National Geographic : 2004 Nov
It continued to scorch for a fortnight, but then, in the season of giving, the first rains splattered our roofs. At long last the wet had arrived. ACT TWO The Wet Scene One Yappar Street Steam rising off the bitumen, the hard-green leaves on the mangoes and frangipani still glis tening from the latest cloudburst, and the sun burning its way through the mist, making things feel hotter and steamier than ever. The only thing moving in town was a skinny old man, burned down by the sun, pedaling his rattletrap bicycle down the puddle-strewn road. He was barefoot, wearing only white canvas shorts and a floppy hat, which he'd decorated with a long plume of feathers. With his extravagant handlebar mus tache and erect bearing, he made me think of some eccentric governor-general "gone native" in one of Queen Victoria's tropical backwaters. They'd told me when I first came to Karumba that an Australian wet season was unpredictable. "It's not like those regular-as-clockwork rains you get in Singapore," an old hand had explained one night at the pub. "The wet can do anything, absolutely anything." And anything, it turns out, could also include those regular-as-clockwork performances they get in Singapore. As January -traditionally the time of the heaviest rains gave way to February, Karumba remained for the most part bathed in hazy sunshine, the breath less afternoons punctuated by sudden sharp When the heat is on, cool heads prevail in the CadellRiver, where Vicky Brown, a ranger in the Aboriginal commu nity of Maningrida, and her son Talvin Pascoe find midday relief.Experience tells Brown the croc odiles have moved downstream to nest, but she keeps an eye out. Gulping the overflowfrom a rain tank, Mick Jones, his wife, Kerriann,and daughters Jessicaand Kacie celebrate the first big downpour in Karumba. "During the buildup, it gets hotter than hell, people stay up late, get cranky, and drink," says Mick, the local police sergeant. "I get bloody busy."