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Flood traps family of five who hike to safety after days isolated at rainforest cabin in Upper Lansdowne

Thursday April 8, 2021 - 03:15 AEST
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The family hiked out with their baby and young children after being trapped by floodwaters for days. - ABC

James Archer says his wife is a true hero for helping save their young family when floodwaters surrounded their remote cabin.


Mr Archer moved to the bush with his wife Lauren about five years ago. They left the bustle of Sydney and embraced a total tree change.


"We left the city behind and started a homestead in the rainforest," Mr Archer said.


They built a cabin at Upper Lansdowne, north of Taree, on the New South Wales Mid North coast and became self-sufficient. They grew their own food and tended their own livestock.


They also started a family. The couple now has three young children all under the age of five.


In late March, however, when torrential rain and wild winds hit the region, their remote cabin was suddenly in danger. 


"We started getting flash floods. The creeks around our cabins just rose up to huge rivers and we were completely locked off within an hour and stayed that way for three days," Mr Archer said.


Trek to safety


They bunkered down with their children ? including a three-month old baby ? and were left without power, phone signal or network coverage. 


Bridges on the 4WD road that accessed their home were washed out.


"It was three days of anxiety and looking for ways to get out," Mr Archer said.


On the fourth day, the young couple packed food and some belongings and set out on the trek to reach their neighbour's home on the other side of Upper Lansdowne. 


"We started getting landslides around the cabin ? and that's when I decided to make a move to get out of there," Mr Archer said.


Carrying three-month-old Liam, with four-year-old Jack and two-year-old Kai on foot, the family waited for the water to go down and hiked across an old log bridge in a higher gully, that was only partially damaged.


"I felt like I was in a movie, my wife is the hero here, she was amazing," Mr Archer said.


"My wife was great, she wanted to carry far too much equipment, but she's really strong ? and we got here and [are] safe."


Ms Archer said they packed in a hurry and there was a lot to carry.


"I had bags packed with clothing and basically the feed for the baby and a backpack on my back," she said.


Mr Archer said the walk wasn't too far but was hilly and very muddy, and his children seemed to understand the seriousness of the situation.


"When there's raging waters all around ? I think they've never behaved so well," he said.


"I think they could sense there was a bit of an emergency and the need to listen to Mummy and Daddy and they did really well.


"They were really tired afterwards but did great."


Time to rebuild


Despite the stresses they faced the family have been determined to return to their rainforest cabin.


"It's definitely worth living out here ? so we have decided to rebuild and do what we can to get back out here," Mr Archer said.


"It was a choice of ours to live remotely. We lived and worked in the city [in Sydney] and this is something we definitely wanted to do as a change.


"It comes with a lot of stresses but it's definitely a very rewarding lifestyle ? we have more of a connection with family, I get to see my kids grow up, basically."


Ms Archer agreed it was worth the effort.


"I love it ? and James doesn't have to work a nine-to-five job so he can keep us afloat doing his own small business and spends a lot more time with us as a family," she said.


"I wouldn't trade it for a city life at all."


While Mr Archer rebuilds, Ms Archer and the children are living with family in Queensland.


The cabin itself is still standing, but can only be accessed on foot, so the main priority is restoring bridges and road access.


"I have to work out how to rebuild the bridges," Mr Archer said.


"It's not until we get all the bridges reinstated that we can really live there functionally.


"I run a small sawmill and it's stuck high up on a ridge down the other end of the property.


"There is a landslide like I have never seen before to get through first, so once we push a mountain out of the way we may be able to get back to work."







- ABC

© ABC 2021

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