If you take a trip to Bright in January 2021 you will see a tourist town bustling with visitors and it seems, from the outside, that everything is great.
But underneath, the residents and businesses of Bright and surrounds are still dealing with the horrors of 2020 that began with the bushfires 12 months ago.
The bushfires did not reach the town itself, but people were on edge as nearby areas such as the Buckland Valley and Mount Buffalo burned.
Many evacuated in the first couple of weeks of January, just to be safe, and the town remained under "watch and act" advice.
Elderly residents at nursing homes were also moved - first to Myrtleford, then even further away to Murray Valley Private Hospital in Wodonga as the bushfires became a serious threat.
A normal summer in Bright involves an influx of visitors, accommodation booked out, businesses full and families splashing in the Ovens River.
A year ago, they were staying away for their own protection from the fires.
Then COVID-19 hit.
The tourism recovery that towns needed so desperately in early 2020 did not happen and Bright one was of many ghost towns in the North East.
Jenny Chalwell from Bright Escapes, whose office is in Anderson Street in the middle of the town, remembered how quiet things became in 2020.
"Even though we did not have fire in our town, we were grossly affected by the bushfires around us and even though we didn't have COVID, we were affected by people not able to come up," she told The Border Mail.
"There was a day during COVID that I looked out and there was only one person sitting on a seat and not a car in the whole street.
"It was quite amazing, I'll never forget it."
Bright Escapes, like many other accommodation providers, is now booked out a couple of months ahead, but it will take time to make up for the losses that started with the bushfires 12 months ago.
"It seems extremely busy and everything's back in order, but it's still not really the case," Ms Chalwell said.
"As with all the businesses, you think there's a light at the end of the tunnel - it will take a while. What we're recouping now doesn't really cover what the whole year has lost, but we'll get there."
As with all the businesses, you think theres a light at the end of the tunnel - it will take a while.Jenny Chalwell from Bright Escapes
Some people are on their third attempt at a booking - the first was cancelled due to the fires and the second because of coronavirus, so they are hoping it will be third time lucky.
"A lot of them didn't want their money back because they wanted to support the town, people have been really generous," Ms Chalwell said.
"I think we've realised we had a lot of freedom that was taken away from us. The appreciation is there for the freedom we can have now to start doing things and going places.
"In a way, there's a bit of positivity to it, even though it was incredible negative."
She said she expects bookings to level out, after the current rush to return to Bright 12 months after the bushfires.
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The Victorian government opened a community recovery hub in Bright, located on Riverside Avenue, to help people with the tasks of getting access to community grants and getting businesses and farms operational again.
But it was only towards the end of 2020 that people had the time to look into what was available.
This has created a situation where, although it has been 12 months since the devastating fires, the recovery process for many is only just beginning.
Recovery hub coordinator Shelley Herman said the easing of coronavirus restrictions last year was the point where people could really look into getting help.
"I don't think people knew if they could come out for this. It is actually an essential service, but people were told they were only allowed to go out for food," she said.
"It's hard to connect with the community when you're in lockdown."
In any other year, devastating bushfires would be followed in subsequent months by community meetings and debriefs, but this was not a normal year.
Ms Herman said she would talk to people over the phone and over Zoom as much as possible, but it was not the same.
Finally in December, the hub started holding community meetings around the Alpine region.
"For me, you will never replace human connection. That's what our species is designed to do," Ms Herman said.
"Here in Bright we were really badly affected in January and I don't think people thought it could get worse, but then it did get worse.
"People financially and economically have been affected more from COVID than bushfires.
"It is real now the weather's getting warm and people are starting to think about bushfires again - that's just going to be the season."
She said the hub doors are always open and people are free to come in to talk about what grants are available, as well as financial counselling.
But not everyone is willing to do that.
Part of Ms Herman's role is to go out to farms in the region.
Many tell her over the phone they are fine, but after meeting her and feeling more comfortable, are more likely to ask for help when needed.
"People are very proud in this town and in this valley, and farmers in particular. They're not going to walk in here and say 'I need some help'," she said.
"They are always so proud and they don't want the next person to miss out if they get it."
Others simply have not had the time in between trying to run a farm and home-school children during the pandemic.
"We haven't got everyone. We know we haven't because we know how many people are in the shire," Ms Herman said.
A survey of 327 people conducted in late-2020 by the Alpine Community Recovery Committee found that four in 10 people impacted by the bushfires were progressing well, but another four in 10 people had only made some to no progress in their recovery.
Committee chair Fiona Nicholls said the latter figure was concerning.
"We heard about the impact on mental health, people lamenting the loss of being able to gather and debrief and support one another to recover from the fires," she said.
"We heard about the impact on people's lives - not being able to travel, having to home-school, all these new issues we faced under restrictions, impacting people's recovery - the double whammy that so many people spoke about.
"And, we also heard about gratitude - people acknowledging that despite the hardships, they were grateful to be safe and well."
The survey also asked what people needed to better prepare for future bushfires and Ms Nicholls said there were many practical, innovative and compassionate responses.
"People want accurate information and advice about property preparation and evacuation points, and they want to raise the overall community level of education and awareness, so we are better able as communities to prepare and respond to future events," she said.
"Many people talked about building community resilience and working together to support vulnerable people in our communities and emphasised their need for clear information, for reliable communication infrastructure and for clarity in evacuation procedures.
"We heard great ideas like having an annual weekend where communities can help those who need it, to prepare their properties ahead of bushfire season."