Before continuing on our wilderness adventures, I should point out that merely moving to Darwin was an education. If you arrive from anywhere south (i.e. most of Australia), the first thing that strikes you is the heat and the upside down jumbled up seasons – Being subtropical, you don’t get ‘normal’ Summer and Winter, in fact there are only three seasons (although the indigenous population counts seven, tying in with flowers in bloom and other natural signs of change).
Basically, you have the Wet, which is hot, humid and rains pretty well non-stop. The temperature sits on 33 C (roughly 91.5 F) and it does not cool down at night. Elsewhere in Australia, it’s Summer. For Winter, the Top End has the Dry – cool at 27 C (80.5 F), clear skies, low humidity (relatively speaking) and no rain whatsoever. The Build-up is the transition, and the least-liked, as it becomes sticky with humidity yet without the relief of the tropical rains.
We arrived from Perth (Western Australia) in November – right at the height of the Wet. Through a hotel balcony door, I saw how black the skies were and how cold it looked. That was inviting because everywhere in November in the Top End is hot, including the hotel room (despite the air conditioner) so I opened the door to step outside for a bit of relief, only to be hit by a solid blast of heat! It seemed so weird.
The Wet is the cyclone season, and watching storms became a favorite pastime. Even lightning behaves differently up there. You can watch a flash of lightning across the sky that then retraces it’s own path in jittery small steps, as though it’s hesitating. I’ve never seen that anywhere else.
Weather is just part of it, though. There are noises to get used to. Simple things like ceiling fans at night, but it’s the natural sounds that are really astounding. From geckos at night that are inside the house and twitter like budgerigars, to hundreds of hermit crabs scuttling along the beachside footpaths of an evening, the top End is a noisy place! There are fruit bats, too, harmless but massive, that invade the mango trees at night with much noise and enjoyment.