THERE’S a wind that blows out of the South in the drought,
And we pray for the touch of his breathWhen siroccos come forth from the North-West and North,Or in dead calms of fever and death.With eyes glad and dim we should sing him a hymn,For depression and death are his foes,And he gives us new life for the bread-winning strife—When the glorious Old Southerly blows
Summer on the Australian East coast is both magnificent and harsh. The sun is brilliant like nowhere else on Earth, the sea is warm and the beaches crystal clear and golden. Summer clothing is minimal and light and the waterways are choc-a-bloc with craft of all types. It’s the sort of thing postcards are made of and the promise of this lures a multitude of Japanese and European travelers to savour these scenes from tour brochures and ads. The likes of Lara Bingle are sent out each year like sirens to lure the unsuspecting traveler to this idyllic paradise.
But it’s not all it seems.
Those golden sands burn like hot coals and that same sun will fry your skin into a blistered mess. A barefoot walk on a tar road will leave your soles stuck in the middle. Temperatures routinely reach 40 degrees (celsius for you Americans) and heat stroke is common for the inexperienced. There are days where it is so hot and still the air hangs like a fire blanket over a stove suffocating everything under. Today was one of those days.
Today the UV meter went full scale deflection. There was not a cloud in the sky and a warm Nor-Easter was giving us a fan-forced basting under an unrelenting sun. At the beach the sand stung on the walk to the water. UV domes lined the shore and most were dressed from neck to knee in SPF50+ shirts. Sure there were many Lara Bingles delighting the senses but these days they make a brief foray from their domes to the water for a quick dip before risking 2nd degree burns. There are old die-hards ignoring the risk and lying half-buried in the sand like a potato in a Maori hungi, sizzling away, melanomas soaking up the rays and there’s the newbies and the tourists unaware of the violence nature is about to visit on them. It’s not all bad, though. For the natives with half a brain, precautions mean a fantastic day of surf and sand, hamburgers and eye-candy; it’s the Australian dream.
But when these days drag on, wearing you down into a sweltering lethargy there is the great redeemer of the East coast: the southerly buster. This is the cold front making its way from the cold Southern Ocean hitting the Great Dividing Range and twisting north. When you’ve just about had enough of the heat, late in the afternoon you can hear it rumbling over the suburbs in the south, angrily chasing away the heat and drenching the fauna in a tsunami of polar chill. For Eastern Australians the southerly is a joyous event. It brings the neighbourhood out into the street to greet the turbulent front and the arrival of its refreshing cold. You open all the windows of the house and undo all the buttons of your shirt and stand with arms outstretched until the rolling cold front blasts away the punishing heat and sets to right nature’s balance. It’s a beautiful thing. One of the great winds of the world. It’s worth the beating from the sun to experience it.