I often get requests to share my “best of” stories, and not just my travel stories but stories in general. Its a fun exercise in that it gives me an opportunity to reflect on the wonderful places I’ve been, interesting people I’ve me and incredible experiences that I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of…some good, others not so, but all that contribute to make the fabric of our lives.
What I’ve found difficult is that the stories I’ve written over the seven years (can you believe it???) are all so specific to how I was feeling at the time I was writing them, but here is one of my personal favourites from my days living in Darwin, Northern Territory (Australia).
This story was first published in September 2013 and entitled “Strange Bedfellows”
When I first moved to Darwin in 1984 there were a host of personal adjustments that I needed to make. Some of these were weather related because Darwin is in the north or “Top End” as the locals refer to it. If you drew a line around the earth you’d see that Darwin is at the same latitude Caracas, Venezuela. Dare I say it’s hot all year round, and only 1378 kilometres from the equator?
It took me about a year to get used to the climate or one full cycle of “wet” season or monsoon and one cycle of the “dry”, each approximately six months in duration, both with an average temperature of between 34 – 36 Celsius each day, except that in the wet season its 100% humidity so you sweat just by thinking and that’s in the shade whereas in the dry season it’s the same temperature but with the cooling trade wind from the Indian Ocean and adjacent Timor Sea and little to no humidity which makes for idyllic conditions.
I was always amused whenever I’d catch the news on television, especially the weather forecaster. In his exasperated tones would declare that it was going to 34C…again, with a likelihood of it being so for the next six months. His only saving grace was that six-month intervals it would change from “ no chance of rain…for six months”, to “late day thunderstorm every day…for the next six months”. Too funny!
However, his true excitement coming when he could forecast a cyclone (the equivalent of hurricane or typhoon for those in the northern hemisphere), which was about four or five, times a season, he’d always announce it with a broad smile breaking across his face, I guess to break the monotony if nothing more.
The weather for that first year was oppressive during the wet, but sublime in the dry and after a year and one full cycle of seasons I was in the groove. In short you dressed for summer every day of the year, except showering 3 or 4 times a day in the dry to wash the incessant sweat off your body that would cling to you mercilessly during the wet. 🙂
My brother, Laurie and his business partner Ferg owned a Car Repair workshop on the corner of Barneson and Harvey streets in Darwin, which in those days was mostly an industrial area just north of the city center. It was in the old part of town and as such was not considered prime real estate. Next-door on the land was an old house built pre World War Two, clad in asbestos siding and sitting on stilts about six feet in the air. The house, if you could call it that was completely run down and over grown, it was a mess inside but after about a month of work on it we made it livable and into which I moved all of my worldly possessions. It was so old that it didn’t even have any overhead fans in it, although it did have banks of louvered windows, which were the norm in this part of the world and provided some level of flow through ventilation.
Strangely if you’ve ever been in an industrial park you’ll know that there are generally lots of animals hanging around – feral cats, wild dogs, rats, mice plus every bug known to man. Surprisingly I noticed that we had no such problems or concerns. I put it down to them keeping the place litter free and therefore nothing for them to eat and hang around for but I was soon to find out the real reason..
One afternoon I came home after work and pulling up out front I quickly jogged across the lawn ready to bound up the steps and into the house to get changed for football training but as my head came level with the front porch I noticed a movement on the top step but my momentum kept me moving toward the bottom step. I slide to a grinding halt when I was confronted at eye level with a large water monitor who was sunning himself on top of the step. Now for those of you that don’t know what a what a water monitor is, it’s a large and I mean very large lizard.
My newly acquired pet and clearly the protector of my house was almost 1.5 meters in length and stood about 40 centimetres in height. I must admit it frightened the bejesus out of me and most probably took a year or two off my life as I involuntarily screamed and leapt backwards when I saw him. I’m not sure if it was because it was unexpected or if in fact it was that he was so gnarly and scary looking…likely a little of both!
I quickly made my way around to the back steps and entered the house via that entrance, but now I knew at least to always keep my doors closed whenever I was out rather than be surprised with a new housemate when I got home. It also explained why there were never any wild animals around… 🙂
On more than one occasion I would laugh to myself when I’d hear that well know involuntary scream of another new victim as they approached my front steps. A few moments later I’d invariably hear the familiar yell from the street something along the lines of “hey Wallis do you know you’ve got a bloody big lizard on your porch?” to which I’d reply “yeah that’s my watch-lizard”.
At night he’d sleep under the house and so became my official protector and guardian lizard. Of course I named him “Liz” (wow, I’m so creative with names aren’t I?).
Another interesting co-habitant of my house on Harvey Street turned out to be almost as big a shock. One night late after being out with my mates at the Casino I got home rather late and rather than turn on the lights and add heat to the already oppressive conditions I just came in, flipped on the standing fan in the bedroom and stripped off my clothes and headed to the bathroom for a quick shower. It was always especially hot at night sometimes only getting down to 28C or 30C at night during the wet season.
However, before taking a shower I decided to use the toilet. Sitting there in the darkness all of a sudden something wet and slimy made contact with my backside. Again, I screamed (do you notice a pattern here?), and jumped about six feet in the air. I quickly switched on the light to find a huge Cane Toad in the toilet bowl. I mean a toad larger than the size of my fist. How on earth did he get in there I wondered? Now, remember I’m buck naked and still trembling from my near death experience with Mr.Toad, so the logical thing would be to try and flush him back down the toilet… Okay, but didn’t budging let alone bat an eyelid, and all the while looking at me croaking loudly – I guess in protest! In fact I think he was rather enjoying the water pouring over him as I tried in vain to purge him from my toilet bowl.
So I quickly formulated a plan where I would reach in and capture him, although as you could imagine he was extremely slippery and difficult to hold, then march to the back door and launch him into the night sky and surrounding bush from my back steps – that would teach him I thought!
After a couple of unsuccessful attempts I finally got hold of one of his big fat, slippery legs and did as planned. Showering and finally settling down to sleep however I was woken by the sound of rather loud croaking not too long afterwards. Wow, that sounded as if it was in the house?
So again, rather than by turning on the lights I crept toward the sound which was now emanating from my bathroom, and quickly flipped on the light. To my astonishment, lo and behold there was the toad once again ensconced in my toilet bowl… I looked blearily at my watch and it had been a grand total of two hours since I had hurled him into what I thought was oblivion.
Wow, such a persistent little bugger! I pulled the top down on the toilet, turned and padded back to my bed – what the hell… He can stay as well I thought, why not?
And so for the rest of my days on Harvey Street I had two permanent houseguests. Eventually I got used to sleeping with his infernal croaking but it did take a while. 🙂
And if ever I had to go to the toilet I’d have to capture him and place him in the shower until I flushed before putting him back into the bowl.
I had to warn all guests about my two housemates in advance so that there were no surprises…otherwise things could get pretty messy, pretty fast!
I hope you enjoyed this story…and will intercede between my regular stories and some of my favorites over the coming weeks.
Have a fabulous weekend!