Australia has taught me to love cold showers
Trip Start Dec 18, 2011
23Trip End Sep 15, 2013
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Luckily Australia has a crack team of bush firefighters. We've all read the same news reports about the raging fires in Tasmania a week ago; all state and national parks in New South Wales closed about the same time. We realize how lucky we were to have visited Kosciuszko National Park when we did: the park is closed now, and many of the areas we visited nearby either have burned or are burning now.
Friends who live in the country have Bushfire Survival Plans, documents that help people to plan their actions before the fires come. The thinking is that knowing what you intend to do helps avoid indecision and panic. The strongest recommendation is to leave early, but about half of the people in a vulnerable area decide to stay and protect their homes
Fire in eucalyptus burns fast and hot, and the newspaper says embers can be shot several kilometers ahead of the main fire. Modern houses are made of brick with tile roofs, so it seems odd to see pictures of houses much like ours burned to the ground. The heat is so intense that windows break, allowing those flying embers to get inside, so the house burns from the inside out.
That said, we've only seen the smoke from fires (much like we do every summer in Colorado), burned over areas, and helicopter firefighting. When we were at Forster a week ago we watched a helicopter convoy filling buckets of water from the ocean to drop on a fire that burned a large area adjacent to where we camped in October. The road was closed (trees burned on both sides), but the next day we were able to drive home and see the damage along the way. The worst affected are the koalas, which are numerous in the eucalyptus forests along the coast. They don't move fast.
Activity in the town and at the beaches seemed normal--everyone splashing about and laughing. While the boys and I were at the local swimming pool last week I learned that a fire was burning in the next town over (Kurri Kurri). The police suspect arson.
So, are we vulnerable? I think the odds are slim. We live in a new housing development, so there aren't any trees. We see the countryside from our house, but what's nearby is only grasses--the trees are on a distant ridge. I have a free app on my cell phone called Fires Near Me NSW. It finds my location and shows nearby fires. I click on the fire, and it tells the distance and the status of the fire. For example, just now I found a fire burning 14 km away in a tiny town called Abermain. The boys and I go past Abermain each week on the way to their swimming practice in Kurri Kurri
The heat is like stepping into an oven. The wind blows from that darn Red Center when it gets really hot, and the mountains are too old and low to stop the winds. I may be wrong, but I think that if we didn't have the Rocky Mountains stopping the heat from the Gulf of Mexico and forcing rain clouds to drop their moisture, Colorado and Wyoming would be much hotter and drier than they are. We got a southerly wind Sunday evening, and today we've basked in the low 20s (low 70s F). What a delightful day after the raging heat of the weekend--Saturday hit 43C (110F), and Sunday was 29 but amazingly humid (so it felt much hotter than it was). Without the respite, I would be crazy by now. The temperatures climb for about five days, and then, after the worst heat, we get a decent day or two before they climb again. There are places in Australia that get hot and stay hot--one spot in New South Wales has been above 40C every day since Jan. 1. That would do me in, I'm afraid. Our librarian said that is usually the pattern here for February. I'm not looking forward to it.
So, today was low 70s, tomorrow is forecast to get to about 80, and by Friday it's supposed to be 108 F again. Every day is a day closer to the ersatz winter we get. More on that later--and finally, here's the tie-in to the title: I've noticed that most Australians are comfortable in a very small temperature zone. Anything below 23-24 C (75F) brings out the jumpers (sweaters) and coats. Really--I'm not surprised by it any more. They call it "rugging up." Anything above 30 (86F) brings out the complaints. To combat this syndrome, since August I've been having only cold showers so that I don't lose my love for the cold. Goosebumps are a luxury I don't want to give up.