Kangaroo Valley has had what one resident termed "an unlucky streak".
First came Black Summer, the vicious fires that wiped out many of the area's homes and businesses, turning everything it touched to ash.
Not even three months later, COVID-19 swept the world, confining people to their homes and grinding local tourism to a halt.
This year, Kangaroo Valley locals faced yet another enemy: downpours of rain strong enough to wipe out the only roads in and out of the area.
Each blow seems to bring the community a little closer - you can almost see the hands of locals reaching out across the streets, steadying each other.
Alex Good, 28, is a Kangaroo Valley dairy farmer. He makes the trip down from the paddock to get lunch in town, just because he wants to be one of the steadying hands.
"We don't need to come down here," Mr Good said, sitting outside a local cafe in his muddy boots.
"We just want to support the business."
Some roads into Kangaroo Valley have been closed since March after relentless heavy rain in February caused landslips and severe road damage.
As a town that relies on tourism, businesses in Kangaroo Valley have felt the strain.
Up until Thursday, travellers coming in from Moss Vale Road to the south were only allowed in every half hour and allowed out every hour through a controlled traffic escort.
The escort system saw snaking queues of cars left waiting up to an hour for the go-ahead.
The road north of Kangaroo Valley, where Moss Vale Road continues to Barrengarry Mountain, is closed altogether, with the exception of emergency services and children going to meet their school bus.
Closures for flood damage repair at Barrengarry Mountain are expected to continue for months, with residents estimating that even October might be optimistic.
From the local pub to the nearby farms, the road repairs are putting a strain on the community.
Mr Good gets fertilisers, seeds and other supplies delivered to his 600-acre dairy farm, but he said that road closures have meant trucks are taking twice as long to get there, and it's getting harder to find people to deliver.
"It's a five-hour round trip for them now," he said.
"In the middle of the wet weather, there were days we didn't even know if we were able to get our milk out."
He's even lost a staff member because of the access issues.
"For staff, it's been super hard - they've had to start half an hour earlier or later, they can't get home to their kids..."
Pub manager Caroline Lenati echoed Mr Good's troubles.
With only four staff members who live in the valley, she's had to alter rosters to align with escort times.
The pub has also felt the strain financially, Ms Lenati said, with trade down around 45 per cent from the loss of tourists visiting for the day.
The local pub's trade is usually 90 per cent day-trippers and people who come to the valley to stay in an Air BnB for the weekend, Ms Lenati said.
"Thank God we've got the locals..." Ms Lenati said.
"We're really hoping it picks up."
Alongside local support, an unexpected saving grace for the town has come in the form of love.
While day-trippers may be deterred by the road works, wedding parties are still making the trek to celebrate their union in the lush Kangaroo Valley.
"I've noticed in the last week that we've had a lot of mid-week weddings," Ms Lenati said.
"They usually come to the pub the night before."
Bron Durney, who works at the local bakery, said they're feeling the knock-on effects of the wedding trade, too.
"We get the flow in and out of weddings during the week, and we still have the locals who come in every day," she said.
As a business that makes everything fresh on-site, knowing that weddings are booked is comforting.
"The last thing you want is to throw out food," she said.
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Local glass artist Lance Brown said the three wedding venues in the area are booked up for the whole year, guaranteeing a steady flow of lovers and friends in and out of the town.
Mr Brown owns Leadlights, a local glass shop, and has lived in the Kangaroo Valley for 26 years.
He said despite everything, artists from Sydney and the Blue Mountains are still making the trek down to do his workshops to share in the art of leadlight glass.
"I get a lot of other artists coming down, who want to try another medium," he said.
While people of the art world might be dedicated enough to take on the road works, the same can't be said for all businesses.
He's seen the effects that fire, COVID, and now road closures have had on the town.
"It's a bit of a ghost town at the moment around here, but we're all still humming," he said.
The way through, it seems, is to keep doing what he's always done: keeping a close hold on friends and community.
Sitting in front of his shop, playing his Wednesday chess game with fellow local Sean Kramer, a packet of shortbread creams in hand, Mr Brown looked as though he'd figured it out.
The game is a weekly two-hour ritual, a community staple, and a way of checking in.
"People wouldn't know what day it is if we weren't here playing chess," he laughed.
Mr Brown said communication from the local council has been good, which is important for a community that has suffered so much.
"We had a big meeting a couple of Tuesdays ago and they're doing a good job info-wise of keeping everyone up to date," Mr Brown said.
As work progresses, Kangaroo Valley is slowly but surely reopening.
On Thursday, the escort system on Moss Vale road was replaced with a traffic light system that will hopefully limit the wait times from up to an hour to just ten minutes.
Kangaroo Valley Road through Berry has re-opened to traffic, making it the only way in untouched by road works.
And while the way to Barrengarry Mountain will remain closed till the end of the year, school kids can at least use the road to meet their bus.
Through all the rain, road closures, and unknowns, one comforting fact remains the same.
The Kangaroo Valley community will get through, one chess game and a packet of shortbread creams at a time.
Illawarra Mercury trainee journalist and newest recruit.
Illawarra Mercury trainee journalist and newest recruit.
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