This is the sixth post in series of the Christmas Island trip.
With just over two thousand local residents Christmas Island is a strange place. Closer to Jakarta than any other part on the Australian landmass, it, like northern Australia is privileged enough to only have two seasons, wet and dry. No Indigenous population and since 1988, no births permitted on the island see an intricate community structure of tropical regionalism and multicultural multi-faith community sensibilities.
It’s crab migration time, with specially crafted bespoke ‘beware of the crabs’ signs the island that until the 1990s was governed by Singapore, is amazing. The school excursions consist of visiting that tree in that guys backyard where the Japanese used to hang people. The local bus service only costs $2.10 per trip and the local school has specialist teachers that stretch from pre-Kindergarten to year 12.
The people here are very friendly for someone who’s fresh milk costs $12 a litre and is as rare as hens teeth as there are no cows or dairy on the island. The joys of UHT milk see cereal consumption as a rarity and the prevalence of wild purebred chickens roaming the island see their slaughter by the local Malay community as common.
Lovers of gardening surely struggle with living on this island, if the microscopic nematode worm doesn’t destroy your plants either the heat or the giant crickets will. The balmy temperature of 28°c and the water temperature heated by strong Indian ocean currents sees the weather a stable constant.
The discovery of the Island on Christmas Day sees its name the catalyst for local residents disdain of the commercialized Santa with a notable gossip topic consisting of why the Shire installed modest Christmas lights on the round-a-bout. Positioned on the buildings around the round-a-bout is the locals idea of a notice board, twelve blackboards where anything from rooms to rent, chicken cages to buy and death notices are chalked up when required.
The local hardware proprietor runs the outdoor cinema, a local institution with oodles of room and relatively current movies being displayed. The cinema’s patronage sees one of the islands core businesses sponsor its air freight over for the nominal benefit of deck chairs, a red carpet and a catered dinner.
Having only twelve locations for food is a pain for those that crave variety and difference, the best meal afforded is the aptly named ‘Chinese Literary Society’ a strange name for a restaurant but a great location for water side analysis of the weather, the waves and the naval vessels.
The island’s only taxation being income tax sees that cigarettes and alcohol are extraordinarily cheap, often cheaper than a bottle of water or coke. And this onsets to the Immigration department’s policy of cigarettes being the same cost as the local price, a massive health issue for detainees.
The chief of the local police, the AFP, told me that the biggest issues that they have to deal with are domestic grievances and drink driving. Something to do with the price and ease of availability of alcohol. Though the police officers arrest people when needed, like everywhere else, the magistrate only comes to the island every two months and works in a small ramshackle building in the centre of the ‘Canberra district’. With the remoteness of the island and requirement to take a passport to travel to the destination bail conditions for serious crimes, like aggravated assault or car theft are often set so the offender must remain in Perth.
With two RAMSAR treaty recognized wetlands of International Significance as well as several endemic species, the worlds largest collection of land crabs and sheltered beaches it is the perfect place for eco-conscious travelers. Having goshawks, boobies and golden boson birds all a flutter on the island it too is a great place for any bird watcher, especially those adept at spotting the illusive and endangered Abbott’s Booby.
The crabs saturate the island like little red freckles on the face of a red-head. Native red crabs, during their migration, see that roads are closed and that specially constructed crab barriers, road tunnels and bridges are put in place for their movement. The Robber, or Coconut crab too floods the island, it’s very existence sees an astonishingly morbid census of road fatalities take place and the ‘Scene of the collision’ spray painted on the roads with a pretty pink circle and adjoining X. This data is regularly crunched and tabulated then displayed for all to see, on notice boards across the island.
Federally this island is in the Northern Territory electorate of Lingiarri with a high percentage of Labor voters at the last election. However the Island’s funding mainly comes out of the hemorrhaging pool of resources that the Department of Regional Australia (DORA) provides, with wasteful requests for resources frequently made (there is a full operating theatre at the local hospital and yet it doesn’t have a safe particle extraction system so it can’t be used). The island is administered by a federally appointed administrator that is unaccountable to the public.
Local residents are a cultural mix of Malay, Chinese and Anglo, with the local school breaking for Islamic and Chinese holidays as well as all those anachronistic state sanctioned religious ones. The whole community celebrates three New Years, one for each community and there are temples to different deities and gods littered across the tropical paradise.
As everything is shipped in the prices are inflated exponentially, expect to pay through the nose for most of your usual mainland necessities but apart from that the Island is friendly, easy-going and a great holiday destination. It’s ok, because I’m a Plane person.