08 January, 2006

The bad and not so bad of the tropics

I left a comment on Wendy's site about places to visit in Queensland and with one word (croc), I think I've sent her into a bit of a panic. So just to clarify things, as ease Wendy's mind a tad, here is the little that I know about crocodiles.

  • Their habitat is from central Queensland north (I believe), but they're pretty shy and tend to stay away from built up areas. Having said that, there were news reports of one swimming along a Cairns beach a while back (news reports indicating that that's pretty rare).
  • They're a lot more common the further north you go.
  • They can be found in a lot of the rivers, though. And don't swim in the channels around Hinchinbrook Island at all. The fishing there is superb - and the crocs know it.
  • Crocs are pretty dormant in winter - they're more dangerous in summer, along with all the other nasties you find in north Queensland.
  • I've heard that if you want to swim in water where a croc may be, take a dog with you (crocs apparently like dogs more than people-they taste better and they're easier to catch!!). Note that that could be just a rumour.
  • If a croc is likely to be in the water, rest assured there WILL be a sign warning you about it.

During the summer, we have to deal with a number of things that really make north Queensland hostile to humans.

  • There is the crazy heat and humidity (with no rain which would not only give us a slight reprieve from the oppressive temperatures, but may also put some water in Ross River Dam - Townsville's main water supply - which is virtually dry right now).
  • There are the mosquitoes. Yes, most places have them. But we get the mozzies that carry dengue fever ("it won't kill you, it'll just make you wish you were dead").
  • There's also the sandflies - putting repellant on to go and hang out the washing gets a little ordinary after a while.
  • And summer = swimming at the beach, right? Wrong. Unless you wear a full body "stinger suit":
  • Mmmmm, sexy!! (Pic is from www.scubacentre.com.au - I cannot claim to personally know these people). These suits are to protect you from the box jellyfish (one of which killed a young girl swimming off the tip of Cape York just today). They have a large bell, with tentacles that can be metres long. They can't sting you through lycra, however, hence the attractive suits. Though if you're worried you'll look mad, pantyhose work just as well. In addition to seeing beachgoers with their towels and sunscreen on the beach, you'll often find them with bottles of vinegar - which neutralises the stinging cells if you do get stung (it still hurts like hell apparently). There are stinger nets along a lot of the beaches which are safer to swim in. There is also irukandji, another stinger with a bell that can be the size of your thumbnail, and tentacles about a metre long. They're a bit nicer - they don't kill you, but a couple of hours after getting stung, you get irukandji syndrome - muscle aches, sweating, vomiting and more. And these little suckers fit through the stinger net. Fortunately (or not), stingers are pretty much confined to the coastline. If you go to any offshore islands, there not there. But you have to go several kilometres offshore. And I don't know if going all that way would be necessarily worth it just to avoid wearing a stinger suit.
  • Summer here is also the season of storms. Cyclones. Although I've been here for six years and have only been through one cyclone. Two months after I arrived. Coincidentally, that was the last time we had a decent wet season....

Apart from all that, you wouldn't want to be anywhere else! Because, on the plus side, all those nasties are gone by May. And in summer we also have:

  • Mangoes. Okay, you may have them too, but we have them falling off the trees in our backyards (and rotting, so you get to smell fermented mangoes for weeks. Er, this was going to be the positive list).
  • Rainbow lorikeets that congregate in the trees in the local mall and there are so many of them you can't have a conversation without shouting. Hmmm - still not that positive.
  • Frangipanis - and the smell that accompanies them: divine!
  • Airconditioning.
  • The knowledge that the rainforests (and therefore a drop in temperature) are only an hour away.
  • There's gotta be more, but I'm getting bored.

Hmmm. I'm not sure that I've sold the north very well. Meh, just don't come here in summer!


Blogger Alice said...

Oh, dear me - how will I sleep at night ever again knowing that my little girl is living in such a horrible, hostile environment?...lol

5:26 am  
Blogger Wendy A said...

Sharks, Crocs, homicidal jellyfish. I thought I was a risk taker. I am learning so much.

8:33 pm  
Blogger Wendy A said...

Thanks for all this info Tanya. I put you on my link list. Hope you don't mind.

8:40 pm  

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