A Town Called Broome

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September 2nd 2009
Published: September 2nd 2009
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1: Sunset at the Darwin Ski Club 41 secs

Welcome to welcoming Broome

Broome: population 14,000

We were driven around Broome by our tour guide - who helpfully pointed out all of the pubs and bars that we should go to. I’m not entirely sure if anyone was really listening either because they were still pissed (the juvenile clique on board) or tired (the rest), or as in my case - just skeptical. The places all looked like large boozers on quiet tidy streets and not Greenwich Village as she made it sound, but then this was her hometown.

Aussies are often very matter-of-fact and in the case of Aboriginal Australians don't seem to see the peculiarities of their country: “If yer see the black fellas kicking the shit out of each other…whatever you do - don’t get involved and try to split ‘em up, because they’ll only stop fighting each other and start kicking the shit out of you.” Then pointing to a cricket pitch in the middle of town she warned: "Walk on this side of the Oval at night because you'll get less aggro that way", the other side being the ground of choice for pissed-up Aboriginals who would give ‘aggro’. Evidenced by the 'NO ALCOHOL’ street signs around green spaces this place clearly had issues. So, as you can probably imagine I became wary of seeing “black fellas” as she colloquially referred to them and how they might act (ore react) towards the White Man.

Hostelling in Broome

I was only slightly less wary of the Kimberly Klub; a youth hostel which was chockablock with dozens of backpackers lounging by the pool or bar. But also where the oafs from the Easyriderz tour were all staying and whom I wanted to avoid. Fortunately I couldn’t book another night because the place was so popular that it was fully booked. So the next morning I left for a nearby hostel (but more like lumbered with heavy bags under a north Australian sun) a place fittingly known as The Last Resort.

The Last Resort hostel was in shoddy condition to be sure, the dormitory (or cabin) was cramped and left very little space for luggage; it had a strange 'pong' and the bar area was occupied by fat bikers with tattoos, beards and beer guts. (Apparently they were friends of the owner who liked having them around, but for everyone else they were at best an eye sore and at worst intimidating). But it was a lot quieter than the "KK" plus I was away from the 'easyriderz'.

It was a beautiful day in Broome, sunny and warm with lovely blue skies. However, i needed to catch up with things online and again I struggled to find any wireless internet. The freebie one at McDonalds once again “broken”, but I suspect it was just turned off because so many grubby backpackers were sat outside using it. So I had to go to the internet café next door and get this... pay!

Two things happened that afternoon:

1) In a town this size I inevitably ran into the oafs from the tour but happily had my back to them at the visitor information centre.

2) I watched some cricket being played on the Oval pitch. A group of aboriginals sitting quietly under a tree on the Oval watching them. A compelling scene and one that was utterly Australian; two completely different cultures one in white one in black.

Movie time in Broome

That night I went to the cinema, however it wasn’t just any old cinema but one with the stars above! Ooh how wonderful! Sun Pictures is the world’s oldest operating outdoor cinema, having opened in 1916 and continued almost continuously since then. Fortunately I had bought my ticket in advance that day and so was able to jump the queue (where of course twat faces from easyriderz were standing in line) and go straight inside. I bought a drink and some crisps, went straight to the front and sat down in my deckchair. Apart from it being pretty cold it was an enchanting evening and the movie (Hungover) wasn’t bad at all.

Meetin’ Locky the Aussie

The next day I put some posters up at hostels and the internet cafe looking for a ride to Darwin, offering to share the fuel costs and food if necessary. Almost within an hour I received a text from a guy asking me if I was still wanting to go! An hour later and Locky and I were having a pint of gorgeous peach beer on the veranda of Matso’s Broome Brewery overlooking Roebuck Bay. Locky (shortened Aussie-style from Lachlan) was from Adelaide, 26, a tour guide and wearing an impressively stained vest (or "singlet" as they call it here).

We were clearly sizing each other up to see if we were suitable candidates for the long journey to Darwin. I was probably more anxious because of the generalized yet infamous (in my neck of the woods at any rate) reputation of Aussie males being either ‘macho’, sport-obsessed and rather blunt or a combination of all three. I needn’t have worried; not only was Locky a good down-to-earth fella but he also had a whole crate of books in the back of his 4x4 that he had yet to get around to reading - clearly a bibliophile and the first one I’d met from this country. We agreed to meet up gain in the next few days and in the meantime I agreed to try and look around for some other people to join us.

Beach time

The next day I got a bus to the nearby renowned Cable Beach, which according to the Lonely Planet’s Australia:

“is one of Australia’s finest beaches, with azure waters and a classically wide, white sandy beach as far as the eye can see”.

I spent a relaxing day there, reading my latest V.S. Naipaul purchase - "In A Free State" - which won the Booker Prize Award in 1971 and half wanting to get a tan and half not wanting to replicate the horrible sunburn I received in Koh Samui back in March. So I rented an umbrella to lie under and put on the free sun block - remembering what Sean had told me somewhat bafflingly on the way from Perth that Australia “didn’t have an O-Zone layer” (!?).

I also had an interesting conversation with the umbrella guy, an older geezer who told me that there had recently been a sighting of a saltwater crocodile in front of the beach and that it had had to be closed as a precaution until it was caught! I didn't bother going into the water anyway, it was too cold - this is an Australian Winter after all! Oh, and he also claimed the Bee Gees for Australia (!!!) - according to him they had been brought up in and around Brisbane. Well, I knew that in fact they had all been born on the Isle of Man and had in fact returned to the UK having emigrated to Brisbane but oh well, you can’t be greedy and claim all genius pop groups as yer own…let the Aussies have 'em if they must.

Titty show

Back in Broome I’d gotten talking to the German chick in my dorm, a rather pretty girl who seemed to be completely bored in the town. She had been looking for work for a few weeks and was now waiting to get onto a cattle farm WOOFING (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) doing a few hours of work for room and board.

No drink was allowed in the hostel and in my experience no hostel allows you to consume your own taxed and paid for booze. But I managed to sneak my “Goon” into the hostel (cheap-as-chips boxed wine - 4 litres for 10 bucks - 5 quid) and so I shared the last of that with her.

We then went out intending to go to the pisser where that week’s wet t-shirt competition was being held. We bought some beers at the “bottle shop” - or off-license to you and me - and then snuck into the back of a hostel where you could drink your own booze. After downing quite a few Victoria Beers - “VB” we traipsed over to the place, managing not to run into any “agro” from other pissed locals. We got in okay, the place was an outdoor bar with a stage where the show soon began, and this being my first wet t-shirt competition I was transfixed and delighted. Some girls didn’t even bother with the concept, clearly trying to buy the support of the crowd by getting their jugs out from the off. The girl I shouted for lasted till the final but lost to a blond frumpy who won the thousand grand and I was at once dejected.

It was a mere "moment" as more beers were had but then the German chick had bumped into some of her acquaintances from her long-stay in town. She then subsequently kept disappearing. and after a couple times having to look for her I found her with these pals of hers so I just turned my heels and kept my good night intact.

On the move and Mr Hughes

The next day I was due to meet up with Locky again but to prepare for our journey I made a quick trip to the second hand bookshop in Broome.

I really felt that I needed to find out about this country I was in and I thought I might as well start now if I was going to do it any justice at all. So the day before I had bought as new in another bookshop the acclaimed and epic Fatal Shore - a classic history of the transportation of convicts to Australia by an equally acclaimed Australian author and critic Robert Hughes.

But Locky had told me he had seen it in a second hand bookshop for half the price. So off I went, sheepishly returning the book to the original book shop and getting the older and cheaper copy from the second hand book shop. Whilst I was there I was given an interesting anecdote by its owner on the author Robert Hughes who apparently had visited Broome on a fishing trip a few years earlier.

Apparently the driver after his many years living in the States was back in Oz producing a documentary, Beyond the Fatal Shore (2000) a series musing on modern Australia and Hughes's relationship with it. However, according to witnesses he was driving on the wrong side of the road and pummelled straight into an oncoming car nearly killing himself. He smashed his leg in 5 places and was in a coma for weeks afterwards - he later pleaded guilty to dangerous driving years afterwards. According to this guy, this eminent critic was scandalously more concerned with the police returning his catch that day then the accident he had caused. To this day Mr Robert Hughes walks with a limp in his documentaries that are occasionally shown on UK television.

Later in the morning Locky picked me up from the hostel but I'd not managed to find any other passengers to share the journey. So we then went shopping at the supermarket, picking up supplies for the 5 day journey ahead, snacks and evening meals cooked on the fire of gas stove. Oh, and we got some beer too, a lot of it and it was Emu Export, known as the drink of choice for the aboriginal community because of its cheapness and famously even appears on the street signs warning against drinking alcohol.

Thus the adventure began…

Additional photos below
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2nd September 2009

The Grand Tour
Your blog is hilarious. You sound like a Victorian Gentleman recording with ennuie the exploits of his travelling companions on a Grand Tour. You must be an aspiring writer or sumfink...
3rd September 2009

at last!
Finally! A non abusive comment on my blog! Thank you kateboo!

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