REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: Memories. The more things change, the more they remain the same

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From bushfires to COVID-19 restrictions impacting holiday trade to those who've still made it for a break, the NSW South Coast has seen it all in the past 12 months. Photos: File

From bushfires to COVID-19 restrictions impacting holiday trade to those who've still made it for a break, the NSW South Coast has seen it all in the past 12 months. Photos: File

Let's talk about Facebook. Not about how that twice impeached developer from Queens has the tech giant reaching for the bleach for a thorough cleanout.

No, let's talk about Facebook memories, those reminders of good times and bad that pop into your feed.

Over the past few weeks on the South Coast of NSW, where the holiday season has been challenged by dodgy weather, COVID alerts, two exoduses of visitors, extremely noisy cicadas and bothersome flies, Facebook has kept reminding me things were much worse last summer.

Photos of Martian skies choked in smoke, blackened forests, vehicles packed with possessions ahead of evacuation to the city, pitch blackness in the afternoon, homes reduced to charred rubble - from late November to now, they've been popping into view. And while they've put this season into context, they've also highlighted some similarities between this summer and the last.

Last summer, we were glued to the Fires Near Me App, worried about wind shifts and where they'd send the flames. This summer, we've been glued to the daily COVID updates, worried about new cases and new restrictions and where they'd send the tourists.

Last summer, the holiday-makers fled fires. This summer, they've fled because of the virus and the possibility they'd be prevented from getting home.

Early in the season, thanks to terrible communication at the beginning of the COVID outbreak, we saw ACT holiday-makers pack up and flee when the Shoalhaven was mistakenly lumped in with Wollongong, Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains and Central Coast as a restricted area.

Then, on New Year's Eve, the Victorian border slammed shut, prompting a mass exodus from the Far South Coast. Desperate to get home before being shut out, these poor people were caught in traffic jams that stretched for kilometres. The app to watch became Live Traffic.

Thankfully, the sudden departure of one lot of holiday-makers opened up opportunities for others who'd been slow to book and had missed out. Hotel rooms, holiday rentals and caravan parks bounced back quickly from the sudden rush of cancellations, a testament to the strength of the captive domestic tourism market.

The barometer for me is the local beach at the bottom of the hill. Even today, as another uncooperative weather system has turned skies grey, I can hear the squeals of normally landlocked children splashing about in the surf.

Among them are boys and girls who will take home fond memories of the NSW South Coast - of surf lessons at Broulee, a visit to Mogo Zoo, ice cream at the waterfront at Merimbula, thrilling rides at the Huskisson or Batehaven funfairs - and pester parents for a return visit next summer.

The cycle will go on. Fingers crossed, without the drama of the past two summers.

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