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.

pool
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!

logo
Community

Heavenly Gardens of Shinjuku Gyoen – Japan

Bolstered by the large and eventful breakfast, which I wrote about here, and visiting Tokyo in Crimson Leaves Season, we were keen to explore a traditional garden, on our first day in Japan. At the top of our list was the Gyoen National Garden, a green oasis that is completely amidst the busiest commercial district in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

Garden
Gyoen National Garden, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Background of Gyoen

Originally a residence for one of Japan’s feudal Lord during the Edo period, the Gyoen National Garden fell under the control of the Imperial family in the twentieth century. Although much of the garden was then destroyed during World War II; you would never know it, as Gyoen is nothing short of a tranquil, well tended masterpiece of Japanese horticulture.

Traditional Japanese Garden Design at Gyoen

With the NTT Docomo building towering stoically above Gyoen’s tree line like an old world Imperial Guard, it is easy to remember the Shinjuku-Shibuya metropolis is never far away. However, the hard concrete lines of modernity are significantly softened by the more natural lines of the leafy foliage and traditional Japanese garden fixtures.

Very photogenic.

NTT Docomo Building from Gyoen

The Gyoen Guide Map offers us the chance to fully comprehend the scale of the park and orientates ourselves to ensure we see all the individual gardens and differing botanical features contained therein. Entrance, (with guide map in English), costs 200 Japanese Yen.

We don’t want to miss anything!

Gyoen’s Shinjuku Entrance Gate

chrysanthemum shows

The small fee we pay to enter the garden is truly value for money, as the day we visit there is also a special floral display of cultivated chrysanthemums, which attracts the attention of many Japanese citizens.

How glorious are these?

Light rain only enhances the organic beauty around us, as the raindrops linger on the leaves. This delights my daughter as it makes for excellent photographic opportunities.

And we have the ubiquitous, clear-plastic umbrella to shield us. Very Japanese.


“Maple trees can be seen in large numbers around the Japanese garden and Momijiyama (maple mountain) on the [Gyoen] park’s eastern side. The colors typically appear from mid November to mid December. “

Tokyo Tourist Guide
One small Maple tree showed its Crimson coat. In a few weeks time, the others would too.

Our arrival is a week or so early to see the majority of crimson leaves in Tokyo, for the temperatures are unusually warm. Despite this, I find the trees are magical and remind me of a medieval Northern forest, or a scene from a Lord of the Rings novel.

The leaves are still golden and green, but soon to be crimson red.

Pavilion

Each path within the garden invites in us, a different mood, vista and experience.
You can see hanging bouquets of chrysanthemums in the display in the background.
Despite the overcast conditions, the Pavilion was a place of tranquility and reflection, in more ways than one.

The carp pond

No Japanese garden could be complete without a Carp pond – and Gyoen has one.

Again the city reminds you it’s not far too away.

Carp pond – Gyoen National Garden
A serene spot to reflect, meditate and rejuvenate in Gyoen. Lucky Carp fish.

Autumn avenue awesomeness

However, for this sub-tropical Australian resident, the ultimate heavenly experience is yet to come when I discover the avenue of Sycamore trees, a feast for local photographers. It is such a delight for me. I truly am in awe of these trees and their burst of colour.

Photography
What photographer wouldn’t want to capture this?

This is Autumnal earth, resplendent in shades of sienna, brown, rust, bright yellow and green, all coalescing in an intense and harmonious collection of wholesome organic beauty.

The child in me wanted to run and kick up the fallen leaves, throw them in the air, rake them into a pile and jump on top of them. An Autumnal experience that exists only in my dreams.

Gyoen national park is a Japanese treasure, particularly if you visit at Crimson Leaf Season
Stunningly picturesque

Never before had I seen an avenue of trees that captivated me in such a way and I didn’t want to leave. [You have to remember we don’t have such deciduous trees in my home zone, so I’m super excited.]

sendagaya gate

Reluctantly, after several hours exploring and a gazillion photographs taken, we walk towards the park’s Sendagaya gate and find yet another magical path through the trees.

There is a special light through here. It is hard to define and see in the photo, but it is there.

Gyoen National Garden – A perfect spot to sit and ‘Ponder About Something.’

Linking to Friendly friday photo walk a challenge hosted by me and Snowmeltssomewhere

logo


 #aroundtheworldWP