Living in Tropical North Queensland is brilliant. We have the reef and rainforest on our doorstep, amazing fresh fruit grown locally and a winter that gives us 6 months of uninterrupted blue skies. However it’s definitely not your run of the mill place to make a home and is extremely different compared to most conventional places to live in both Australia and the rest of the world. After living here on and off for the past 3 1/2 years I’ve come to notice some indicators that you’ve acclimatised and become a local…
1. Sugar Ants are your number one nemesis. “Were’s the milk? In the fridge. The bread? In the fridge. Any slightly sugary food? In the fridge.” Those little bastards will find their way inside any container and if, God forbid, you leave a minuscule scrap of food out will swarm over your kitchen counter like a breaking wave. At some point you have felt the bitter disappointment of looking forward to a snack only to find the ants got there first. Top marks for the ones that drown themselves in the water on your bedside table.
2. If a cyclone is on the way and it’s not at least a Category 3 your main concern is how you’ll keep your beer cold if the power goes out. Living without aircon for more than a few hours is also a major worry. I was once told by a Mission Beach local who went through cyclone Yasi, the biggest storm to ever hit Australia, that the worst thing to happen was running out of rum after two days. They breed ’em tough up here.
3. When the daytime temperatures dip below 25 degrees it’s time to crack open the knitwear drawer. Seriously, when you’re shivering at UK heatwave level temperatures you’ve been living here for too long. If you laugh when shops start stocking jumpers in Autumn then you’re not a true local yet.
4. You know that between November and April there is literally no point in straightening your hair, blow drying your hair or generally trying to make it do anything except frizz up like an 80s prom queen. Humidity is your nemesis, especially if you’ve got natural curls and your head and face sweat so much that any semblance of styling is washed away in minutes.
5. Sharks are not an issue and you’re really excited when you get to see them out on the reef. The most common kind are cute little black tip or white tips that are occasionally inquisitive, but most often shy. You know the real killers are the jellyfish that produce stings so painful morphine doesn’t have an effect and octopus so poisonous that you won’t even be able to say “hang on is a that a blue ringed…” before your heart stops beating. I could go on a huge “sharks aren’t deadly killers” rant right now, but this is not the time or the place but click here for a harrowing statistic.
6. You can tell people not to walk in the rainforest because “it’s drop bear mating season and they can get pretty vicious so be careful”, with a straight face.
7. You know at least one person who is absolutely sure that they’ve seen a crocodile in one of the local rivers and, no, it definitely wasn’t a log. You might be a little skeptical except you’ve seen this photo reprinted about a million times…
8. When people complain about how rainy it is, in February, you can’t help but roll your eyes. By now you know that Neighbours lied and Australia is not perpetually sunny because when you have a landmass bigger than Europe there’s going to be some variations in weather. It rains up north in Summer and you can ski down south in the winter. I’m not going to visit Scotland in February and moan about the cold am I?
9. Worrying about a python eating your cat is a genuine concern. Ditto about any canine friends if your dog is small enough to drop kick over a fence.
10. Gekkos in your house are not cute. They are pests that keep you up at night with their incessant chirping and poo EVERYWHERE. Yo tourist, come and clean the gekko sh*t off all my windowsills and then coo over how sweet they are. Full disclosure: I wanted a gekko tattoo for AGES when I first lived in Mission Beach but after sweeping up their poop for four months (seriously, how do they produce so much excrement?) my heart hardened. I can now only tolerate them when they’re outside and chasing bugs around the lights and then mostly because lots of gekkos are a sure sign that there aren’t any snakes around.
11. Unless there’s 300mm of rain overnight, the garden is underwater, and 50% of the local roads are closed it’s not been raining properly. We got hit by a Cat 1 cyclone last year and even though the storm drains filled up people commented on the lack of rainfall. It means we don’t get endless drizzle, which is good, because you almost don’t mind when it rains properly (even if it means the washing you hung out earlier is already soaked before you realise it’s started).
12. You start off thinking November is hot, but it’s not really hot until you find yourself sweating in the shower. Especially when the ground is so warm the water comes out tepid despite the fact you’ve only the cold tap on full. Lovely.
13. It doesn’t matter how much of an animal lover or activist you are, cane toads are always considered fair game. Cane toad golf always seems to be a winner with the boys, they are absolutely vile things with a penchant for hiding underneath things in the garden and jumping out at you when it’s dark. Cane toads, that is, not boys.
14. After owning a decent collection of shoes you’re now down to a variety of flip flops and perhaps one token pair of heels. When nightclubs are happy to let you in wearing your havianas who’s going to cripple themselves in stilettos? You’ve also become comfortable with going barefoot pretty much anywhere. I can’t imagine someone wandering around the Holloway Road Waitrose shoeless but here you don’t get given a second look if you do the weekly shop with no shoes on.
15. If you don’t work in tourism then your partner, friend, relative or neighbour does. Plus your job is probably somehow in someway related to tourism. We might complain about the throngs of people in the streets and the daft questions we’re asked but at least they help you to pay your bills. Otherwise we’d all have to be sugarcane famers.
16. Traffic is having to stop for a cassowary crossing or taking a diversion caused by flooding. You laugh when the news shows pictures of lanes of stationary traffic in cities as you watch the cane fields and mountains fly past your car window.
17. You know that you will never live anywhere else as diverse, beautiful and surprising and you will never want to stop telling people about the place you now call home. Or is that just me?