DARWIN, NT, FEBRUARY 2014
Here in February the air is heavy with moisture, sweat, and an all-encompassing blanket of sticky heat. There’s that special Darwin smell, a mixture of wet earth, tropical air, and the ubiquitous spices of lemongrass, curry leaves, cumin and chile. We could be somewhere in south-east Asia.
“Fecund” is the word to describe Darwin in the Wet. Everywhere gorgeous blooms are exploding into vibrant colours. On the way to the noisy crowded Rapid Creek Markers on Sunday we had to stop and witness delicate pink blossoms opening on the overhanging tree. They looked like tiny tutus with a dainty fringed skirt decorated with the diamonds of raindrops. Other plants sprout spontaneously wherever a stray seed happens to fall, like the fragrant basil that accidentally grew in my daughter’s garden.
At the Markets it seemed every second woman was either pregnant or carrying a baby. Toddlers wearing rainbow-coloured singlets and little else trailed along behind their parents. Every imaginable vegetable was on display, some quite unknown to us southerners. It was hot and steamy, so we made straight for the icy cold mango and lime juices – so cold they make your brain freeze.
Even the clouds looming overhead are gravid with their own pregnancy. We wait thirstily for them to give birth to the first of the monsoonal rains which will bring longed- for release from the longest Build-up ever.
Last night it actually rained, great sheets of water pounding on the roof. In our sleep we stir and smile with relief, knowing the morning will be cooler. Soon the frogs join their guttural chorus to the downpour. In the morning I see a tiny, shiny green frog sitting perfectly still on the doorstep, and tiptoe over it.
This is an Australian city like no other.