The main road down the Tasman peninsula had been blocked by the police because of the risk of falling burnt power-poles.
So we took a rural gravel backroad to Dunalley – the worst affected of the towns ravaged by Tasmania’s wildfires.
It was a nervous drive. Even though all indications were that the road was safe, we could see white smoke billowing from behind the hills around us. Although the flames were some distance away, we knew a sudden change in wind direction and strength could bring them charging our way.
Tasmania is known as Australia’s greenest state: before this week I’d been to it five times – it had rained during every one of those trips. This week’s Tasmania is not the place I thought I knew. Where not burnt black, the grass is parched yellow. The ground grinds, rather than squelches as you walk across it. And then there’s the smoke. It gets everywhere: in your clothes, in your car, and deep in your lungs.
The damage to buildings is most remarkable for how random it is. One house can be totally destroyed while next door looks virtually untouched. Those lucky can hardly believe it. But that their neighbours got off so lightly makes it that much more heartbreaking for those, next door, who have lost everything.