Thursday, September 17, 2009

Day 98 – 101 Broome – 14-17 Sept 2009

15,010 kms, 33 degrees C

We have reached our next main milestone, Broome (shown thanks the generosity of Mr Google). This is just over the half-way mark of the trip – we have been on the road now over three months. 15,000 km is further than London to Perth (er the one in Australia, not Scotland).

Broome marks the end of the Savannah Way, the road we have been on (or taking detours off) since Port Douglas in Far North Queensland. This journey has taken two months and over 9000km, from the Tasman Sea to the Indian Ocean.

The pearl or more specifically mother of pearl shell industry is the reason Broome came into being. We read The White Divers of Broome, a remarkable book that covers the pearling history and shocking event just before WW1. The best divers were Japanese but the Australian government was pushing its white Australia policy and demanded that the ruthless, greedy mongrel pearl business owners employed white divers. So eight expert ex Royal Navy divers were brought over from the UK in an experiment that was rigged and doomed to failure. The business owners didn’t want it to succeed as the white divers were many times more expensive that the Asiatic ones. Three divers died of the bends.

The Japanese cemetery has 919 young men who died from diving related complaints. The mortality rate was 20% ie after 5 years all the divers had died.

The layout of the town reflects its history – what is now Chinatown, but called Japtown in the pearling days but was renamed when the Japanese became the enemy in WW2 and bombed the pearl Broome fleet in 1942, was the poorer end of town, with the rough pubs and shops. It still has these places. The Pearl Lugger tour was awesome, but Nicky looked a little too comfortable with $50k worth of pearls draped around her for Stuart’s liking!!

But life is very different nowadays – Broome is a stunningly beautiful, laid back resort, probably best known for Cable Beach, the camel rides on the said beach and staircase to the moon. But it is not without a little angst. The papers are full of Broome rescinding its twin town relationship with Taiji over alleged dolphin killing in Japan. There is litigation over a dispute between two of the three camel tour companies who take tourists for a bumpy, smelly rides on Cable Beach. Camels have been allegedly stolen, nobbled and there has been camel dung thrown at tourists and operators alike! And we attended a firey meeting with WA state government officials to discuss proposals for an enormous Liquified Natural Gas proposal planned for the pristine coastline of the Dampier Peninsula, 50km North of Broome on the way to Whalesong.

We sat on the pindan rocks at Gantheaume Point at the Southern end of Cable Beach and watched humped backed whales breaching, a couple of ospreys attending to the biggest nest we have ever seen perched up lighthouse tower and searched for dinosaur fossils. The combination of red rocks and turquoise water was amazing, and quintessentially Kimberley. Matsos was a bit of a favourite for “beer o’clock”. The have an interesting range of beers, but the chilli beer will not be on our xmas list – that is seriously hot!

We have seen a lot of broken down cars on this trip, but none towed by a couple of camels!!

We had a wonderful time in Janice’s lovely flat – thank you Janice, I hope to meet you one day soon. And this was arranged thanks to the glorious Trish Pepper. We spent much time with Trish and Katie whilst in Broome, thank you girls. Looking forward to seeing you in the Barossa KT.


sarah said...

Camels towing car is just brilliant!! Many thanks for the map - helps the non-locals : )


Honora said...

Here's an idea Stuart, before you leave Broome you could buy Nicky the pearl necklace she so liked ready for your 30th Wedding Anniversary next year. Couldn't make out if you had a ride on the smelly camels. Fancy going to a political meeting while on your wonderful holiday. Still I know the topic of liquid gas is near your hearts in view of the plans for other parts of the coast nearer to Melbourne. Love to you both. X

Honora said...

Oops! Freudian slip - 20th anniversary, not 30th!!!

Stuart Riley said...

Sarah - yes, we were impressed at the towing bit. Very odd. Will try to pop maps up on future blogs

Mum, I offered, but Nicky said she would rather had a new bass or bass bow! Didnt ride the camel - just photographed them. And yes, its our 20th next year - going a bit dotty are we lovey?! Will need to do something to celebrate me thinks.