7.30am July 3, 2007.
Most of Newcastle is awake; and yes, the big red boat is gone.
The Pasha Bulker is now just one of 20 bulk carriers on the horizon, anonymous once more…like a stray penguin returning to the colony.
For 25 days, Newcastle has been a little like Gilligan’s Island. Viewers around the country have tuned in, wondering when they’d finally get off that beach. And there’s been an all-star cast. Ports Minister Joe Tripodi as Gilligan, TV Newsreader-turned-local member Jodi McKay as The Movie Star, and the bloke who thought up “Pasha stubby holders”, as The Professor.
But now the show’s over. Police at roadblocks take off their reflective vests, push road barriers onto the footpath, and drive back to the station.
Radio stations play “Blame it on the Pasha Bulker” (Bossa Nova) for the final time, and the TAFE students who recorded it, return to their studies.
Buses that were carrying sightseers from Sydney to Nobby’s Beach are returning to their regular route.. driving through Newcastle, and onto Hunter Valley wine country. Newcastle’s CBD has gridlock no more and returns to its legendary “10 minute peak hour”.
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Frustrated drivers, arguing with police are replaced by teenage boys with blond scraggly hair carrying bodyboards towards the ocean.
Women with sunglasses on top, and jumpers around their waists, powerwalk along Bar Beach.
Parents with young kids fill large shopping centres for “school holiday fun”.
And attention returns to the victims of the storm.
Garden brick walls are still lying in pieces on front lawns. Tarps remain on rooves. Gardens collapse onto footpaths.
Mountains of putrid carpets and underlays are still outside houses. But they’re disappearing quickly, along with flood-damaged furniture and electrical goods.
The occasional car is still spotted; half on the road, half on a naturestrip, resting where they were pushed by the storm, three weeks ago.
Thanks for the attention, Australia and the support.
Gippsland needs you now.