The weather here in England at the moment reminds me a bit of when I was living in Darwin. It`s the humidity that makes it feel so much hotter because it doesn`t allow us to get dry at all and so we don`t cool off. In Darwin it can reach almost one hundred percent, you drip the moment you leave the house, I think here in the UK today it`s around eighty five percent, so for many of us, very uncomfortable.
The average temperature in Darwin is slightly under 40 degrees all year round, (that`s 104 degrees Fahrenheit to those of us who still remember that measurement.) In the summer the temperature will drop slightly so that it`s hot and dry and quite fresh, like an ordinary summer`s day here in the UK. But come October, in Darwin the temperature begins to heat up. They call it the build-up and it reaches its peak around the end of November when it is ferociously hot. People go mad with the heat in Darwin, couples fight, people fall out, lots of people drink massive amounts of alcohol and then go a bit more mad and sometimes kill someone. In Darwin they call it the suicide season and in fact Darwin has a very high rate of suicide, particularly amongst young men between 16 – 25. Perhaps they feel trapped in all that heat and all that distance away from the rest of the world.
Because Darwin is so hot, the Federal Government encourages skilled people into the area with rewards, for example, if you are a nurse or a teacher and you commit to ten years of working in Darwin, you then receive six months off on full pay. Not bad eh! People don`t naturally gravitate there because it really is the back of beyond, it sits right on the Equator and because it really is one of the hottest places on the earth.
In Darwin the shopping malls are air conditioned and everyone gathers there daily, simply to get out of the heat. When you stroll up the road you will hear people shouting to their kids, “Shut that door!” It`s to keep the cool air in. Everyone`s houses have louver windows that are permanently open in any unoccupied rooms and lots of houses are built on stilts, which keeps them a bit cooler.
Like many places with dodgy infrastructure, Darwin is prone to electricity blackouts. I can`t tell you how horrible it is lying in 40 degrees of heat trying to sleep without any fan or air conditioning to cool you down. The only thing to do is go and run a shower but you will often find that the cold water is hot because in the Northern Territory, the water pipes run overground. (Only in Darwin!)
Mind you, all that heat produces some stunning thunderstorms and spectacular displays of lightening which you are unlikely to see anywhere else in the world. The claps of thunder are so loud, it is easy to imagine it is God speaking, I loved it. Then down comes the hot, hot rain, in sheets, heavy and heady, you are soaked within moments and dry again, well, damp at any rate in not much more time.
Lots of people ask me how it is that I managed to cope with all that heat in Darwin but the answer is simple. I had a swimming pool in my back garden with a shady canopy over it to stop the water from becoming too warm. I could dip in and out as many times a day as I liked and believe me I frequently did! I could handle this hot weather today in the UK, much better if I had my own pool.
I think we are around 23 degrees centigrade in Brum today so a bit cooler, thank goodness. Roll on the autumn, I never did like the heat very much. 🙂
I heard on the news this morning that another unfortunate soul has been killed and consumed by a great white shark off the coast of Western Australia. It`s the fifth fatal attack in less than a year and it reminded me of living in Darwin. Darwin`s sea which is the beautiful Arafura Sea, is mostly infested with salt water crocodiles rather than great whites and dozens are fished out of the harbour each year. They are still a protected species having been hunted almost to extinction in the last century so they are usually placed in crocodile farms or released in Kakadu National Park or somewhere which is patrolled by croc` wardens every day.
I wouldn`t go swimming in Darwin`s ocean, I considered it far too much of a risk. It wasn`t just the croc`s either, Box jellyfish also inhabit the waters there, the most deadly jellyfish in the world. One whip of a tentacle can kill a weak person or a child, if it doesn`t kill you the pain is so intense, you would wish you hadn`t taken that refreshing dip.
The first day I arrived in the Northern Territory I was taken for a swim in a billabong. I always thought that billabongs were small ponds where you could fill up your billy can but no, this one was a huge and beautiful lake set in fabulous bushland and I really enjoyed the freedom of swimming in open water and pretty much on my own. It was so peaceful and I felt alone, which is what I needed at that time and I felt chilled and very happy. I couldn`t help thinking though, “What if there`s a croc` lurking somewhere about to munch me up?” You know that Jaws` music, du du du du du du du…. came into my head. Couldn`t help it. Fortunately, at least half of the people in Darwin have their own swimming pool so it`s easy to take a dip every day.
Lots of areas in Darwin are infested with crocodiles and there are many signs all over the Northern Territory warning people not to swim in waters which aren`t wardened, so it`s all the more shocking when they do! Some years ago a teenage girl who was visiting from Germany took a dip, she ignored the signs or maybe she simply didn`t understand them but in any event she was taken by a croc`. The top half of her was found and later on, two miles up river the croc` who had killed her was also discovered and shot dead, the unlucky girl`s upper legs still protruding from its immense jaws. Poor croc` he was only doing what comes naturally.
On another occasion, a man out swimming was taken and the croc` decided to put him in his larder. Like a lot of creatures, crocodiles store food for later on in larders all along the river banks. This man, still alive was fortunate indeed because there was a pocket of air which kept him going for around two hours he thinks, until he was brave enough to venture out and scramble up on to dry land. Do you suppose he will ever fully recover from that near death experience? Actually I was recently dismayed to read that the Australian government has agreed for crocodiles to be hunted again and business men, mostly from Japan will have to fork our 10,000 Australian dollars for the privilege of shooting one. It`s a sad old world for croc`s.
As with the West Coast, the Arafura Sea hosts great white sharks too. Years ago, Darwin`s council put a wide, metal mesh net right across one of its bays to try and keep them out. It was vandalised by kids within weeks leaving gaping holes for the sharks to swim through. And you think the youths over here are a nuisance!
I have been back in the UK for a while now and I enjoy swimming at Ninestiles Leisure Centre. It`s pretty good and the only sharks you are likely to encounter there are of the human variety.