A CAMPING trip in Abercrombie National Park nearly ended in disaster when a flash flood swept through a Goulburn couple’s camp ground, washing away all but their car.
Alan and Kerry Joyce said even their clothes were swept away by the raging gully raker that engulfed their camping site.
They just managed to get out of their camping trailer before it was washed downstream and disappeared before their eyes.
The Joyces said they were left “shaken and terrified” after the freak event on Sunday, January 24.
The experienced campers had ventured to the (ominously named) “Licking Hole”, about 104km from Goulburn along the Oberon Rd.
“We were going camping at Bendethera (near Moruya), but it had been raining for two weeks down there,” Mr Joyce said.
“So we decided to go to the Licking Hole because it was supposedly far safer.
“We have been camping for many years. I am a former scout leader. We are not novice campers: in fact, we are ‘glampers’.
“I looked at all the obvious things when we turned up: Are any trees going to fall on us? Are we far away enough from the creek? Is anything going to roll down on us?”
The couple camped there on Sunday night and had a “blissful” time.
“Sunday arvo was gorgeous,” Mr Joyce said.
“We watched the full moon rise and enjoyed a beautiful night. Monday was also perfect; hot, sunny. We sunbaked, read, paddled, chased tadpoles and walked.
“Then at 4pm on Monday, we noticed a sprinkle of rain, which suddenly got heavier, so we moved everything into the middle of gazebo and went inside the tent.
“There came a huge crack of thunder and lightning right on top of us, at the same time, then the wind came up.”
Mrs Joyce said she was surprised to hear water running under the tent. “We then heard something bump into the trailer,” she said.
“I looked out the window and said, ‘There’s water all around us!’. We jumped off the bed and as we did the side wall of the tent collapsed in on us.”
Mr Joyce got out of the tent. A wall of water hit him and knocked him off balance.
“The water was rushing over the car’s bull-bar,” he said.
“I raced around and tried to move the car ... I couldn’t find the bloody keys!
“I went back into the tent and was hit by my clothes bag, which I threw into the car. I found Kez’s hand bag and - thankfully - the second set of keys were in it.
“I reversed the car out of the water, which [was] half-way up the tyres at this point.”
He tried to winch the trailer out of the swollen creek, but to no avail.
“We were about 20m from the trailer. I turned around to work out how much cable was needed when the next wave of water flooded through. The water was at the car again, so I left the trailer and reversed the car way way up the hill.”
The Joyces watched on helplessly as their camping trailer disappeared before their eyes down the engorged creek.
They lost a trailer, a tent, bedding, a gazebo, a “porta poo-er”, tables, food, clothes, and lots of camping gear.
“We got ourselves out, that’s all that matters,” he said.
“The other stuff is replaceable.
“I later spoke to a police officer who said it was the worst storm he had seen in 30 years at Shooters Hill.”
The Joyces said if there was only one lesson to take away, it was to have car keys in a known, accessible place.
“Don’t go back and try to get stuff: leave it. Stay safe and leave the keys in the ignition or on the dashboard of the car,” Mr Joyce said.
“This storm came out of nowhere and it was terrifying.”