Saturday, 2 February 2008

Rainy season blues

The wet season has arrived with a vengeance, and we are told it won’t dry up until April. Some even say June, but I hope they are just people prone to exaggeration. Wet season brings with it entire days of rain, with only a couple of brief interludes where it spits a little rather than alternating between steady drizzle and thunderous downpours. A pattern will arise for a few days, making you think you have this rainy thing figured out, but then it changes again. Last week, it had taken to raining heavily in the early morning, and stopping between 7:30 and 7:40am, which is just the time I have to leave for work. As the week wore on, the rain became later, and I began to take some Solomon Island liberties and arrive twenty minutes or so late. (Not that it matters, given that I usually do some non-clinical computer work at home, and the boss is never there at 8:00 to explain that to anyway). We also had a few days where a storm would blow in during the early hours of the morning, and I would wake to the caress of the curtains on my face as they billowed and deflated with the incoming gusts. I started tying the curtains in knots to avoid being woken, but then of course the storms stopped coming in the night.

We usually have a beautiful view out over the ocean from home, and can see clearly the Florida Islands, and south-east, further offshore, the mountains of Guadalcanal. In the wet season, clouds blanket the mountains behind us and the sea in front. Instead of seeing the islands, we see one storm after another roll in from the ocean, heading sometimes south, sometimes north, and sometimes straight for us. The sea is as grey as the sky, and the Floridas, when visible, are another darker smudge on top of the sea. (there’s a gorgeous panorama of a storm rolling in over the Florida Islands on the website – unfortunately it’s been compressed, but the full-sized original is sensational in its detail and stunning in its contrasts…)

We have undoubtedly picked the wrong time of year to have the garden attended to, because removing the weeds has left large patches of mostly-bare dirt. These have turned into channels as the runoff takes the topsoil downhill with it. There is an amazing network of mini-canals that run down the hill under the house, similar to the marks left by a retreating wave on the wet sand. They all feed into our accidental water feature at the bottom of the garden – a murky moat forming around a coconut palm, and a two-metre shallow ditch runs perpendicular to that. We were at Rob and Lara’s place yesterday, and they had an area in the yard about one metre in diameter that rippled constantly, a few centimeters deep in water, like some sort of misplaced desert hallucination.

The dirt-and-limestone roads have all the same things happening, and are incredibly slippery after even a quick tropical downpour. I have daily catastrophic visions of potential injuries as my bicycle and I hurtle down the hill toward the sealed main road, however we have yet to part company in an uncontrolled manner. The route from the hospital entrance around the back to the physiotherapy department is quite perilous, and guarantees mud splatters over one’s lower half – the almost-permanent puddles have doubled in size and are likely home to legally-sized fish, the once-safe, drier side of the road is now slushy and the bike slides alarmingly with attempts to steer. Where I leave the road to ride down to the department, the grass now conceals a two-centimetre layer of water that splashes up, perhaps to dilute the mud acquired on the earlier part of the journey? And once I pull up under cover, the mosquitoes, loving the damp, swarm to greet me. Every morning is now predictably muddy and itchy.

The roads have deep open drains dug along each side, which is eminently sensible for the conditions. At this time of year, they gush, sometimes a couple of feet deep, with rapids that would be at least grade two. The frogs faithfully perpetuate their species, and in the dry season, leave masses of tadpoles and tiny frogs congregate in the permanently wet parts of the drains. The current flow rate means they must live and develop elsewhere, but there is no shortage of suitably moist locations. I am sure that I have inadvertently crushed many a tiny frog in my travels this month, because everywhere is a puddle for them to play in – be it road, footpath or grass.

But most devastating, we feel, is the fading of our tans. All the rain means very little sun, and therefore I fear my usual ghostly pallor is returning. Living in the tropics, the flipside of all the sweating and heat is that for the first time in a long time, I actually look alive. I know it doesn’t sound very sun-smart, but the sun does not fry you viciously as in Australia or New Zealand. It has been a lovely change not to be the same shade of white as my t-shirt. However, the sun is out today, so I’m going to get me some.

The friendly little geckos thrive on all the bugs that come inside when it's wet...

These ugly little fellas are everywhere - particularly when it pours!

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