Angus Maconachie says his mental health was spiralling in the aftermath of the floods and credits the help of long-time friends for getting him back on track.
Woken in the middle of the night by the sound of his generator coughing and spluttering as the floodwater rose, “Gusto” said he was left shellshocked in the aftermath, having watched his home and life disappear underwater.
“I was f—ked, mate,” he told Cape York Weekly.
“I couldn’t do anything. It just felt overwhelming. I felt like I had lost everything in one clean sweep.
“Robbie and Jack’s attitude and just having them around has made a big difference.”
Gusto was referring to his old school mate Rob Trinder and his adult son Jack, who didn’t hesitate to jump in a boat from Cairns and make their way to Bloomfield to lend a hand.
They even spent Christmas Day fixing small engines and cleaning out Gusto’s house.
“We came up on the Saturday after the flood,” said Rob, who lives in Smithfield.
“We launched from Yorkeys Knob … we have a 5.2m Formosa with 140hp on the back and towed up a little tinny so we could get into shallow places and carry all the gear we needed.”
The trip took about three and a half hours on the water.
“We actually had really favourable conditions – almost glass-out conditions,” Rob sad.
“It was amazing seeing the landslides everywhere up the coast, especially at Cow Bay (Daintree).”
Rob said there was no hesitation when deciding to make the trip.
“We knew he needed help and seeing a video of his house it was like ‘holy cow, that is just massive’. And if it’s that bad at his place, imagine how bad it would be further down the Bloomfield (River),” he said.
“We spent Christmas here cleaning out all the mud out of Gusto’s.
“It took us three days to just to get the mud out.”
While on the ground, both men were able to help a number of locals in the Bloomfield, Ayton and Degarra areas.
“Jack is a second year outboard mechanic (apprentice),” proud dad Rob said.
“He fixed up quite a few engines, chainsaws and water pumps while we were here.
“We managed to get a 1954 International McCormick tractor going so we could push a track into Gusto’s place because it was a 300-metre walk in when we first got there.
“It wasn’t fun carting generators and water pumps and all of that.”
Gusto, who says he picked up the nickname from his whitewater rafting days, said he had little go about him prior to Rob and Jack’s arrival.
“Without that help, I was ready to … I don’t know how to say it, I was feeling useless,” he said.
“They just picked me up off the ground and said: ‘Let’s just attack one thing at a time, don’t look at the big picture, just get job by job done.
“It’s made a big difference.”
Gusto said the presence of Rob and Jack proved that locals needed as much help as they could get.
“I think this is why so many people are frustrated with what is happening on the ground – or not happening – we just aren’t getting enough help here,” he said.
“Having the army guys here or more SES volunteers would make a big difference to so many people. I think the locals like me are still in too much shock to get a lot done.”
Rob said he saw first-hand the benefit of helping hands.
The floods hit the Far North from the northern beaches of Cairns through to Mossman, the Daintree and beyond.
Those who were not impacted in Cairns were able to help out on the ground, which made a big difference, he said.
Access into the Bloomfield area was a little trickier, however.
“When you are one of the lucky ones I think you are obliged to help if you can,” Rob said.
“Looking back now I think we achieved a lot in such little time, so it shows that having people on the ground can really make a difference.
“We got a donation from Think Water Cairns, who provided us with a water pump, which also helped out a lot.
“Getting more water pumps up here earlier would have been handy for people, so thanks to Luke and Jess Sutton for the pump because we were able to use that to clean out a couple of houses and we’ll leave it here so it can keep on helping.”
The next challenge for Gusto is determining his long-term future.
Like many impacted by the floods, he had no home and contents insurance.
“It was an off-the-grid property on the banks of Granite Creek, just near Wujal Wujal,” he said.
“It’s got a steel frame, so it will be OK structurally, but it’s a bit worrying to rebuild there.
“It’s never flooded there before in 100 years and now I’m like, ‘do I go back?’
“I might need to go to higher ground.”
Gusto said the water came up much quicker than he anticipated.
“I was in the house and I heard the generator cough and splutter and when I went to look it was half in the water but still running,” he said.
“Water was coming up a step every five or 10 minutes.
“All I could grab was a garbage bag of clothes. I went from trying to save generators and power tools to realising the water was rising too quick to save anything.
“I swum to the bank and scrambled up to where my LandCruiser was. But it was in a bog and the water eventually went a metre over the roof.
“All I could do was scamper up to higher ground to an old timber shack and wait it out.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Gusto here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/gustos-emergency-flood-relief