I recently found myself stuck in traffic in Sydney's M5 tunnel in stifling 39-degree heat with no water, in a car with no air-conditioning.
It was one of a string of very hot days, with 41 degrees recorded the day before.
The heat had slowly crept up on me during my three-hour drive and I found myself saturated in sweat, feeling shaky, heart pounding, and incredibly thirsty.
It's only going to get hotter - but can we cope? Photo: Kate Geraghty
Unable to get any breeze in the hot, confined tunnel - which felt like an oven of exhaust fumes - I fanned myself madly with the nearest thing I could reach, a Christmas present (a children's book).
The bottle of water and coffee I'd had earlier in the morning were obviously not enough to hydrate me and I suddenly felt I'd have to stop the car in the middle of the congested tunnel to collapse by the side of the road - if I couldn't get to the spare water bottle in the boot first.
The traffic was painfully slow and by now I was so parched I couldn't bear it. In desperation I beeped the horn at the car next to me to get their attention. They didn't hear me over the roar of the tunnel.
I tooted at the next car who, thank goodness, saw me signalling for a drink, and like a miracle the man in the passenger seat wound down his window and reached out to pass me a cold bottle of water.
We slowed down the traffic so I could get the water, with hot, angry drivers honking at us from behind, but it was worth it. The man in his air-conditioned comfort could see that I was in trouble.
I drank the whole bottle in 30 seconds and felt the life coming back into me. I gave an exhausted wave as they passed me and took the first exit out of the tunnel to the nearest petrol station. I stood by the soft drink fridge in the petrol station for half an hour, guzzling water until my hands stopped shaking and reflecting on what had happened, and what could have happened.
What if I hadn't got the water and had passed out at the wheel? What if it had been in a remote area and there was no one around - no water, no nearby petrol station?
The experience was a scary reminder of the dangers of summer travel. It was also a terrifying look into the future; one where stifling hot days are likely to be the norm, not the exception. Where you simply can't take risks like travelling underprepared.
And though Sydney swelters every summer, there's no denying extreme days are happening earlier and more often. With last year's average temperatures across Australia the hottest since records began - and now a heatwave with 50 degrees in some parts of the country - it's only going to get hotter. The question is, will we be able to cope with the changes? Heat-related illness can strike anyone, not just those in Third World countries. We are, after all, just animals with a body temperature of 37 degrees. And we all get caught out once in a while.
And let's not forget the plants and animals that have no air-conditioned malls to retreat to, and no time to adapt quickly enough to the record temperatures we are experiencing.
With climate change already set in train, all we can do now is prepare ourselves and the next generation for a life of inevitable extreme weather conditions and hope they never find themselves underprepared.
Josie Banens is a professional communicator with a communications-journalism degree and mother to two children. She is eternally grateful to the kind person who threw her a lifeline in the M5 tunnel.