The rain here comes in fits and starts. First it pours hard, soaking the earth. Then it wanes, easing off sideways in the form of a sun shower.
This rain is tropical rain.
I put on my sneakers, smear oily mosquito repellent on my arms and legs. It smells of lemon myrtle. I hope it will be strong enough to stave off the bugs. My legs are prickly, I haven’t shaved in awhile. It’s hard to keep up when you’re going bare-legged every day.
Mum and I exit via the back patio, past the newly planted shrubs. It’s just gone 6.30am. The sun is up, but with the clouds you can barely tell. I’m wearing my sunglasses, expecting sunny glare, but it’s yet to materialize. Even the mountains, with their usual lush emerald backdrop, are obscured behind the clouds’ grey veil.
We loop around the estate past half-finished houses, the utes of tradesmen parked on nature strips already starting their morning’s work. The houses are modern, built in tones of grey and black, imposing with their angular lines.
The footpath leads out of the estate towards the beach and towards Palm Cove. We turn right at a holiday resort and march down into a gully. The earth is swampy, crowded with trees, and I’m sure I see midges though I don’t feel anything biting. My greasy lemon-myrtle scent seems to be somewhat effective.
We pass by an older woman, sun-visor prudently fastened around her head. Then another, smile hidden behind her surgical mask. An old man on a bike smiles at us, “Morning ladies,” as does the shirtless, speedo-clad gym-junkie, his two dogs trotting along good-naturedly on their leads.
The clouds have been getting increasingly darker and are now moving fast. Another elderly man delivers a jolly warning, “we’re about to get very wet!” We smile but keep on our path towards the beach, towards the increasing sound of waves.
Twenty seconds later, the clouds above us finally give way. The raindrops pound down, soaking my forehead, my thin t-shirt, my running shoes. I move my sunglasses to the top of my head, pushing back my wet fringe. Mum and I laugh. There is nothing else to do. We are both properly drenched.
The footpath ends at the beach, just where the waves nudge the top of the sand. High tide. We stop for a moment as the rain continues to pelt us, and watch the waves break. The foamy grey water reflects the sky and I would love to wade in it, past my knees, up to my bum, but I can’t. Not up here. Not at this beach. Not during stinger season.
I wring out the bottom of my t-shirt as we wander back through the grove and towards the resort on the corner. My sneakers squelch as I stomp along the slippery pavers. The rain eases as we turn onto main street, a strip of shops and cafes to our left, the sandy beach and its line of palm trees to our right. Walkers walk by, unperturbed by the rain, gripping takeaway lattes from cafes that have been open for hours though it isn’t even 7.30am. A lady with a gunmetal-grey bob is doing yoga, her stripy hotel-issued towel laid out beneath her on the patchy wet grass.
At the jetty we turn back, past the van with its faded sign advertising sunrise kayak tours, and continue our walk along the shopfronts.
We peer through shop windows at floaty summer clothing, at homewares patterned with palm trees and seashells. Signs taped to doors & windows, advise of temporary closure while the owners are away on vacation. February, when school has gone back, and traditionally Australia’s hottest month, is quiet this far north.
Across the road, the lady with the gunmetal-grey bob has shifted into corpse pose.
The rain finished, the sun strains through the cloud, hitting my face. My sunglasses are now dry though somewhat smeary, and I wonder whether I should have brought my hat.
By the time we reach home my clothes are still damp, but whether from rain or sweat, humidity or sea-spray, I can’t be sure.