by Kerry Tolson @kerrytolson.com
Part one. . .
“I swear I’m going to have a blister on my butt” I say to Mal as we sway back and forth, the leather rubbing uncomfortably hot against my 3/4pants and calves. “Forget butt, the ‘boys’ are copping a beating” Mal groans back.
I hear him push himself up off the saddle, then settle back down.
A golden hue blanches over us and as I look down onto the sands, I’m struck with the vague feeling I have seen a scene similar to this before - long stilted legs silhouetted in a palette of burnt orange, carmine and rust – although it was elephants and not camels. And just like the Salvador Dali painting this image conjurers up, I feel as if I’m in a surreal moment right now, surrounded by dreams and creative energy.
As the plane sweeps down into a velvety green oasis fringed by garnet red and brilliant turquoise I hear someone say “Welcome to Broome time.” I give a little giggle; back home broom time would be swishing dust balls around the floor, but here it is the sweeping of azure waves, camel footprints padding across silvery sand, a swirl of liquid amber against golden sunsets and an ancient Kimberley dreamtime whispering into the ethos.
I’m eager to get busy with the Broome.
I have come to Broome to take part in town's 5th writers and readers festival, the Corrugated Lines: A Festival of Words that will be happening over the weekend of 5th,6th, and 7th August. And as soon as Mal and I step down onto the tarmac we are immediately immersed into Broome’s big heart.
Everything in Broome appears to be BIG – from the wide expansive countryside to the tropical tides that are the world’s largest. It is home to the largest ‘perfect pearl’ in the world – a pink-hued near-golf-ball sized jewel; the biggest sitting crystal Buddha in the southern hemisphere; the longest stairway to heaven aka the Staircase to the Moon; the oldest open air garden picture theatre in the southern hemisphere and after dark, some of the most enormous meals I’ve ever seen served up.
Here Cable Beach stretches forever and is filled with characters who exude big personalities whether they be driving along its sands, ripping off their gear for a skinny dip in the almost flat ocean waters or wandering the historic streets in their wide brim bush hats.
(And then there’ was the hipster sporting the bushiest beard, rippling muscles and tiniest bright fluro pink ‘budgie smugglers’ that had everyone talking! Well those we shared camel tethering with that is)
Mal and I arrived in late afternoon with our friends and after throwing our bags into our gorgeous Airbnb guest house (we won the jackpot with this one – it was stunning) we all headed straight for the shimmering hue of Broome’s pearl – Cable Beach – just in time to soak up the golden rays of one of the most exquisite sunsets to ever lay eyes on. This is something not to be missed for once that sun kisses the horizon, for a split second life stands still. The sky turns an incredible orange then suddenly everything becomes a silvery hue of blue.
The next morning is a juggle of busyness. I’m up early for a stroll back down to cable beach where it’s yoga stretchers, joggers and puppies enjoying the sands, then a quick stop to the Zookeepers Store for an amazing coffee and an out-of-this-world croissant - it was like nothing I’d ever tasted before and later I found out that it may have been a kronutz (a croissant crossed with a donut. . . I think!?!?) of which this place is famous for. I don’t dally about too much, even though I’m supposed to be on ‘Broome Time’ as I have an interview with Hutzy at the local radio station, Spirit FM 102.9, then it’s time for some serious sightseeing.
favourite . . . er… seed. According to some websites pearls are not gems – some call them ‘hard objects’ or seeds or organic matter, but I prefer what Broome’s tourist brochure calls them - the queen of gems and the gem of queens.
A must-stop for anyone visiting Broome is the magnificent Tourist Information Centre, a building and service to rival any TIC in any major city – the building is stunning – and like everything else in Broome has an incredibly unique story to tell.
It fell out of the sky!
Back in 1974 a Garuda DC3 suffered engine failure and belly-landed into mud at Broome - thankfully all the passengers were ok- and Broome Shire acquired the plane, restored it and sat it on the outskirts of the town where for the next decade it played home to the Broome Visitors Centre until visitor numbers became way too great for the fuselage area to service – apparently people were lining up down the street to get in. For the first two years of its service, the bureau saw over 25,000 tourist climb the ramp stairs. Today it serves over 1000 people per day (during the peak season).
The other wonderful ‘shopping’ thrill of Broome (for me anyway) is the art galleries - again I’m in heaven…. Though Mal is mightily worried when he sees how many galleries there are and how many paintings I’m loving! Broome and the Kimberley are filled with awe-inspiring creative souls. I didn’t know where to start first – the Short Street Gallery where Helicopter Tjungurrayi was having a solo exhibition (don’t you just love his name? – he was given this as child when he needed to be airlifted from the extremely remote community of Balgo), the work was stunning and evoked images of a Great Sandy Desert.
Or the Broome Gallery, where resident artist James Down was painting up a visual feast to set the imagination racing about his subjects lives. The swirls of vibrant colour mixed with hilarity and spontaneity offered a glimpse into the everyday life of Broome.
Then there was the incredible works of Nadeen Lovell who was exhibiting in the grand-dame of Broome buildings – the Old Pearler’s (Quarters) House; this property is an architectural oeuvre in itself – here the ballroom was alive with incredible surreal images of the Bungle Bungles and the Kimberley, with the ultimate piece on display, the 16metre panoramic “Beehives of the Bungle Bungle” which just has to be seen to be believed. This amazing piece of art, which portrays the Bungle Bungle Massif from Echidna Chasm, to Piccaninny Creek (some 45 kms) took -it could be said- over 18years to create, including the time Nadeen spent walking, exploring and gaining an insight into the spirit of the land.
And then there was Gallery Sobrane, again my mind takes flight as I lose myself in the lightness of her birds – the brolgas, the cockatoos, and the fairy wrens – they enticingly tease for you to reach out to stroke their soft feathers (but I wouldn’t dare and don’t recommend!) and cheekily twinkle their eyes at you.
apartments, then up Kennedy Hill where beautiful views of Roebuck Bay and onwards could be gazed upon.
demolished. No new homes were supplied for these people – according to the news reports, Broome has a homeless rate of 7%. . of which 90% are First Peoples.
Further along we find a beautiful sculpture, a woman rising from waves with a pearl shell in her hand. The inscription reads that it is to honour the contribution women made to the pearling industry – the plaque is all very neat and nice in description. On closer look it shows that the woman is possibly pregnant which piques my curiosity – why would the ‘woman’ be rising from waves with a shell if she was with child? A further read into the background of the statue has me (once again) sadden. This beautifully and sensitively sculptured piece commemorates the bravery and fortitude of the local women who were blackbirded and forced to dive for pearls back in the 1800’s, many who did so while pregnant, with stones tied to their ankles (as well as being tied to dinghies). The statue also honours the onshore women who worked in the pearling industry. The site that the statue sits is also important in that it marks the spot where wives, mothers and children would come to see the luggers return and pray the flags would be fully raised, not at half-mask which indicated that men had died at sea.
And strangely enough, despite half of Broome in some way being named after Dampier and or his boats, it turns out Dampier never step foot in Broome or even close to it, not unless 200kms away would be considered ‘close enough’! But then come to think of it, the next town south of Broome is some 600kms away (Port Hedland) so 200ks really is, just down the road. . .
As the day draws to an end, we find ourselves back down at Cable Beach, where the northern end looks more like a parking lot than a glorious stretching-forever beach with all the 4WD’s taking up spots to watch the sunset. We’ve decided to do the most ‘must do’ of Broome – Ride a camel. Earlier when we booked our camel ride at the tourist centre, we had been asked our weight and upon answering, I received a look of doubtfulness and a ‘sorry did you say xxxkilos?’ - and no I'm not going to tell you – at the time I wasn’t sure if they were having a dig but upon arriving, our camel train driver gave us all the once up and down and directed us to specific camels.
Ours was Sunny, a strapping handsome chap who just wanted to chill out and gave not a care in the world when we clumsily heave our bulks onto his back – unlike some of the other camels who let their riders know in no uncertain gargling terms that they were feeling the weight.
Yes Elvis, I talking about you
man, can you whinge!
Hello! I'm Kerry
. . . a plan-nothing, have no idea where I'm going travelholic.
A daughter of the gypsies and the wife of a workaholic, I'm forever wondering 'What's over there?' and devising ways to squeeze through the barbed-wire fence of small-business ownership responsibilities and every-day life tangles to discover it.
and this is my book.
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