Here in Cairns we have a bit of a cold snap at the moment or at least what we in this part of the world think of as a cold snap. Anywhere else in the world it’s called warm, pleasant summer weather, perfect for a day at the beach. But us North Queenslanders think it’s a bit chilly. We reach for our winter wollies and turn our reverse-cycle air conditioners to heating as night falls.
This got me thinking about how easily we get acclimatised and how in one part of the world 24°C means we go to the beach while in other parts, we put on winter clothes.
I hate the cold! Anyone who knows me will wholeheartedly agree; I’m always the one carrying a jumper or cardigan “just in case”. And unless the pool is as warm as a steam bath, I’m really not that keen to get my feet, let alone my body, wet.
I left my country of birth (beautiful Sweden), looking forward to living in what I thought was a forever warm and sunny Australia. When I stepped off the plane in Melbourne on one of their stinking hot February days, I was in heaven. I thought 38°C was the norm. Little did I know that Melbourne is known to have four seasons in one day, it might be 35°C in the morning but come early afternoon the temperature has dropped to 18°C and it’s pouring rain. Very similar to the place I had just left behind and, weather-wise, definitely not my dream climate. I wanted those tropical balmy nights all year round.
Here I must mention that Melbourne is a fantastic city, one of the most livable cities in the world and if I could change the weather to tropical warmth, I would definitely live there.
Australia is a very large country and lucky for me, the weather gets warmer the further north you go. So when my husband and I decided we wanted a change of scenery, I got my chance. I looked at the map and basically picked a place as far north in Australia as you could go by car. The first place I picked was vetoed by my husband because it apparently was just a tiny fishing village with absolutely no hope of employment (fishing for a living did obviously not appeal to my soul-mate). Next choice – Cairns. After a seven day scouting trip, checking out schools, housing and employment opportunities, we went back to Melbourne, sold our house and, with our two young children and large family dog, set off in our trusted Nissan Patrol.
We drove nearly 3000 kilometers north, a feat I’m very proud of having done without murdering the kids. There were a couple of times my husband threatened to leave them behind on the roadside, but really in hindsight, they were incredibly patient and well behaved. This was 1992, long before tablets and smartphones. We had to rely on “I spy with my little eye…” and coloring-in books. Wish I had kept count on how many times we heard “are we there yet?”, “how much longer?”, we could probably have entered the Guinness Book Of Records and won.
But oh, it was soooo worth it! Arriving at our house, we literally walked from the front door out to the pool and jumped in. The pool was like a hot bath, I was in heaven (this is not to everyone’s liking mind you, most people actually want the pool to cool them down). And for the next 10 years we lived on our out-door patio, swam everyday and apart from sleeping and cooking, hardly ever spent any time inside the house.
I took to the tropical climate like a duck to water, when everybody else were dripping with sweat in the high, wet-season humidity, I was at my best, nice and dry and just soaking up the heat. It was never too hot or too humid for this wayward viking. I am convinced, if there is such a thing as more than one life, I was definitely a lizard in my last one.
And then we moved up to the Tablelands, 300 meters above sea level and a mere 20 minutes away from our home on the coast. But what a difference 300 meters can make! It is consistently 3-5°C cooler up here (husband loves it) and for the first time in 10 years I was really feeling cold. Not just a bit cool, but cold. 14°C over night means a thick doona on the bed and sheep skin slippers, I might as well be in the Arctic. Of course unless you have lived in a tropical climate for any length of time, this would simply be a nice summers evening.
My husband and I have spent nearly three years in Papua New Guinea and the temperature on the coast rarely goes below 23°C during the “winter” nights. Average year-round temperature in Port Moresby where we work, is 26 -28°C. Needless to say, this suits me fine.
At the moment we are back in Australia waiting for new work permits before heading back for another three years. Port Moresby might only be a short one-and-a-half hour flight from Cairns, but we have once again acclimatised to the even warmer weather further up north. As I write this the sun has set, it is just past 7.00pm and we are scrambling for our woolen jumpers.
Where to next?