September 12, 2006

Cairns - Tuesday

If you ever want to be humbled - especially if you're a pasty, sort of lumpy new yorker - go to a tropical climate; everyone - the women, the men, the snakes, everyone - is thin and fit. I imagine it's because of the heat and humidity: you can't have body fat because it's just too much effort to carry around. Stepping off the plane into the Cairns airport was like stepping from a humidifier into a lake. If I was going to live here year-round, I imagine I'd lose ten or fifteen kilos in sweat alone, and maybe even that extra something around the middle built up over the months from too many tim-tams.

The hardest part is knowing that this isn't as bad as it gets. I'm told that this is the least humid that it gets during the year; their winter is a gorgeous tropical paradise, and though this week is unusually humid for this time of year, the summer here is simply three months of hell on earth: 100% humidity, and scorching temperatures up to 40C. It's either raining or just about to rain during the summer, and a guy has to just accept the fact that he's going to be wet all the time, either from the rain, from his own sweat, or from the ocean he just walked into because he needed to cool off for a minute.

Ah, the joys of flight; give me four hours in a crowded tin can with pleather seats and I can move from a mild temperate zone into the tropics. Note to self: buy some noise-cancelling headphones for the next plane flight; listening to music gets harder and harder every flight. I hope my hearing isn't damaged at all from background noise+jet engine noise+music noise.

Humidity aside, this land is absolutely gorgeous. I've so far only seen it at midnight, by moonlight in a car that was a bit too heavy (again, too many tim-tams and a slightly overpacked suitcase did a number on Matt's car on the way home), but the things I saw make me drool with anticipation for the things I've yet to see here.

I only hope that Liz's new camera makes it here in time for us to get some use out of it. We bought her a brand-new Canon 350D (Rebel XT for those in America) from a store on Ebay, and after a month of haggling, found a way to get them to send it here to us in Melbourne. Then they mailed it to my parents' house in NY. I said a few not-so-kind words at this point, as we were really hoping to be able to bring it with us on our trip; the tropics warrant a good camera, and from the palm trees and the deep blue sky I can see just outside the window, I gather that I'll be taking pictures left and right. My parents, the kind, wonderful souls that they are, offered to mail it to us in time for our trip; until they realized that this kindness would cost them $300 in order for it to get here in time, at which point somebody suggested mailing it to Shawna and Matt instead, a much more reasonable kindness (to which they happily agreed) and one that I hope works out as planned.

Today's tasks:
-buy some new, non-black t-shirts so I don't die of body heat + sun
-buy new board shorts for swimming and scuba diving
-take lots of pictures
-don't get bitten by poisonous snake or spider
-avoid stingrays at all costs; the poor Irwin family, our prayers are with you!
-rent car and avoid hitting other drivers (note to self: learn road rules for left-side driving, particularly roundabouts)

[update: much later]

-bought t-shirts and board shorts
-didn't get bitten, and didn't get near the ocean
-rented a car, didn't kill anyone

Let me tell ya, driving on the wrong side of the road for the first time (sorry, the left-hand side) was a rather frightening experience. It certainly brings to light all the multitasking that I'm so used to when driving in the states; even the little things, like coordinating turning the wheel with flipping the signal-lever, all the while trying to check for traffic from the other direction (the one I'm not used to), and then not hit the curb as I enter the roundabout.

Funny things, roundabouts. We don't have many of them in America, though I can't see why. There's one in Gettysburg, and I'm pretty sure I ran into one (in a metaphorical sense) down in the southerntier of Upstate NY. But here in Australia, they're everywhere. Because they are more cost-effective to build (you don't need to worry about signal-light timing) and are more efficient for moving heavy traffic in multiple directions (in Melbourne, the famed 'worst roundabout ever' moves traffic in five directions, in addition to the two tram lines that cross it), the Australians have chosen roundabouts as the preferred method of intersecting two (or more) roads.

The beauty of roundabouts is that if you're doing all this multitasking while driving (which for some includes talking on cell phones, doing their makeup, and of course, my personal favorite, eating), and you happen to miss a turn, you just keep going around and around until you figure out which road you were supposed to take.

1 comment:

Priscilla said...

I'm reading the backwards. I see that you told the camera story.

I would think it would do funny things to your mind while being forced to drive on the wrong (left) side of the road.