clean cloth until cool, then cap the jars. Don’t put the lid on too soon or condensation from the cooling jam will make the jelly go mouldy.
“All that effort will give you several jars of the loveliest, clear pink and slightly wobbly apple jelly.
“Now you know all my jam making secrets,” Fiona confesses.
Sprout Cafe in Eden builds its weekly menu around what is seasonal and what is local, and the first apples are starting to come in from growers.
Elaine O’Rourke in the kitchen at Sprout is currently baking Vegan Apple Loaf and Apple Crumble Cake, and has shared the recipes with us!
Vegan Apple Loaf (Gluten Free)
1 ½ cups gluten-free self-raising flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup apple sauce
½ cup Nutlex
1 tsp cinnamon
1 ¾ tsp baking powder
1 tbsp Vanilla
½ cup almond milk
2 apples – peeled, cored and diced
Beat Nutlex and 3/4 of a cup of brown sugar until creamy, add apple sauce, vanilla and milk.
Mix in flour, baking powder, and cinnamon and stir until well combined.
Mix the remaining 1/3 of a cup of brown sugar with the apple sauce and stir half the apples into the mixture.
Pour into a loaf tin approx 23cm x 13cm
Sprinkle the remaining apples on top.
Bake at 180 degrees for 20 – 35 mins until a wooden skewer comes out clean.
Apple Crumble Cake (Gluten Free)
1 ¼ cups gluten-free plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup caster sugar
5 apples – peeled, cored and diced
1 tbsp butter
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp sugar
½ cup caster sugar
1 cup gluten-free plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp milk
Make crumble by mixing flour, baking powder and sugar together and rubbing in the butter.
Make the filling by cooking the apples until soft and cooling.
Make base by whipping butter and sugar together, adding the egg, flour, baking powder and milk.
Spread base into a lined pan or tray, top with filling mixture and sprinkle topping over.
Bake at 180 degrees for 40 – 50 mins until a wooden skewer comes out clean and sprinkle with icing sugar to serve.
Like the weather-beaten shearing sheds and chimneys without a house that dot the Snowy-Monaro countryside, the apple trees that grow in this soil are also a throwback to another time.
These tough local specimens of one of the world’s favourite fruits will be ready for harvest come late February – early March. Find a safe spot to pull over, grab a bag, and be a part of their ongoing connection with travellers.
A Snowy Mountains couple brought together by a sense of respect and fairness has been in Canberra pitching their property overlooking Lake Jindabyne to same-sex couples looking to tie the knot in 2018.
Every love story is unique and Anton and Bibi Wiesmann, owners of the Panorama have their own tale to tell, one they shared at the Canberra Wedding Expo over the weekend.
“There is much to celebrate in 2018, with many same-sex couples planning to mark their love and relationship with marriage,” Anton says.
“There is some magic about the Panorama that allows people to be themselves, it’s a space that brings people together, but also allows for people to retreat for some time out.”
Bibi and Anton’s own relationship was built around social activism, equality, and fairness – the very themes that won out in the discussion around same-sex marriage during 2017.
Exposing slavery in the shrimp trade in Thailand was the mission that sparked their love.
Anton, born and bred in Austria, was working for the United Nations out of Bangkok.
“But nobody would talk to me, I am a white looking researcher, the cultural barriers were hard to break down,” Anton says.
“Until I started working with Bibi. She was recommended to me and started opening doors, building trust, and translating for me, she helped make it very successful work.”
Their final report was presented to the U.S Congress, where American retailers were put under pressure to support a more ethical shrimp supply chain.
“Thai shrimp farms were going to lose business unless they cleaned up their act,” Anton says.
“People were being trafficked from Myanmar and Cambodia and totally exploited, I believe that is starting to change.”
With Thai-born Bibi completing a Masters in Business Admin, and Anton keen to travel less, the pair spent six months in 2014 looking for an accommodation business to take on.
“We travelled Australia and did over 15,000 kilometres looking at hotel after hotel and then we came to this place – absolutely magic,” Bibi says.
“People come, share a meal, have a party, enjoy the big view from the balcony, ride a bike, go kayaking – it makes me happy to see that.”
Bibi and Anton’s own love story drives their vision for the Panorama – a place where people of all backgrounds are welcomed and invited to come together and celebrate love and friendship.
“Marriage is a fusing of two families and I just love seeing it all come together,” Bibi says.
Giving up your citizenship is a hard thing to get your head around if you were born in Australia.
Generally speaking, being born in Australia is the Wonka Golden Ticket of citizenship.
I guess there are Australian’s that renounce their citizenship – Rupert Murdoch comes to mind, but Aussie’s choosing citizenship of another country over the green and gold isn’t something you come across or hear about.
Other people becoming or wanting to become an Australian citizen is much easier to understand.
Around this great southland, 13,000 people made a pledge to Australia and its people on January 26, 11 of those in Bega, people born at all points of the global compass.
Nationally, people of Indian descent were the second largest group to take part in citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day behind the British, something that was reflected locally.
Indian born Bega residents, Dr Krishnankutty Rajesh, Parvathy Rajesh, and Kiran Rajesh, along with Cobargo’s Pavan Tenali are now Australian citizens.
“This is a lovely community and very peaceful, a good place to stay,” Pavan says.
With Australian Crawl’s hit “Boys Light Up” playing in the background, Pavan tells me he has been in Australia for 10 years, in recent years working at the Cobargo Service Station.
“India is a good place too, but now I live here and the feeling is good,” he says.
Skype helps Pavan keep in touch with his large family in India, he says they are very happy for him and support his decision to become an Australian citizen.
“It was a big decision, but I am very happy, my family have peace of mind.”
India and the United Kindom weren’t the only nations represented in Bega, others pledging loyalty to Australia’s democratic beliefs, rights, liberties, and laws came from Thailand and the United States.
With the day’s soundtrack moving along to Men at Work, Saul Nightingale says his heart has always been Australian.
“I moved here when I was five, that’s forty years ago,” Saul smiles.
“Mum and Dad are from the UK and they just saw the way things were going there, they thought this is not a place to bring up a family, in terms of opportunity, safety, and employment.
Saul calls Bermagui home now and when he isn’t playing music he works for the not-for-profit training organisation – The Centre for Community Welfare Training.
“My earliest memory of Australia was pulling into Sydney Harbour on the P&O Canberra on a stunningly beautiful day, Sydney was showing off, Australia made a pretty good first impression,” Saul laughs.
While becoming an Australian citizen was a formality for Saul, it was something that came with a sense of duty.
“I have a responsibility to have a say politically, as all Australians do,” he says.
“It’s all very well to talk about politics and to support certain causes but if you can’t actually put a vote to that then there’s a level of hypocrisy there.”
Merimbula’s Brittany McConnell has been in Australia for six and half years with her Australian husband, her background is a jumble of the United States and England.
“It is a big decision to take Australian citizenship, but now I just feel so happy and proud, it feels amazing,” Brittany says.
Like Saul, this nurse from Pambula Hospital is looking forward to having her say.
“Back home you don’t actually have to participate [vote] if you don’t want to, so it’s quite nice to feel that obligation and be involved in decisions and feel like you have a voice,” she says.
As the band starts with Mondo Rock, I chat to Jason Badham who was born in the United States and has found love, life, and work in the Bega Valley.
Living in Wolumla, Jason is a website designer with 2pi Software.
“I’ve been thinking about taking out citizenship for almost eight years, but the final decision came at the end of January 2017, ” Jason says.
The Trump inauguration seems to have played a part in Jason’s decision but more so the influence of his Australian partner Kirsten.
“I was in the States and I discovered my wife here in Australia because she was breeding the same kind of parrots that I was, I found her website and it was an encyclopedia of information,” Jason says.
“One thing led to another, I helped her build a website, we started having a friendship and I decided to come over here – it’s the best choice I ever made.”
Australia Day remains a tangle of issues yet to be sorted, but the role the citizenship ceremony plays is beyond question. Those who already have Australian citizenship are reminded by those who are new to it why Australia is such a good place to be and why diversity makes us stronger.
Canadian born Michael has been on the Far South Coast of New South Wales over summer, bringing his brand of land art to Picnic Point and Goalen Head, a magic bit of coastline between Bermagui and Tathra.
His work defies gravity, at least how the rest of us understand gravity, but Michael seems to have an ability to tap into and read this invisible earth force – something he describes as “gravity glue“.
The 66-year-old member of Pambula Surf Life Saving Club started the epic race in Batemans Bay on New Year’s Eve, 31km’s later as “Super” was helping pull his boat ashore at South Head, Moruya his heart stopped.
“The bloke was dead when he was brought up the sand,” Dr Steve Craig says.
“Through the excellent work and training of the surf life-saving members, they got the defibrillator on him very quickly, we were able to get his heart going again and he left the beach alive.”
Lifesavers on patrol with Moruya Surf Club also played a critical role in beating away death until paramedics from NSW Ambulance arrived.
Super was taken to Moruya Hospital and shortly after flown to Canberra where a pacemaker was inserted in his chest.
Five days later Wayne Kent, who takes his nickname from Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent, was there at Pambula Beach to cheer his clubmates across the line on day six of the race. At the awards presentation that afternoon the crowd erupted as Super spoke of his experience.
“If it had happened out at sea god knows what would have happened, I would have hated to put the crew through that, they are a good bunch of blokes,” Super says.
“I am so lucky it happened on the beach because I had 240 odd rowers around me – all life-savers and if anyone was going to kick the bucket on that day they would have had to have been really gone.”
Scare tissue from previous heart bypass surgery is thought to have been a factor in Super’s heart failure.
Twenty-five surfboats and thirteen surf skis started the 7 day, 190km George Bass, the finish line at Snug Cove in Eden seemed a long way away when Super hit the sand at the end of day one, his brush with death pointing to the challenges ahead for the bodies taking part.
“My intention was just to drive the [boat] trailer around for them, but the boys couldn’t find a sweep, so the next thing you know I was in for another year,” Super laughs.
The 66-year-old can’t remember when he first took part in the Bass, sometime in the 1990’s is his best guess, over the years he has been a rower, sweep, and coach.
Dr Steve Craig says he’ll be writing a letter of commendation to the volunteer surf life-savers from Moruya that stepped up when Super went down.
“They just clicked over into their training and by doing so within two or three minutes we had his heart started again,” Dr Craig says.
Day two of the George Bass Surfboat Marathon was a slog, with the events 25 entries having to punch through a stiff southerly breeze and swell to make it to Coila Beach at Tuross.
The 18km leg started with a tribute to a stalwart of the Moruya Surf Club and the Bass, Lesley Pheeney.
Lesley was the race secretary for many years and worked side by side with her late husband, Dave in the Far South Coast Surf Lifesaving Association. Lesley and Dave have been reunited at sea, with a salute from Bass crews who raised their oars into the sky for one minute silence.
Fresh from New Year Eve celebrations, competitors in the George Bass Surf Ski Marathon were the first to set off. Pambula’s Jacqui Keogh, the only woman in the ski race was forced to retire with a broken rudder in the testing conditions.
Around one and a half hours later the ski fleet was returning to shore. Narooma’s Nick Ziviani and Joe Halsey in their duel ski the first home followed by Brendan Cowled and Tony Ireland.
Day two, single ski results:
First – Paul Buttle (1:33:24)
Second – John Pattison
Third – Nick Kirby
Fourth – Stephen Bunney
Fifth – Simon Stenhouse
Sixth – Gavin Granger
Seventh – David Schofield
Eighth – Craig Vipond
Ninth – Nathan Vipond
Tenth – Warwick Ward
Eleventh – Jacqui Keough (DNF)
A large, supportive crowd packed the walkway and headland overlooking Coila Beach to welcome the surfboats home, locals and holidaymakers impressed with the ticker of competitors who over the course of seven days will row to Eden, 188km away.
The Bulli Open Mens crew put in another dominant performance overtaking the entire fleet. The club is vying for its forth consecutive overall win.
Paul Jones is Bulli sweep and is competing in his eighth Bass, “It was a tough day, the wind got up earlier than expected, luckily it was a shorter day,” he says.
Bluebottles added to the challenge, with rowers getting tangled in the stingers during their changeovers at seas. Fresh rowers in some boats forging on with blue tentacles wrapped around arms, legs, and necks.
Those changeovers at sea are a critical part of the race, how and when they happen is up to each crew.
“We try not to lose boat speed,” Paul says.
“We get two guys to jump out while the two guys left in the boat keep rowing, the other guys need to get in as best they can, but we don’t want the boat stopping dead.”
Day two, Open Men results:
First – Bulli (2:00:55)
Second – Coogee
Third – Mollymook
Fourth – Long Reef
Fifth – Pambula
Day two, Open Women results:
First – North Cronulla (2:08:45)
Second – Broulee
Third – Moruya
Fourth – Broulee Canberra Capital
Day two, Masters Men results:
First – North Cronulla (2:02:11)
Second – Narooma
Third – Wollongong City
Fourth – Grange SA
Fifth – Tathra
Sixth – Wanda
Seventh – Noosa Qls
Eighth – Broulee Canberra Capitals
Ninth – Bulli
Tenth – Pambula
Eleventh – Warriewood
Day two, Masters Women results:
First – Pambula (2:23:48)
Second – Torquay Vic
Third – Avalon Beach
Fourth – Darwin NT
Fifth – Broulee
The end of the race was a stark contrast to the drama of yesterday.
Marathon organiser Andrew Edmunds says crews are relieved to hear the the 66-year-old male sweep from Pambula who had a heart attack on the finish line at Moruya is improving in hospital.
“He is currently awaiting surgery and we hope he’ll be out of hospital in a few days,” Andrew says.
“The situation highlighted how everyone participating in this event are surf lifesavers first and competitors second, with the Pambula crew, a Grange competitor, a rower from Mollymook and Moruya lifesavers all clicking into action as soon as the emergency situation arose.”
Most crews took the opportunity to rest one or two members today, as they will most days now ahead of the finish in Eden on January 6.
Day 3 starts off Coila Beach, with the skis setting off at 8:30am and 9am, followed by the surfboats at five-minute intervals. The finish line is 22km away in front of Narooma Surf Club, the first competitors are expected to arrive one to two hours after the start.