Sunday, 27 July 2008


Well............relatively speaking.

The thermometer fell to 12.5C in Darwin this morning, around 0635.

For Darwin that is VERY COLD. Ranks among the few lowest EVER. The Monsoon Frog has considered "live tan". No, not sun basking for a burnished bronze body, rather the tanned leather skin, with zippers and high collars. Leather jackets are definitely the go. Even went for the blankets, rather than just a sheet, on the bed.

It was cold last evening while sitting watching the Tour de France live on TV, so cold that feet required a covering, rather than the usual bare feet. What tends to make it much cooler apparently is the low humidity plus a modest beeeze with the "apparent temperature" dipping another few degrees. The so called "chill factor" in colder climates.

But it is good enjoy it while it lasts, usually for a few days only, as it then warms to around 18C at night, which is fine. Days are around 28 - 30C. In fact very enjoyable. In your mind you need to enjoy it as you know that by late October it will be 80% RH and 35C.

The dry season this year is fabulous. Balmy days and cool nights. BUt definitely too cold for swimming in the pool.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Apartment Living in Tropical Darwin

Darwin is seeing, like many Australian cities, a revival of the city through development of living in the city…….except that mostly it is in the air.

Sure, flats have been around in Darwin for years, and there are some horrible examples. Boxy, poor ventilation, narrow inaccessible stairs, no lifts, ugly yards – usually wall to wall concrete, no facilities – seem to have been common. Sound like a normal flat complex?

They had poor insulation, and were unbearably hot, unless air conditioned in the wet season.
Our weather swings from balmy dry season conditions in June – August of 18-30C with low humidity through to 27- 35C with very high insolation and very high humidity and still conditions in November and December before the cooling rains arrive.

Some of the more recent examples around Darwin are quite trendy, and they have that great option – a decent sized outside terrace / balcony / verandah, that is actually usable. A great option to sit and have a drink, eat or cook the BBQ and enjoy the breeze. But there are some ugly examples, and some really outstanding very attractive flat complexes.

Most have sensible design options - window shading, a floor design allowing flow through ventilation, roof overhangs for sun and rain protection, good sized windows that open well, verandah, good insulation, adequate apartment storage including a store room down in the undercroft plus some facilities - a pool of some sort, grass, gym etc or some of these. A few are even built with low thermal load materials [ often a bit more difficult with high rise buildings].

Enjoy the Darwin scene.

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Sunday, 20 July 2008

Orchids in the Tropics

Orchids are THE flower of the tropics. Especially the range of Dendrobium, Vanda, Cattelya and related warm weather genera that do so well outdoors in the tropics.

Yes, I enjoy growing orchids........the beautiful tropical flowers that can last for many days after cutting are really amazing in their colour, versatility of shapes and sizes and the myriad size and shape of the whole infloresence. Some have a few flowers that are large and showy, others are much larger infloresences but with many many smaller flowers. The colours and displays are awesome at times.

Singapore Changi Airport Terminals often have mass displays of orchids, usually the dendrobiums. Can not remember a single time over the past few years when there has not been a great orchid display. BUT......they are usually the more common types that fit the theme for mass displays. It is the rest that can be spectacular in their own right.

The collection at our house is modest, but there are many spectacular collections in the Darwin area. There is at least one large specialist display and competition each year locally - just orchids and bromelieads, although the local Agricultural Show also has a good display. The annual orchid spectacular in May or June each year is fantastic. Too good for me to compete.

But I do grow a few great specimens, at least I reckon I can grow a few decent Vanda orchids!

Vanda orchid flowers are usually larger, and ostentatious with various hues and striations on the flower. And they really do grow well in the hot tropics. A bit of fertiliser, light and openness allowing air circulation.......and some regular light irrigation if needed.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Change is Good

The blog has a NEW livery. Same material, same writer, but a definite new look.

A change is as good as a holiday they say. Well, definitely not a holiday, unlike those lucky northern hemisphere people embroiled in the midst of the July -August holiday frenzy. Have often wondered how come they are the holiday months.............and at last, have come to realise they are the only months of the year actually pleasant enough to even WANT to go on holidays.

It even rained for most of the 1st week of the Tour de France. Australian is the current leader on the road in the Tour, going into the last week, and a tortuous set of rides across the Alps. Even more intriguing is that Cadel Evans was born and lived in the Northern Territory as a youngster. Need to claim him as a Territorian! There have been some long late nights over the past 2 weeks watching the race, with some excellent sprint finishes over the past 4 nights. Sure, there have been some notable and well publicised drug busts. But that does tend to indicate that the drug testing is being done and effective.

Vive le Tour!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Aquada or Humdinga or just the Quadski??

The tropics can be wet......very wet. Both in the sky and on land. It is wet, boggy and at times inundated. And frustrating to try and get around the country, or your property.

Now there is a solution. An amphibious sports vehicle......yes, and a seriously useful option, even to the point where military authorities are interested. Many parts of the Australian tropics are impassable for extended periods due to flooded rivers, as well as extended areas of wet flood plains. The usual option was to use air boats, also commonly used in parts of FLorida and South America. This new vehicle is something special.

This NZ developed concept, is finally moving into useful vehicles and has developed the Humdinga, to go with the Aquada. And the price - expected to be around A$80000, comparable with a well kitted out Toyota Land Cruiser or equivalent.

For a lot more information see the following link, including videos. This is a serious vehicle with potentially many uses, not to mention a few fun uses.

There is also a quadski.......that could be real fun. But it does have significant potential for commercial use in emergency services too.

Yes......a real boy"s toy!

Friday, 11 July 2008

Tropical Houses in Darwin

Everyone needs a home - house - abode - donga - camp......or whatever. Some are flash and very expensive, while others are well, cheap and nasty.

There is a lot of debate in northen Australia about housing, block sizes and energy use. Mostly, residents need to keep cool - current very cool dry season weather excluded. So efficient design allowing easy breeze movement, plenty of windows, lots of trees and shading, even airvents on the roof, are part of the mix. Or they were until recently - as intrusion of temperate style houses with heavy thick high thermal load walls, small sliding windows on small blocks continue to expand into the local scene. Funnily enough, it is noticeable that modern homes in southern Queensland, on the Sunshine coast, are now including more warm weather efficient design, while the NT seems to be pandering to the influx of new residents and their perceptions of modern temperate housing - not what is needed in modern warm weather building design.

There are some good designs in modern apartment blocks, and some that are awful. A lot of apartments will include airconditioning, and so will houses. But that can be ok if used wisely, for example bedrooms when those hot still nights of September through December arrive, with minimum temperatures around 28C.

We are going to start with the latest edition to the Darwin skyline - Evolution. It is upmarket, expensive and all apartments. Lots of air conditioning, but it is still not finished. But high quality fit out is expected. Maybe we can add more later.

This building will dominate the Darwin central skyline. From all over. Thirty three levels. Topped out last week, with a giant tree gracing the roof, now removed.

Evolution on the left, and 16 floors of Pandanas [another new city apartment /hotel block]on the right.

Hope to add views of a range of housing over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Dry Season Weather

It is dry, very DRY. The dry season [ there are two seasons here, wet and dry] is now deepening, with the weather turning COLD. Well, for Darwin it is cold. The local green tree frogs are rarely seen.

Down to a shattering 17.5 degrees Celsius last night and 18C previous night, with days around 30 - 31C. Lots of sunny weather, plus a strong persistent SE / ESE wind.....a strong wind of around 30km/hr or slightly more. Rarely a cloud in the sky. Glorious.

BUT......there is more! Tonight the temperature is predicted to drop to 16C, then 14C the next night. For Darwin, that is very cooooooooold. Humidity is way down, and the wind makes it seem drier and cooler anyway, and with the typical open style house plans, inside the house does cool down quite a lot too. Sitting still last night watching the Tour de France on TV needed internal warmers - coffee, etc to help. Even the dog protested, and came in to lie on a mat in the laundry area.

Those keen on cycling give Cadel Evans - an Australian, Born in Katherine near Darwin - a good chance to do well, maybe even win [he was 2nd last year]. Early days yet, but he is doing ok and came 4th in time trial yesterday. So there is some local interest. Makes for late nights, as is running live between 2200hrs - finish, usually around 0100hrs.

BUT........the dry season is absolutely fabulous weather. Right now!

Only difficulty is that outdoor pool swimming is cool, no - it is cold! Hard to warm up, even after a few laps. Currently, swim training has been relegated to a lower priority. Lets stick to cycling, gym work and some walking / running. It will warm up - sometime, soon?