Australia, Community, History & Traditions, Travel

Christmas in Australia

While large parts of the northern hemisphere revel in Christmas, soft snow underfoot and Jingle Bells, those contemplating a visit to Australia, might need to know a few facts before they arrive:

rubber thongs

It’s Hot Here

It’s hot, darn hot and especially so if you rarely experience temperatures exceeding 26 degrees C.

Be prepared for sunburn. Be sure to bring or buy sunscreen, open shoes or “thongs”, (the ones that you wear on your feet!), and a decent, broad-brimmed hat!

Oh, and drink at least 2 litres of fluid a day. This does not include your coffee allowance! [Coffee is a diuretic and will dehydrate you].

An Australian Christmas

“But it doesn’t feel like Christmas,”

That’s the tell tale sign that you’re probably not speaking with an Australian resident. Despite Australia’s best attempts at creating a traditional European atmosphere with hot Christmas lunches comprising Roast meat, vegetables and puddings, it just isn’t the same feel when the mercury passes 30 degress celsius.

Well may foreign visitors smile at our attempts at, “Xmas hygge” replete with plastic Christmas trees with fake snow. They might relish laying on the beach eating buckets of prawns, (read: shrimp, but very large ones), on Christmas Day, but to those residents from the North, a hot Christmas will, no doubt, never be a real Christmas.

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Sunshirts rashis for swimming

Let’s Go Swimming

As strange as it may seem, Australians wear clothes in the ocean or swimming pool. Yes, the fashion disaster, but highly practical, lycra rashi shirts and shorts, or all in ones for little kids, are essential clothing if you want to avoid sunburn. That is because Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. At Christmas time, you can get sunburnt in as little as 10 minutes.

Seriously!

There are jellyfish and they aren’t friendly…

With the mercury soaring well above thiry degrees celsius, you will probably try and cool off by jumping in the ocean, for a swim.

Except, if you’re in the state of Queensland.

Summer is jellyfish season, which means regardless of how hot it is, it’s far too dangerous to go plunging in the sea, especially in the tropical north.

That must seem like a cruel joke to foreigners, but it is the truth. You can of course, still swim and take your chances, or wear ladies stockings to prevent the jellyfish tentacles stinging your skin. That really is your options! You’ve been forewarned.

Are you still keen to don your Aussie cosie* *read: Swimsuit now?

If you are, you might like to:

Meet your Friendly Neighbourhood Crocodile

Crocodile

There is no swimming in the Top End, or the region called The Northern Territory either, but that’s not because of jellyfish; it’s the crocodiles that are lurking in the waterways. One of the hottest places in the world, surrounded by water, and you can’t go for a swim because you’ll be torn apart by a prehistoric reptile. If you don’t believe me, here is a quote from a Northern Territory local, in his own words:

“It’s ingrained in all of us — when you go fishing, you are taught to be alert [and] don’t hang your hands over the boat for example,” he said. Although the fear is warranted, it’s all about calculated risk and an awareness of the place we call home.

The Freshwater crocs pose less of a threat as they are more likely to attack only when they feel threatened. “It’s hot, and we always need to cool down and so most locals will take the plunge, even if it means risking it all for the sake of a cool dip.”

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-17/territory-swimmers-ready-to-take-calculated-risk-and-test-waters/11495124

Shall we talk about the Snakes?

Perhaps I should address the elephant in the room, or more accurately, the snake in the house.

Snake

Sensible tourists don’t go wandering through any long grass or bushland, particularly next to creeks or waterways, because we do have extremely venomous snakes here. And, if you stay with some Aussie friends, you may see one in the backyard, or if you are really lucky, in the house. They are on the move at Christmas. Pythons, especially like to curl up behind toilets, but don’t worry, the pythons aren’t venomous.

Have fun with that.

A Death Adder in an Australian backyard

It’s hot, then cold and rainy, and then hot again

Most visitors to our shores have the impression Australia is a land without winter, and it is all about bright, sunny days and nothing else.

That isn’t always the case.

Depending on what part of our expansive continent you stay in, you might get days so hot and humid that you can barely move your arm off the sofa. Later in the arvo – (read: afternoon), a tropical thunderstorm with terrential rain will soak you through to the skin, in a matter of seconds – even with a raincoat, which most of us don’t own. There is no need for it.

The tropical storms might cool you down temporarily, but rest assured, it will be hot again in about 30 minutes, which is when the storm will probably finish.

beach storm

Alternatively, you just might get a little rain or sleet at Christmas, if you visit the little island at the bottom of Australia, called Tasmania – you know the land mass that is closest to Antarctica – bar New Zealand, of course. Mt Wellington in Tassie, (oops Tasmania), often has a dusting of snow, even at Christmas. Mostly it’s just for a few hours, until it melts away.

Just saying…

Birds – there is lots of them

bird
Rainbow Lorikeet

We have a plethora of bird species, so if you are an enthusiast, you will think you’ve reached paradise. Mostly active at dawn and dusk, they can range from the extremely colourful, as in the Rainbow Lorikeet, sing beautiful songs like the common Butcherbird, or laugh hysterically at you,like a Kookaburra.

Don’t take it personally.

As a child, I could never work out why the storybooks would tell of birds flying south for the winter? Such was the domination of British literature in Australia, in the sixties and seventies. Unless their internal compass is faulty, the birds here don’t fly south, as the only land they would reach would be Antarctica.

Climate Extremes

There is always a flood or a fire, in Australia, somewhere in summer. The Northern half of Australia is prone to tropical storms, called cyclones, at Christmas and cyclones bring monsoonal rains, severe winds and floodings, in their wake. The rest of Australia is prone to Bushfires, and we have had more than enough of those this year.

Ah…Australia: beautiful, isn’t it?

It is Peak Holiday Season

For most of the world, there’s a small shutdown between Christmas and New Year, and then it’s back to work as normal. For Australians, Christmas time is the green light to leave town. You’ll find Aussies at the beach, or, ironically, snowboarding in Japan).

Well almost…. Doctors, Nurses, retail workers, hospitality staff, fireman, airport workers amazingly still have a job to do all year around. Pretty much the only ones on holidays are the Tradesman and Office staff, those who work in the education sector and fireplace installers.

That is a good thing, right?

Shop til you Drop

As for retail, the triple hit of summertime, the long school break and Christmas means it is the busiest time for retail shopping. It is manic at the large air-conditioned malls, as all those residents without air conditioners hibernate there to cool off during daylight hours. To say nothing of the mayhem at Boxing Day sales. It is hot at Christmas and people WANT A BARGAIN, and they WANT IT NOW!

Be Prepared.

highway Australia
This becomes a Car park at Xmas time

Traveller Tip: the highways to the beach are car parks! Start out early in you are driving.

Don’t light a Camp Fire

We have some spectacular national parks in Australia, places where you can hike or camp and enjoy the great outdoors. Unlike other countries, however, you just can’t have a campfire. Even though everyone is aware of the very valid reasons for that, it’s still disappointing for tourists and even more so for the locals whose homes might be threatened by a bushfire that started out as a campfire. As I said, we have had more than our fair share of bushfire this year.

People become obsessed with cricket and tennis

You’re unsure of the point of Cricket?

So am I, but anyway – Cricket is a game that is sacred to Australians, they stand for hours on an open grassy field in the sun, at the height of summertime. Crazy! The important games go for five entire days, and at the end you might not have a winner or loser. Insane? I know, I know.

No one really watches cricket anyway and mostly we ‘dis’ the commentators – it is an Aussie tradition. But the cricket and tennis will always be on in summer, and in many Aussie households, you’re absolutely not allowed to touch the remote, or complain about it, or point out that it’s really boring. Even if noone is watching it……

All the Northerners lamenting the cooler weather – are you still ready to book your holiday flight to Australia?

If you can handle all of that, I will welcome you with open arms!

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Architecture, Australia, Community, Environment

Portentous Weather Predictions: They know, So How Come We Don’t?

If you are watching any edition of Aussie news at the moment, it would not have escaped your notice that Queensland and the “Territory” are experiencing the effects of a tropical cyclone of monster proportions.

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Most of us had to wait for the Weather bureau’s radar to tell us a cyclone was bearing down on us, and exactly where it would hit, but for some, their own version of the news bulletins have been screaming warning messages for weeks. So who are these intuitive, all – knowing metereologists? Animals, and nature, of course.

For weeks, the turtles have been emerging from the creek beds and creeks, plodding ever so slowly, (well, they do have to start early, don’t they?!) on their way to higher ground.

The Cockatoos, those screeching white birds with the sulphur crest, clearly possess a sixth sense, that we humans, missed out on as they have been flying inland in flocks during the last week or so. (When there is drought, they immigrate to the cities in search of food and water). If a lot of rain is expected, they will head inland to feed on the drier grassy areas, as they are doing now.

I even heard the Kookaburras laughing their ‘heads’ off, all last week, a sure sign of the onset of rain.

And the Ants, well there are ants everywhere, and I mean everywhere they are not supposed to be, like in your kitchen cupboards, in your laundry, and even in your bed!! Someone should tell them that there are higher places to hibernate than in my low set, one-level house!

And these creatures are always correct, which is more than I can say for the Weather forecasters!! Funny to think that an animal such as a turtle, or ant could replace a tertiary-educated professional or the highly sophisticated computer software!!!

Even non-living things seem to have an edge on what the weather will do: if you cast your eye upwards and see cloud formations that look like a mare’s tail, or sheep’s wool, you can bet your bottom dollar, there will be rain within three days. Guaranteed!! The mare’s tail clouds are particularly accurate, unless you live in the tropical areas, which has a unique weather pattern all of its own.

In any case, the rain arrived yesterday, and continued all through today, unrelenting for hours and hours. There were no less than five ( clearly a bit below par as far as animal intuition goes), toads, swimming in my backyard swimming pool this afternoon. Stupid, poisonous creatures, that obviously don’t have the intelligence or intuition of the turtle! (Although the toad is an introduced pest, so perhaps I’ll excuse them for this).

So what are we doing? We batten down the hatches and await the arrival of Tropical Cyclone Marcia (anyone who has ever watched the Brady Bunch TV show is now chanting Marsha, Marsha, Marsha), and the joke is tired already!! The cyclone made landfall at Yeppoon this morning as a Category 5 – with 260 km/hr winds. It sounded like a freight train passing over,  and there is much structural damage like you see in this video.

Tropical Cyclones are severe weather systems that strike the Australian coast during the summer months. They usually consist of a central eye, in which the wind is fairly mild; there may be no or little cloud, or perhaps even sunshine. This is surrounded by a rapidly rotating low pressure storm system which produces enormous amounts of rain and wind. The systems spin clockwise, in the southern hemisphere, and counter – clockwise in the northern hemisphere.

Residents in affected areas need to stock up on candles, matches, a generator perhaps, batteries, battery operated radio, torch, non-perishable food supplies, and tape up their glass windows, as well as remove any debris in their yard that could be flung about causing damage in high winds. STAY indoors, in the strongest part of their house, perhaps under a table or in the bathroom with mattresses and blankets for protection, should the roof be blown away. Most houses built since the devastation of Cyclone Tracy, (which flattened an entire city on Christmas day 1976), are built to cyclone proof standards, but in a Category 5 cyclone, Queenslanders have had to hold and barricade doors and windows on near new homes to prevent them from blowing in!

Here is some basic information on Cyclones from Wiki:

Tropical cyclones typically form over large bodies of relatively warm water. They derive their energy through the evaporation of water from the ocean surface, which ultimately recondenses into clouds and rain when moist air rises and cools to saturation. The strong rotating winds of a tropical cyclone are a result of the conservation of angular momentum imparted by the Earth’s rotation as air flows inwards toward the axis of rotation. As a result, they rarely form within 5° of the equator.[5] Tropical cyclones are typically between 100 and 4,000 km (62 and 2,485 mi) in diameter.

At the center of a mature tropical cyclone, air sinks rather than rises. For a sufficiently strong storm, air may sink over a layer deep enough to suppress cloud formation, thereby creating a clear “eye“. Weather in the eye is normally calm and free of clouds, although the sea may be extremely violent.[11] The eye is normally circular in shape, and is typically 30–65 km (19–40 mi) in diameter, though eyes as small as 3 km (1.9 mi) and as large as 370 km (230 mi) have been observed.[12][13]

[Marcia’s eye was 70 km wide]

The cloudy outer edge of the eye is called the “eyewall“. The eyewall typically expands outward with height, resembling an arena football stadium; this phenomenon is sometimes referred to as the stadium effect.[14] The eyewall is where the greatest wind speeds are found, air rises most rapidly, clouds reach to their highest altitude, and precipitation is the heaviest. The heaviest wind damage occurs where a tropical cyclone’s eyewall passes over land.[11]

[Source: Wiki]

More photos and news on Tropical Cyclone Marcia here

I hope I don’t have to Ponder this subject again