Sydney’s weather seems to have been going through an experimental phase for the last few weeks. It’s been embracing the tropical idea of afternoon thunderstorms, every afternoon. This type of behaviour might be expected, or at least tolerated, in mid/late January, but the fact that it’s started happening in early December has got everyone a bit confused. It has resulted in some pretty stunning cloud formations though, so it’s not all bad.
It seems to me that Sydney is trying to pretend it’s in Fiji, specifically, to my mind, near Sabeto, on the west coast of Viti Levu just outside Nadi. When I spent a few days in Sabeto it rained at mid-afternoon each day – you could almost set your watch by it! That’s what all this crazy weather has been reminding me of.
Sabeto Christian Camp, where I stayed with the Year 13 crew, is surrounded by cane fields – sugar cane is the main export of this area of Fiji. Mile after mile of sugar cane grows taller than head height, taller even than our bus as we bumped and rumbled our way along the unsealed road from Nadi. The road was so narrow that at some points the cane was pressed up against both sides of the bus at once.
As we approached Sabeto for the first time, on our very first day in Fiji, the humidity was almost overwhelming. Apparently the weather had been ‘cool’ for Fiji lately, but for us Sydneysiders it was damply and tropically hot. As the bus ploughed slowly on through the sugar cane, huge raindrops began to fall. The damp air had finally become too heavy for itself. The rain splattered loudly on the cane and on the roof of the bus, and the air was filled with that amazing smell of rain on hot earth.
As always, along with sugar cane came cane toads. At night there were hundreds of them, hopping around our cabins and croaking noisily. Luckily these toads seemed to be of a small variety, not like the monsters you get in Queensland. These ones were actually quite cute if viewed without prejudice – you just had to be careful not to step on them walking between the cabin and the bathroom at night!
One night, after someone, in a moment of forgetfulness, left the door open for slightly too long, one of the toads hopped into our cabin. Hilarity ensued as some reacted by jumping onto their bunk beds, while others frantically tried to herd it back outside while not letting any further toads in through the open door. Eventually the unfortunate creature was chased out from under a bed using an umbrella, scooped up in a plastic bag and transferred to a pot plant outside to continue its existence in peace.
As the heavy, tropical raindrops pour down over Sydney and the thunder rumbles overhead, I think of Sabeto, with its cane fields and cane toads, and a weather system you could set your watch by.
Read more about Bec’s adventures with Year 13 in Fiji here.
Cover photograph: Drying out after the rain in Korobebe village, near Sabeto.