Plenty

Many of Men at Work’s lyrics from that infamous song are undoubtedly insane. And for a sparsely populated continental land mass frequently sun-baked and on the very fringes of survival, there are legitimate question marks about its plentifulness. Plenty in size and scale and cultural history. Plenty in coal and iron ore and brazen luck. Plenty in toilet roll, despite everything.

Today, in the natural world around me, there appears again this land of plenty. Turn back a year and there would have been much head-shaking at such a thought. A cruel fantasy. But since that point, we’ve had plenty of rain resulting in plenty of growth leading to plenty of productivity. Not all of this is welcome, with rabbits and mice and locusts replicating at the rate of viruses in Kent. And the plentiful fruits of this rejuvenation are proving challenging to reap without a stream of acquiescent backpackers.

Still, “she’ll be apples” as they say. Surprising apples if you find yourself on a road between Bundanoon and Marulan. I was heading back from a day of plenty when I spotted a small sign saying ‘Big Apple’ pointing to the left. Already astounded by the incredible-in-so-many ways Big Potato, the apple emerged as a more subtle dessert.

Giant fruits and vegetables are apt in the Southern Highlands given the land is – for the most part – rich farming country. Babe was also filmed around here, combining perfectly with some of the local apple sauce and roast spuds. I could see snatches of Babe country throughout, supercharged by the verdant green rolling landscape, scattered with fine weatherboard homes and lacy verandas. Such is the well-groomed nature of this land, that it comes as a dramatic contrast when the countryside falls suddenly towards the sea. Delivering plenty.

This happens at Carrington Falls, situated within Budderoo National Park to the south of Robertson. It was a misty, head-in-the-clouds morning, the kind that lends itself to Jurassic Park moments. Tall white trees disappear into the clouds, giant ferns at their base dripping with beads of moisture. The air smells earthy and rich, peppered with wafts of cool mint. Only the fizzing sound of water signals a break in this most stagnant of scenes.

Several lookouts provide the wow factor, the intake of breath, the magnetic allure of millions of litres of water falling fifty metres into a deep pool. It is unclear whether the mist swirling through the eucalypts are remnants of waterfall or lowering fingers of cloud. I suppose they are all part of the same big cycle taking on different forms. Steaming glasses and feeding natural spectacles.

I’m surprised by how busy the place is on a cool, damp Monday. A steady flow of visitors park up, loop along the lookouts and leave again. Most pause for a picture or two, alternating between ultra-serious brooding to comical selfies. One senior lady poses with what looks like a car windscreen shade over her head, arranged to resemble Mickey Mouse ears. The youth – students from Wollongong I suspect – brave the waters of the creek before they succumb to gravity.

There is another turn off near Carrington Falls that suggests further valley lookouts. I head to the first and closest, greeted with even denser mist and a disappearing view. Fine rain is now falling and – for February – it’s cold.

Back near the car and now thinking of a warming lunch, a sign points to something called Nellie’s Glen. It’s only a hundred metres, which is hardly going to delay the arrival of comfort food. And what a pleasant surprise this turned out to be, a gorgeous pool fed by gently cascading waters. The kind of place on a warmer day to soak and swim and avoid water dragons and hope that leeches aren’t longing for a bit of attachment.  

With other lookouts and a campground I feel there is unfinished business in Budderoo National Park. But my mind – and stomach – has become fixated on pie. At the junction with the Illawarra Highway stands the self-proclaimed ‘World Famous Robertson Pie Shop’. Have you heard of it over there? It looks exactly the kind of place that would disappoint and end up on the news as a COVID hotspot. A pie of plenty instead came at the Robertson Pub, no doubt known as The Robbo, oppo the big potato.

It was perfect weather for pie and mash and gravy, washed down by a surprisingly good local ale whose name I sadly do not recall. Such feasting naturally induces a contented lethargy that makes the thought of further activity, further driving, further walking, further gazing at amazing, just that little bit less enticing. But I had to get home somehow, and there was still a waterfall way to go.

Thus the afternoon heralded Belmore Falls, a double delight viewed from afar. Some people had managed to find closer views next to the top of the falls and a couple – spied through my zoom lens – had made their way between upper and lower falls. I figured, judging by the size and athleticism of said couple, that it couldn’t be too hard to reach, though how they did so remains very much a mystery. Perhaps abseiling or helicopters were involved.

The drive from Belmore Falls to Fitzroy Falls proved joyful, a pocket of pure Babes country starting to welcome a brighter, afternoon sky. At Fitzroy Falls itself – the trustiest and most accessible of the waterfalls in this area – I felt a little as though I was going through the motions, but walked and stopped and took photos and gazed out in awe nonetheless. As well as both Fitzroy and Twin Falls adding to the daily tally, the view into the Yarrunga Valley never fails to enchant.

By the time I passed through Exeter and Bundanoon and abruptly turned to the left in Tallong, the sun had started to reassert itself and offer some welcome warmth. Better conditions for ripening apples I would imagine, and less potato friendly. A landscape now drier and more typical of great swathes of eastern Australia.

As a final stop before joining the highway I detoured to Long Point Lookout, where a spur of land thrusts itself out into an incredible wilderness. Below, some five hundred metres, the Shoalhaven River turns 180 degrees, carving out the steep hills and ravines which disappear off into the distance. All that water has to lead somewhere, and the Shoalhaven is quite a remarkable gathering of natural forces.

I spent a good half hour at this spot, as the late afternoon light cast itself in fits and starts upon the scene. Not one other car, not one other person stopped by during that time. Somewhere else, in another continent, in another country I couldn’t imagine such absence, such indifference. It would be a highlight, a spectacle, hustling with people and coaches and tacky souvenirs.

Here, it was as if no-one else knew. Here, in a country of vast open space, of forests and gorges still existing untouched, still largely unexploited, it was nothing special. Just another view, just another scene, just another place. And surely that is what makes it a land of plenty, he said, smiling with a Vegemite sandwich.

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Uplift

Outside is looking remarkable. Outside is looking beautiful. An almost pinch-yourself-is-this-actually-real kind of sensation. One bringing delight rather than dread.

I was sat on a random log the other day, pleasant late afternoon sunshine nourishing the world. Rarely do I sit and stop and watch all the things going on around me: the ants milling about productively, transporting their wares in selfless community organisation; the magpie creeping from one spot of grass to the other, surveying for delicacies, a curious sideways look at my presence; the chirrup, somewhere, of two crimson rosellas, partners for life. The world going about its business.

There is an astonishment in this landscape of such verdant abundance. Where so recently it was so barren. The resilience of nature bearing fruit, flourishing again.

As well as sitting on random logs I randomly tried to capture this transition, this journey, this bounce back. Scrolling my phone for past images, dusty and brown. Attempting to line up positions and angles and replicating shots. Not always easy to know exactly where you have gone before. Fiddling about so much that sometimes it’s just far easier, far more satisfying to give up, sit on a log, and just watch the world.

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The Bullen Range and Brindabellas from Cooleman Ridge, 6 weeks apart

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Remember the smoke?!

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Scenes from Red Hill – 1

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Scenes from Red Hill – 2

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Scenes from Red Hill – 3, with random logs

Australia Green Bogey Photography Walking

Holes and crevices

Since I started waxing lyrical about the joys of March it has been raining a fair bit. Not wall to wall drizzle but almost daily torrents of abuse from the skies. Upper level troughs, east coast lows, tropical storms, that sort of thing. While many people rightly state that it’s good for the gardens, it’s expressed with a subtle tinge of disappointment and envy that the gardens are having all the fun. You get used to not having to consult the weather forecast before planning outdoor adventures.

Still, Canberra doesn’t often get the brunt of the bad weather, shielded by the Snowy Mountains to the west and the coastal ranges to the east. Maybe that’s why they decided to site Canberra where it is, the guffawing elites of Melbourne and Sydney spitefully condemning the nation’s capital to a dusty sheep paddock. One hundred and four years later it’s quite remarkable that it is what it is really, and I’m amazed that the vast swathe of Australians fail to celebrate what has been achieved here. Only in Canberra do we get Canberra Day, when half of Canberra leave Canberra for the long weekend.

Predictable rain peppered the drive from Canberra to Braidwood on Canberra Day 2017. Over the years, Braidwood has become more attuned to Canberra’s fancies, with the emergence of better coffee and organic providores selling overpriced sourdough sandwiches in stripped back wooden cottages. For all the fine produce and renovated fireplaces around, it still alarms me when an old dear is at the coffee machine. Call it despicable ageism, but people with beards do seem to make a better coffee.

bush01aMost people use Braidwood as a coffee and loo stop on the way to the coast. Today however, with my friend Alex in the passenger seat, I was heading a little south into Deua National Park. A brown sign pointed to The Big Hole and Marble Arch, and who doesn’t want to see a big hole and a marble arch? Even if you do have to wade up to your knees in the Shoalhaven River to see these delights.

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bush02I knew I would be a fan of The Big Hole. Part of the attraction is the name itself, attributed through one of three traditional Australian place-naming techniques: the bleeding obvious (the other two methods being the Aboriginal and the Colonial rip-off). Climbing up and over a ridge, a sign in the midst of nondescript bush points to the hole a hundred metres away. And there it is. A big bloody hole. Seventy metres deep and filled with ferns that are a lot bigger than they look. At the end of the day, what else could you call this?

bush04Marble Arch is far less obvious. And a good deal farther, through an annoying shower and down into a valley. In fact I don’t recall an extravagant arch glistening in the rain, just a narrow canyon and underground cave, with a few boulders and soggy pools in the way. Nonetheless it was quite a spectacle, quite an experience, quite an adventure. And quite a climb back up, in the rain.

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A couple of weeks on and I found myself back on the bushwhacking trail in the frequently moist Southern Highlands of New South Wales. You cannot enter the highlands town of Bundanoon without saying so in a Scots accent. Welcome to Bundurrnooooooooonn. Turn right at the kilt shop and beware caber tossing ginger people on the road into Morton National Park. Where, for all the pretence of Scotland, you are in quintessential Australia, sandstone escarpment and gum tree country.

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bush05Walking along a gravel road in a landscape tamed by pasture and pricey property, the bush reclaims the country and sweeps down into the valley of Bundanoon Creek. While keen not to go all the way down to the creek (and thus back up), I dropped below the cliff line on the promisingly named Amphitheatre Track. While there are glimpses of the valley and the eastern escarpment through the trees, a lot of the attraction is in the close up, in the miniscule: the seeping moss, the crumbling sandstone, tunnels of ferns and trickling gullies.

bush06As well as savouring the sights, sounds and smells of the bush, I was on a waterfall mission, confident of success given the recent rains. It didn’t take long to find a trickle of water that had swollen sufficiently to spill through a cleft in the rock, briefly flowing over the path, disappearing into unfathomable depths below. Further gullies provided further cascading water, and such was the sogginess underfoot it was relief at times to emerge from beneath the ferns on slightly higher, drier ground.

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The only regular water feature marked on the map provided the culmination to this hike. Not one, not two, but effectively three different cascades had developed around Fairy Bower Falls. The first was most certainly a temporary affair, streaming down the rock face like Gandalf’s beard and onto the track. The second – the upper falls – appeared to come from the heavens, falling through the canopy and spreading its mist into the air. The third – the lower falls – gathered into a crystal pool which required only a little daring to cross. This was most definitely the spot to pause and eat my peppermint slice.

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It certainly was the pinnacle, here in these depths. By now I was two hundred metres below the rim and the route back was more than a chore. Fallen trees required circumnavigating; zigzags upwards necessitated breaks; vines impeded above and below. At one pause for a breather I noticed a pile of leeches on the bottom of my jeans, some having made it through to the socks and another trying to get in through my shoe. Frantically trying to peel them off before they made any further progress, my camera decided to roll away twenty metres into the undergrowth. This was now a bit shit.

Leech free (well, I thought…one made it to Moss Vale, the other to Canberra but thankfully without feasting), camera retrieved, there was just the heart-pounding, sweat-inducing climb to the top to go, a climb that never seemed to end. Thank goodness there was a lookout at the summit to recuperate and a sign on which to perch and check shoes and socks. And thank goodness for flat, gravel roads on which to walk back to the car.

bush12I was relieved to get back to the car, relieved to be just fifteen minutes from a hearty lunch in Bernie’s Diner. And relieved that the first raindrops of the day hit the windscreen as I closed the car door, raindrops which continued almost all the way home.

P.S. It was beautiful and sunny today, calm and 28 degrees 🙂

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Lighting up the dark

Winter in Australia can be a bit of farce, particularly as you move closer to the sea. As temperatures dip shockingly to sixteen degrees Celsius, department stores in Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall rapidly sell out of chequered scarves and jaunty hats. Soup and sourdough are on offer in Eastern Suburb beachside cafes, their outdoor chalkboards adorned with a seemingly endless supply of lame metaphors about life and coffee. Summer is a distant dream and Instagram is overflowing with not-so-instant flashbacks of bikini-clad sands and shark infested waters. Meanwhile, in Britain, equivalent temperatures bring out the barbecues and an aura of fuzzy disbelief that it is actually kind of nice. I miss those days.

vivid01I was envisaging a challenging winter weekend in pleasant Sydney sunshine when assigned a work trip there recently. Instead, torrential, stormy, incessant rain submerged a large part of eastern Australia and I delayed my visit. Stuck in Canberra for an extra day, I discovered that the apartment complex I had moved into had acquired an English-like riverside setting, which immediately put the rent up a hundred bucks, and probably inspired people to dump shopping trolleys into the storm drain to complement the graffiti before blaming it and everything else on foreigners.

Rain was still teeming the following day when I caught a flight to Sydney, where it was not only wet but wildly windy. Such a pleasant experience coming into land, giving up at the last minute, and just about successfully trying again. Only tea and cake could remedy such nerve-jangling travails, followed by a welcome disco and some warming Thai food for supper with friends and their family.

Of course, by time work was back on the agenda the worst of the weather had mostly cleared. Still, some compensation was to be had in the fact that I finished this work by 8pm on Monday, rather than the usual 10. I could, with some willpower and effort, cross over that little bridge from North Sydney to the city and at least catch a little bit of Vivid.

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Vivid is a winter festival of illuminations and associated artsy commercialism. Basically, Sydney tried to copy Canberra with Enlighten but obviously shows off far more about it. Like Enlighten it really seems to have grown over the last few years and, well, to be honest, benefits from being in such an iconic setting. Projections on the Sydney Opera House or the National Library of Australia? You decide.

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It’s quite amazing how these projections have become so detailed, intricate and advanced over the past few years. It used to be an event when a landmark was bathed in a slightly different light, often commemorating something sombre or jubilant like a war or a baby. Now multicoloured animations are timed with music and coordinated across a variety of sites and I daresay we are all rather blasé about it. Sometimes though you can’t beat a dose of good old-fashioned simplicity from a more subdued angle.

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Perhaps more amazing than the illuminated cityscape and anything else that night was the fact that I had a delicious double scooped ice cream on my way to Wynyard Station. It really is that lame an excuse for a winter, even when it rains.

vivid05The next day in Sydney offered a return to sunlight, though still possessing a cool enough breeze to warrant jackets and scarves of course. I should probably have been catching up on work, making notes and thinking about what it all means. But after a breakfast catch up in Milsons Point, the harbour again beckoned, and an impromptu boat ride just for the hell of it. No matter how many times you encounter this city’s jewels, it is almost always impossible to avert your eyes, so I said in an instant on Instagram.

vivid06One more day and I would return to something a little wintrier in Canberra, where there are frosts and even some rare single digit daytime maximums. It’s part of the reason so many people hate it despite never having been there. I can see their point a little, and the cold nights do drag well into September. Thus I am more than happy to embrace a bit of time down in Wollongong – prior to another nightshift – in which there was a window of T-shirt wearing opportunity. This plus fish and chips and the pounding drama of a still frenetic swell makes for a contented couple of hours.

vivid07As much as I love Canberra there are times, in the heart of winter, that I question my decision not to live beside the sea. Why would I not want to briskly stroll along a boardwalk? Why would I not want to find good coffee and tasty brunch fare with an ocean view? Why would I not want to do a spot of work on a bench in a foreshore park so I could claim that food on expenses? Why? Maybe because I don’t want to turn into a softie who rushes to David Jones for a chequered scarf and jaunty hat at the sight of sixteen degrees. At least let’s go through something a little darker to really, truly savour the light that follows.

Australia Green Bogey Photography

Floody ‘ell

So it turns out ‘The North’ is more than just a fictional imagining in George R.R. Martin’s gargantuan head. There is a real place in which gruff folk with grizzled beards mumble about stone walls. The weather can be cold, but it is mostly just bone-chillingly wet; sombrely leaden. Expansive wilds present a bleak, gritty beauty, tamed only in picturesque patches of lowland. Sheep cling forlornly to the slopes, anticipating, finally, the coming of winter. Further North, an ancient wall struggles to keep out wildlings, armed with Tennants Super on the 0900 to Euston. We are in Cumbria.

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Cumbria before the floods, but only just. After a soggy few days on the Lancashire coast, it wasn’t much of a surprise to travel up the M6 in a medley of drizzle, dark cloud, and downpour. While a brief period where I didn’t have to use windscreen wipers offered hope, this was dashed with unending persistence once in the Lake District National Park. And so, from umbrella buying in Bowness to umbrella usage in Ambleside to umbrella drying off in a neat hotel in the middle of nowhere, there really wasn’t much to do in this greatest of outdoors.

As the dim skies faded black and the patter of rain continued apace upon the skylight I decided to make a break for it and check out the bright, Christmas lights of Keswick. I was hoping for a Dickensian scene of late night shopping, market stalls with hubbub and mulled wine, brass bands blaring out Once in Royal David’s City, and ribbons of light twinkling above curving cobbled alleyways. The reality offered some lights but little else, as the town appeared to be hunkering down for the night. With sodden shoes and a reduced-price pork pie from the Co-op, I retreated back to the car, umbrella decimated by a gust of wind, facing only the promise of driving through surface water in the dark. I made it, but Keswick did not. Two days later it was flooded.

Oh for a dry day and, for most of Friday, it happened. It wasn’t exactly bright or pleasant, but for a few hours the rain had paused before it was to come back in such vengeance. A few puddles dotted the road alongside Derwentwater on the way towards Honister Pass. Softened valley villages and stonewalled farms yielded to barren upland, coated a deep brown with the dying bracken. A steep decline worthy of the Tour De France returned things to something closer to the idyllic around the idyllic sounding Buttermere.

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This was my chance to revel in dreary dryness, to soak up bleak melancholy, to wander lonely as a big grey cloud. The lake could be circumnavigated and it came as something of a surprise that the path was still in good condition during the two hour loop. Only once was a rocky detour required due to a swollen lake edge. Oh, and a couple of steps through a rising brook. Hang on…I almost forgot…that falling ass over tit moment on a small stretch of grass linking the road back to the path. Muddy bottom, muddy camera, but thankfully no-one around to see my slippery fall from grace.

lk03The scenery was undeniably beautiful. One wonders whether it would be improved by sunlight and fluffy white clouds, buttercups and warmth. Probably. I remember it as such on a brief stop ten years past. Today, it was moody and, to be honest, me too. After a week without it, I just really really REALLY craved the sun. But at least it was dry…so mustn’t grumble.

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lk06With all the previous day’s rain it was no major surprise to encounter a series of stretched out cascades and falls plunging down the steep-sided fells towards the lake. I suppose this is some recompense for the deluge, but so frequent and incessant is the sound of water that it makes you want to pee really really badly. And there is not much in the way of foliage left to offer shelter and protection.

Still, relieved and closer to the end, an alien sliver of blue sky opened up to the northeast. A chink in the steel armour, it was something to cling to, something to chase. Briefly it illuminated some hills in the distance, but failed to deliver anything of solace on my face. There would be little chance for anything to air for long.

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lk09Completing the Buttermere circumnavigation, I jumped back into the car to venture over a narrow pass and down to the western edge of Derwentwater. That chink of blue sky was somewhere in this direction, and I may have bathed in it for all of twenty seconds. Unfortunately I was in the car at the time, but it was still a very special twenty seconds. A valley glowed. A farm building shimmered. The sheep murmured quiet contentment. And then the strong wind sent it away, off into the distance.

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Early afternoon in Keswick and things had actually dried out a little – perhaps it too had been briefly kissed by the sun? There were people on its streets and a hint of something Christmas-related in the air. There was no wafting smell of hot pork pie though, but then I began to question whether this ten year old recollection was actually in Kendall rather than Keswick? So, of all things, I ended up with a Cornish pasty in the cute town square.

Determined not to suffer a food disappointment to compound my rapidly redeveloping British glumness, I set out on a mission for afternoon tea. For what else is the Lake District if not the archetypal biscuit tin setting for afternoon tea? Grasmere sounds a likely spot, full of tea shoppes and crafty gifts to cater for poetic dreamers. A place where a pot of tea can – at a single moment – feel like the best thing in the world. Elation amplified by a gigantic slice of treacle tart, sickeningly delectable. A high on which to leave the lakes and to treasure a day of figurative sunshine amongst the December clouds.

 

Driving Great Britain Green Bogey Photography Walking

Umbrella

We need to talk about the weather. It’s part of my DNA: within one of my chromosomes that have also determined a reticence to introduce myself to strangers and a fondness for orderly queues linger a few cells dedicated to obsessing about the weather. I think they may be GB cells. They surfaced when I was relatively young and manifested themselves in an early career goal to be a weatherman. A rough outline of the southwest of England was etched on a sheet of A4 and stuck on the inside of my cupboard door. Other bits of paper were cut up and made into various symbols for sun, cloud, thunder, snow and rain, to be stuck on the map with blu-tac. The rain symbols tended to get worn out the quickest.

The association with rain makes it natural for me to see the umbrella as a very British thing, whether jauntily swinging along with pinstripes and bowler hats, colourfully huddled together overlooking a covered up centre court, or propelling erstwhile nannies across the streets of London to shove spoonfuls of sugar down children’s throats. However a quick bit of research (i.e. scanning Wikipedia and not really reading much of it) suggests the brolly goes back to ancient empires but – get this – it was used to shade Egyptian cats or something from the fiery orb of the angry celestial sun god (like I say, I didn’t really read much of it). Shade from the sun? In the UK? Even Mary Poppins made more purposeful use of an umbrella than that!

I have also vaguely potentially read somewhere that the Eskimos have fifty different words for snow; in the UK a similar linguistic phenomenon exists for wet stuff from the sky. So on any one day across the British Isles it could be raining, drizzling, mizzling, spitting, chucking it down, pouring, precipitating, suffering deluges, downpours, cloudbursts and sheets of rain, and, fantastically, raining cats and dogs. Which is all a bit Shih Tzu. Meanwhile in France it just pleuts and pleuts.

The crazy thing with all of this watery bombardment is that the umbrella is frequently useless, turned inside out by the howling gales kindly delivered by Atlantic storms. There is no more iconic sight than a mangled umbrella dumped despairingly into a bin on a railway station platform. Because you have been there yourself, you can easily picture the struggle that befell its former owner and the sodden mess in which he or she arrived at work, uncomfortably damp for the rest of the day. Hence the alternative or additional and very fashionable cagoule…the tasteful pack-a-mac, which I am pleased to discover is of British origin [1].

Something else distinctly British is a summer trip to the seaside for a picnic in the car. Outside the sea and sky are leaden and the mid teens temperature is quelled by a cooling hurricane and squalls of rain. Inside, cheese and cucumber sandwiches are squashed and soggy while the windows are steaming up. Clothes are sticking to bodies and bodies are sticking to other bodies wedged in like slightly more animated sardines. All the time pack-a-macs are at the ready for when the rain becomes slightly less heavy and a scramble along the promenade to the dilapidated pier can be braved.

The good thing from familiarity is that Britain is generally prepared for rain and carries on carrying on regardless. There are always things to do for ‘rainy days’ such as popping out for tea and cake, or sheltering in the dark protective womb of a U_monkeysmedieval tavern, warmed by warm ale. There are amusements and fudge making demonstrations and bric-a-brac sales in the village hall, with more tea and cake thrown in. There are theme parks and zoos, where even the monkeys have the good sense to seek shelter while humans negotiate driving rain and wade through puddles to come and look at them [2].

By contrast of course Australia has this sunny image of Lara Bingle on a Whitsunday Beach sounding dumb and asking you where the bloody hell you are [3]. It would surprise some people that it does actually rain in Australia, a fact not usually depicted in adverts for that local beer that everyone drinks…what is it…Fosters or something. Neither, unfortunately, does a test match get washed out. Instead, sun-baked pitches form chasms that swallow English batsmen whole, and the only rain is that of plaudits lauded by the partisan commentary towards Mitchell bloody Johnson.

Still, there is a tendency to assume that when it comes to the weather, she’ll be right. Plans can be made for weeks in advance with the assumption that all is going to be dry and sunny. Wet weather contingency plans rarely feature and, then, if it does rain or even just a few grey clouds appear, whole events are cancelled and people shelter in their suburban homes drinking Fosters and watching Lara Bingle be Lara Bingle. I just think, when it comes to a little bit of rain, Australians are…well how to put this delicately…a bit soft, like Mitchell bloody Johnson before he had that fearsome moustache and bowled a few lucky long hops that got wickets.

I can of course include myself in this catch all generalisation of Australians. I too have become accustomed to assuming that days will be dry, which makes it even more frustrating when rain appears. Summer weekends down the coast can be grey and cool and interspersed with rain, which at least makes for a nice car picnic. Sydney can live for weeks with easterlies blowing of the ocean and dumping moisture in endless waves. And in Darwin, well, in Darwin they have a whole season dedicated to rain: the wet…

My one and only visit to Darwin came in February. February: the peak of a hot Aussie summer, when even locals are getting bored of barbecue prawns and one day cricket. But while most of the country basks in a self-satisfied glow, up in the north it is the time when most people in Darwin, if they weren’t already, go mad. The ‘wet’ is a typically Australian to-the-point description of the summer weather in the tropics, a few months shrouded in monsoonal lows and the occasional cyclone. It delivers warm, humid rain, a climate for steamed up glasses and camera lenses and consistent dampness that never goes away. It seems to me, quite horrid.

Holed up in a hotel room it appears as though the rain never eases, never stops for the briefest of interludes. There is no waiting for it to pass and so you have to embrace the wet, taking a tokenistic umbrella which will make very little difference to how damp you actually become. Leaving the sanctum of air-conditioning the humidity is instantly sapping, the pavements and roads and gutters a sheen of water, a danger zone for human aquaplaning and thong blow outs and hidden crocs. But you still push on for an ice cream regardless.

Out of Darwin the landscape is transformed by the season and it seems ninety nine percent of the haphazard interior road network is under water. In Litchfield National Park a bitumen road somehow survives above fields of sodden brown, transporting you to waterfalls that roar like a space shuttle during lift off. Hiking requires some wading – the water is warm and only mildly tumultuous where winter paths usually meander. Goodness only knows what sort of things are in there with you, but there is enough ground above water to stop and observe and inch your way closer to pools that would be idyllic for swimming if there wasn’t ten billion gigalitres of water plummeting off a cliff and directly into them.

Elsewhere, Kakadu National Park is one of the most well-known and iconic preserves in Australia, encapsulating a blend of tropical jungle, vast wetlands and rugged rocky outcrops daubed with ancient art. Here again much is under water and many roads are closed off until at least June. A few lesser sights and vistas remain accessible and it even seems to stay dry for a bit too. Walking among the landscape feels a little less soggy and it is easier to appreciate the wonderful composition of vivid green long grasses, contorted trees, and rocky outcrops. Even the waterholes are calmer and more inviting, save for the signs that say something along the lines of ‘whilst we have done our best to clear this area of crocodiles there can be no guarantee that a six metre monster called George has not moved into the area and is looking forward to tasting foolish tourist flesh.’

U_NT

Despite what turns out here to be a drier interlude it remains handy to keep an umbrella at hand. The rain is sure to return [4]. Not only will the umbrella help with this imminent rainfall but, in conjunction with a fetching cagoule, it can maintain a clear British connection and sense of identity in an alien, slightly hostile environment. Plus should George the six metre croc appear, the cagoule can be thrown over his thrashing jaws and his eyes can be poked with the umbrella’s pointy end. And then of course, even if that fails (which I doubt), there is chance of a Mary Poppins style escape over the floods and far away to a world of diabetic, tooth-decayed children. Back, of course, to the umbrella’s natural home: Great Britain.


[1] Again, according to Wikipedia…and who am I to argue with an important ministerial source of information. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cagoule

[2] This could be where the theory of evolution goes awry.

[3] Perhaps more evidence of evolution gone awry.

[4] Unless it happens to be one random day in the middle of the year when the big tap is turned off and the ‘dry’ commences…which is all a bit weird

Links

Another great day to be beside the seaside: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3X4chzObTFY

Way to get around: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BHoDW9f7vY

NT tourism: http://www.travelnt.com/

Mad as cut snakes: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/national/croctastic-nt-news-devotes-front-page-to-five-crocodile-stories-on-one-day/story-fndo48ca-1226509077565

A to Z Australia Great Britain Walking