Here in the tropics, we don’t have the four seasons that some other places do. The Yolngu have seven seasons. They are: Mayaltha – wet season (January – March); Gunmul – mid-wet season (March – April); Midawarr – end of wet season (May – June); Dharratharra – cool, dry season (June – August); Rarranhdharr – hot dry season (August – September); Wolmay – buildup (October – November); Dhuludur – pre-wet season (November – January) .
Obviously the Yolngu understanding of seasons is much fuller. The balanda understanding of the three seasons is: wet, dry, and build-up.
I arrived here at the end of January, during the wet season, and it went on and on. I started to really crave the dry, even though I figured I would be gone by the time it came.
Dry season is awesome. It only rains very occasionally, it’s not humid, and you can go camping, enjoy sitting outside, and walk around at a reasonable hour without getting drenched – either from sweat or from a downpour.
The wet season is rainy, as the name suggests, and the build-up, which follows the dry season, is when the weather just gets hotter and hotter and more and more humid until you can’t think straight. It’s when mangoes are in season, so some people call it mango madness, and with good reason. Also during the build-up, clouds gather as if they’re going to rain, and then they go away again. I think that’s why it’s called the build-up, but I prefer to think of it as the build-up of tension as humidity increases and tempers fray.
Anyway, so over Easter it poured and stormed on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, then Easter Sunday was bright and cool. The wind apparently had changed direction, and the air smelt like the dry season. A certain pilot who shall remain nameless “called” the dry season. Erroneously, as it turned out, when it stormed and rained heavily for the rest of the week.
Finally, Thursday before last, the weather cleared up and started to feel dry again. I heard that it was “officially” the start of the dry season, 1st May. Whatever officially means, BOM approved maybs? The next day, I woke up and didn’t have to put the air con on to get ready for work. I thought, I’m going to go really wild. I’m going to wear my hair out for work! Normally I can’t because it’s too hot and sticky and the hair on my neck irritates me too much . But I thought, the weather is cool, I’m going to risk it.
My experiment worked well for the morning – aided in no small part by the air conditioned office – but in the afternoon the whole school went to a memorial service outside under a tree, and I really regretted my styling choice as I expired from the heat. I sat there wishing I had given myself hair-tying options, and attempting to use my hat as a hair-off-neck device, with varying levels of success.
Since then, I have occasionally risked leaving the house with hair on my neck, but I always have a hair-tie on stand-by in case of emergencies.
1. This information comes from a poster by a woman called Gotha Kathy Guthadjaka. It explains all the seasons, the weather associated with them, and what hunting and bush foods are available at certain times.
2. Unfortunately, when it’s really hot and humid, my scalp gets more sensitive, and so all the accoutrements I use to hold up my hair – bobby pins, hair ties – irritate my scalp as well. So it’s lose-lose. In Gapuwiyak I sometimes wore a headband I had made from a t-shirt. That seemed to work okay, in terms of practicality if not high fashion.