"Stuck" in Paradise


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Oceania » Australia » Western Australia » Broome
August 4th 2021
Published: January 7th 2022
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First stop for today is Gantheaume Point, which is near the southern end of the peninsula that Broome sits on. There’s a lighthouse here, but it looks more like someone’s plonked a large lantern on a water tank stand than the sort of lighthouses we're used to seeing. The red rock formations are spectacular. There are supposed to be dinosaur footprints here, but we’re struggling to spot them. Maybe they were baby dinosaurs, or, more likely, we wouldn’t know a dinosaur footprint if we tripped over one, which we may well have.

We stop briefly at the port, which doesn’t look anything special, not that I’m sure why we thought it would.

Next cab off the rank is a lookout over the turquoise blue waters of Roebuck Bay. We wander from there down through Chinatown. This has apparently been the town's main hub since the early pearling days of the 1880s, when more than half the population was Asian. It was apparently awash with brothels and opium dens in those days, but there don’t seem to be too many signs of these here now, although that said I’m not entirely sure I’d know what to look for. It’s in the process of being "revitalised", and although it’s a bit chaotic due to the construction activity, it still looks very attractive. We're told that they need to do most of the building in the dry of the tourist season, because if they tried to pour concrete in the wet most of it would likely end up in the Bay. We take a quick peek in the Broome Outdoor Cinema. It opened in 1916 and is apparently the world's oldest still operating “picture gardens”. It still screens several movies every night, whereas most similar establishments around the globe apparently now only show one or two per week.

We’re told that we'll need shoes that we don’t mind getting wet for a tour in a couple of days, so Issy shepherds me into a shoe shop. We find a style that Issy thinks might be suitable, and the young assistant asks me what size and colour I’d like to try on. I’m good on sizes, but I defer to Issy on colour. I instantly realise my mistake. “Pink with purple spots, if you’ve got it", is my beloved's helpful response. The assistant returns with a tan set which she says is all she’s got in my size. Whatever.... I very briefly try them on, and then take them off again and go to pay. "Wait", says Issy, "you should at least walk around the shop in them". I put them on again and take a few short steps. The reactions from both Issy and the assistant suggest that I’m not doing this properly. The assistant gets the giggles, and then tries to recover by telling me that the colour suits me. ....so much hassle. No wonder I always leave it to Issy to buy my clothes.

We pass the hotel that we’d booked into originally; at the time it was the only one that had a room left, but recent COVID lockdowns have changed all that. It seems that it was best known for its wet t-shirt competitions. Issy says we should have lunch there to see what we missed out on. We have to hand over our credit cards before they’ll let us sit down; apparently a lot of patrons have been doing a runner lately. We dodge broken glass near the door where it looks like someone's recently tried to break in. Issy thinks that one of the waitresses has got a rifle. It turns out to be part of an umbrella stand, but still, the seed has been sown. The outdoor eating area is surprisingly attractive, and the food's pretty good too. Maybe we should have stayed here after all. At least then all Issy's wet t-shirt training wouldn’t have gone to waste.

Next stop is the iconic Matsos Brewery, where we visit Gallery Sobrane in a small building in the Brewery grounds. Sobrane has apparently done quite a bit of silo art around the country. She does it all freestyle, which Issy says is without copying it from something smaller (or something bigger I guess, but probably not in this case). I’ve got no idea how anyone could possibly do this, but we watch a time lapse video of the artist in action, mostly suspended from a scissor lift, so there’s the proof I guess. The work is all very striking and attractive. Art seems to be a thing here in Broome. Earlier in the day we visited the Broome Gallery in Chinatown where local artist James Down was producing masterpieces before our eyes. A lot of his work looked Pro Hart like to my very untrained eyes. I think some of it might be quite famous - a piece showing a mob of ostriches looking a bit confused looked very familiar.

Next stop is Town Beach which fronts Roebuck Bay. The tide's out so it would be a long walk across the mudflats if you wanted to get your feet wet. We stroll through the Pioneer Cemetery on the hill overlooking the Beach. It includes, amongst other things, a memorial to 76 Dutch nationals who were killed in a Japanese air raid on the town in 1942. They'd managed to escape from Java when the Japanese invaded, only to be killed when they thought they'd reached safety. We had no idea that the air raids had penetrated this far south.

We head back for a snooze and then I make my way down onto Cable Beach again to watch the sunset. I wander north to see if I can spot one of the many camel trains which apparently come through here every evening. There are more cars on the Beach than in the MCG car park on Grand Final day. I passed a sign on the way down here saying that driving on the sand should be kept to a minimum. If this is a minimum, well it’s just as well they put the sign there. The camels look like their usual grumpy selves, all three trains of them, but their passengers seem to be enjoying themselves. The pictures I’ve seen of the camel trains before made it look like the Beach was otherwise deserted - I’d never realised that if they'd instead been taken looking inland the background would have looked like a four wheel drive traffic jam. The sunset is its usual spectacular self.

Most of the wait staff here in Broome seem to be from South America; our waitress at lunchtime was from Brazil. I get chatting to tonight’s barman who's from Chile. He says that he got here two months before COVID struck, and he's now stuck here. He says this with a big grin on his face. "Stuck" in paradise. Hmmmm.

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7th January 2022
Cable Beach sunset

Camels
I always love photos like this. Just beautiful.
8th January 2022
Cable Beach sunset

Camels at sunset
Thanks. I think camels at sunset on Cable Beach is indeed one of the world's great sights.

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