This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2000 Travels August 27


The weather seemed to have changed. The days were still sunny and hot, around 30 degrees, but there was much more of a heavy dew at night. I wondered if this was indicative of greater humidity in the day time?

The remaining winter people in the park were all making departure preparations.

John managed to catch up with S, who was pleased with her thesis result. She is looking forward to being “home” in Canberra again, but is apprehensive about the cold, after over two years in PNG.

John also talked briefly again with R. I talked with V, mostly about the time she spent here. She has been skiing at Mt Buller – the idea of snow seems strange, right now!

After lunch, we drove out to Cable Beach. No visit to Broome is really complete without spending some time there. In ’93, we hadn’t, due to the ongoing torrential rain.

Broome is located on a narrow sort of peninsula. One side – the town side – fronts onto Roebuck Bay, essentially with a south-east outlook, sheltered by the curve of the land. The other side faces west, with different sea and weather influences, and thus there is a long, flat, sandy beach, that is not found on the town side. Since the place began as a pearling port, the shelter of the bay was the important factor in determining where the settlement grew up.

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On Cable Beach, looking towards Gantheume Point. Tide out.

In 1889, an under sea telegraph cable was laid, from Cable Beach, to Java. The existing one from Darwin, had proved vulnerable to undersea volcanic disturbances to the north.  Hence the name, Cable Beach.

In the 1980’s, Lord McAlpine, who had visited and fallen in love with Broome, developed a resort away from the town, at Cable Beach, and this was the start of development in this second part of Broome. The Cable Beach Resort did not at that time become the success that he envisaged, where it would rival the great Qld resorts. But some  Cable Beach development has proceeded since. There are now caravan parks and some homes out there, and a business that offers camel rides on the beach.

Cable Beach was certainly a long stretch of sand! It was quite busy, with both people and vehicles on it. Driving on the beach was permitted and a Broome pastime seemed to be to park there and picnic, watching the sunset. Because of the westerly outlook, the sun set into the Indian Ocean here is directly observed – and reflected in the sea.

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Cable Beach, near dusk

We stayed for sunset, which was partly obscured by smoke. That meant great colour effects. A sailing boat and a hang glider got themselves silhouetted against the sunset.

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We watched the camel ride parade with their loads of tourists – two per camel. Camel riding on Cable Beach is now part of the Broome mystique, for tourists.

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Camel riders on Cable Beach

Tea was sausages, eggs, bread.

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2000 Travels August 26


After breakfast, we went to the Courthouse Markets. Bought corn, tomatoes and honey. And a half watermelon, that cost $4.60. Not cheap!

Before we left the van, John had phoned daughter R, but she was too busy to talk to him.

We went from the markets to the Chinatown area – part of “old” Broome, and looked in a couple of the modern pearl galleries, and also a rather impressive bead shop.

I could really spend serious money on pearl jewelry, here! A lot of it is too chunky for my taste, but there are some great items. A long way removed from the traditional image of a string of pearls, to go with a twinset! Beautifully modern designs.

I might be tempted to go back and browse in the bead shop some more, before we leave here. Am trying to decide whether I want to do some beading, as a change from the Hardanger work.

John was looking for mother of pearl for jewelry box lid inserts. We got referred to the Shell House and went there. It was a fascinating place. There were all manner of shells for sale, and mother-of-pearl trinkets. John was able to buy some pearl shell.

We also bought and attractive display, decorative oyster pearl shell half, some 15cms tall, that has four oyster “buds” on it. It cost $80 – an extravagance, especially given recent vehicle costs, but it will be a great trip memento that should sit well on the red gum mantle shelf over our fireplace at home.

While we were out, S phoned and left a message that she’d gained a really high mark for her Masters thesis – very pleasing, since she was working at the same time as she did this.

After lunch ,John worked on checking and greasing the van wheel bearings. Suddenly, we have a new awareness of wheel bearings!

I sewed. We listened on the radio to Carlton lose the Preliminary Final of the football. It was not on TV up here.

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Completed piece of Hardanger work

Tea was cold roast lamb and mashed potato, again.

There was a very visible red fire glow across the bay at night, and lots of smoke about.

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2000 Travels August 25


In the morning, I cycled to the shops and bought some food needs. Only having the bikes has meant only doing small shops – and frequent ones.

John finished the tax papers, and mailed it all off to our accountant. It was a great relief for him.

At lunch time, John went to pick up Truck. The repair work cost $2,300!! More than we expected. However, in all of this, I can’t fault Landrover Assist or Shinju Motors. We did not have to pay for the retrieval from Fitzroy Crossing. Given the remoteness of Broome, Shinju Motors did well to get Truck fixed – a big job – in such a short time. John was very impressed by what he saw of their mechanics’ work, too.

It does feel so much better to have Truck back – less like something essential had been amputated! Now we should be able to do some of the tourist things that really require a vehicle.

Refuelled Truck. $1.10cpl.

In the afternoon, we went to Broome Bowls Club and played “Pirates” bowls. This involved a random draw for teams and local rules. My team came second, and I received a $5 club voucher, which I used to buy a Broome Bowls Club drinking mug.

John was not happy with either his team or his game.

There was much camaraderie at the club, as it was the last Pirates match for the year, because of the exodus of the Winter People to their homes in the south.

The relationship between Broome and its Winter People is an interesting one. The town has had a high dependence on this form of tourism, as they are predictable and inject their living costs into the town economy, over 3-5 months. They also are the backbone of places like the Bowls Club They, in turn, feel a degree of ownership and belonging. Some do actually own the sites their vans are parked on, at places like the Vacation Village. “Our Broome” some say. At the same time, there is an element of defensiveness – it is the only real “resort” on the tropical north west coast, weatherwise, but it falls a long way short of Qld and northern NSW, and they know it. However, it is their choice and they need confirmation and affirmation of its appeal – and hence their good judgment – from transients like us.

Broome is certainly changing quickly, and acquiring some of the elements of its east coast counterparts: apartments, holiday hotels/resorts, shopping malls, more backpackers places. The “old Broome” is submerging, which is a pity, because it had so much character. The hippy/dropout element of Broome sits a bit uneasily alongside the upmarket yuppie side.

I saw no evidence of an Asian tourism boom, despite the airport being able to take international flights, from 1992.

Real estate prices seem surprisingly high for a place with unpleasant summers, and cyclones!

However, our outlook here, over Roebuck Bay, is delightful, and I can understand why people keep coming back.

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Low tide in Roebuck Bay

Our tea was bought fish and chips. Being able to drive off in Truck and bring same home, hot, was much appreciated!

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2000 Travels August 24


It was another lovely day.

John was still working on tax matters. After lunch, I persuaded him to go for a walk, to the Japanese and Chinese cemeteries.

The Japanese Cemetery is the largest one of its type in Australia, due to the numbers of Japanese coming to work as pearl divers here, and often coming to grief in what was a really hazardous profession in those days.

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The headstones were chunks of beach rock – it made for a most interesting looking place.

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I really liked the headstones made from chunks of rock

The Chinese came early in Broome’s history, too, intent on making money as shop keepers. Possibly a number of these came via gold rush centres in other parts of the country. A few were pearl divers. Some were domestic servants.

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The Chinese section of the cemetery

We were intrigued by pretend paper money held down by rocks on top of each headstone. The burial custom is to provide food and money offerings that the spirit may need on its onward journey. For obvious reasons, these have to be symbolic, rather than real!

On the walk back, called in at Shinju Motors. The required parts are in, Truck will be ready tomorrow. It is a week since we broke down.

Tea was cold roast lamb, and mashed potato.

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2000 Travels August 23


After breakfast, I walked up to the nearby shops to get the paper. On the way back, found the Pioneer Cemetery, in the Town Beach Park, next door to the caravan park. There looked to be graves dating from the 1880’s, but only a few graves. It was very well kept.

The caravan park was now emptying out as the long stay winter visitors head south again, after the Festival. The “winter people” seem to be a real clique. I guess there are lots of caravan parks in warm coastal places in Australia that have similar winter dwellers. John finds them annoying, the way they carry on together. I find them amusing, because most of them have such a sense of self-importance. As if they are somehow superior to roaming travellers like ourselves!

The sea is fascinating here,  with the marked tidal moves and colour changes. It is very pretty. There are always fishing boats out in front of the park and these have lights at night. And at night, there are the lights of the port wharf in the distance.

John phoned Shinju Motors. The parts were not yet in. It may now be ready Friday.

I went up to the office and extended our stay here until Tuesday. The extra nights cost $22 a night as they were not the weekly rate.

We walked to the Post Office, where John sent off sister H’s birthday present – an amethyst we bought in Kununurra – a bit late!

The walk was good exercise.

In the afternoon, there was a lot of smoke in the sky. We thought there must be much bush burning of the inland country nearby.

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Smoke over Roebuck Bay

Tea was roast lamb and veggies.

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2000 Travels August 22


A beautiful day again.

John worked on tax matters in the morning, and went off to bowls in the afternoon. He walked and carried his bowls bag. He did not have a good playing partner, and they lost badly, so he did not enjoy the day.

I rode to the shops. Bought a kilo of silver cobbler that was on special at Coles, and froze that, in batches. Read the paper. Sewed.

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Saw this acacia growing in various places around town

Tea was scotch fillet and mushrooms again – equally yummy.

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2000 Travels August 21


It was another lovely hot day.

John was up early to drive Truck – very slowly and carefully – to Shinju Motors.

I cycled to the shops at the newish Boulevard Centre and had a look around.

Shinju Motors phoned, later in the morning. Both back wheel bearings and axles need replacing. We don’t do things by halves! But the shocking news was when they said that the problem was caused because the back wheel bearings have NEVER been greased! It is not on the service schedule, it seems, because they are supposed to be “whole of life” units”! The mechanic told John this, but also said that there is an “extreme conditions” addendum to the service schedule, and greasing the bearings is on that. Obviously, the various service centres we have used have only followed the standard schedule. It is simply not something one thinks to ask be done – seems so obvious.

I suspect, also, that the time the hot wheels spent standing in cold water, when we were bogged on the Kalumburu road, may have played a role. I had read somewhere that, after such an event, which can suck in water, re-greasing is needed. I wondered if we had gotten this done in Kununurra, whether we would have been ok?

John will complain to Landrover Australia about this issue. It is going to cost us about $1600. However, it may be ready as early as Wednesday.

John has insisted that they keep Truck locked inside the workshop at night.

John began work on this year’s tax stuff.

I cycled to the Post Office and collected our mail. I got some nice letters from friends.

The cruise ship left, late in the day. So it basically had a two day stop here. Guess they did the Cable Beach sunset thing last night.

From the caravan park beach front, we can see the wharf area in the distance.

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Roebuck Bay as seen from in front of the caravan park

Tea was curried beans and rice.

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2000 Travels August 20


We did little in the morning except read some of the paper from yesterday. I did make a batch of tomato, bacon and basil soup.

A big cruise ship docked at the port today. There were special markets being put on for it.

After lunch, we went to bowls. Some logistical issues presented themselves, which John solved by using my bike with the pannier rack on the back, to ferry our heavy bowls bags to the club – four blocks away. Then he came back and we both walked there.

We played pairs. This was my first game since Cloncurry – months ago. I played alright in the first game, which we won, but lost concentration in the second, which we lost. The conditions of the grass changed too, as it got darker and damper. I had problems throwing the jack, as usual, and John got cross with me. I just kept trying!

During the afternoon, there was a loud road accident crunch nearby, then lots of sirens and a pall of black smoke, as one vehicle burned. Talk was that one of the drivers – an aboriginal – drove straight through a Stop sign.

The man from the next caravan was also playing, and he gave us a ride back to the park. This was much appreciated, as it was well and truly dark by then, and the bowls bags were heavy.

Tea was soup, then sweet corn cooked in foil in the electric frypan. All very nice.

Over the weekend, at various times, we phoned the offspring and some of John’s siblings, to update them about what was going on with us. I couldn’t get through to V though, and left a message.

John’s cousin M phoned us.

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2000 Travels August 19


It was a beautiful day. Seems that at the moment it is getting to the high 20’s during the day, but cools right down at night. Very pleasant weather.

This was the last weekend of the annual Shinju Matsuri Festival, so quite a bit was happening. This event that spreads over more than a week, is a celebration of Broome – its early days as a pearling port in the late 1800’s – and the multi cultural mix that has resulted from those times.

We rode the bikes down town to the weekly Courthouse Markets, held in the gardens of that building. The stalls had a lot of hippie-type stuff – bead work, pottery and so on. There were some Asian food stalls – to be expected with the Japanese, Indonesian, Chinese influences of the past, here.

We had a good browse about. I bought some corn, tomatoes and bananas and a frog magnet for a fridge. We bought some Indonesian food for lunch – it was alright. It was really pleasant, sitting on a bench, in the shade of a huge tree, eating and watching the passing people.

John wanted to see the Art Show and prize winners, associated with the festival, so we rode around, looking for that, eventually finding it at Matso’s Broome Brewery Cafe.

En route, we found a second-hand book shop. John wanted me to buy a novel – he knows how I have been missing reading of late. I got a cheap one that he could read too. He bought an atlas – to help him with the Railroad Tycoon computer game he plays!

The art show work was only average, I thought. Mostly not to my taste.

We rode back to Coles for potatoes and meat.

Much of the day was gone by the time we got back to the van.

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Our site at Roebuck Bay Caravan Park

It was good fun, zipping about Broome on the bikes.

I was disappointed to see the numbers of derelict and semi-derelict aborigines in the park at the oval/sports area, drinking there, despite the displayed signs about no alcohol being allowed. I didn’t remember this as an issue, last time, but guess the rain then had driven them all indoors.

It was interesting and unusual that this area, which was right on the main tourist strip, had two sets of public toilets, almost adjacent. One set were open public ones, and the other were ones where the doors were coin operated.

For the remainder of the afternoon, John watched Carlton win the football game.

Tea was scotch fillet steak, mushrooms, potato. The steak was the nicest I’d ever had – so tender.

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2000 Travels August 18


The tow truck driver – B – was not joking about the early morning! He appeared at our site at 6.15am. We had gotten up early, with the alarm, so were dressed, but had not had breakfast.

Truck was very efficiently loaded onto the tilt tray truck, to the great curiosity and speculation of the campers around us. B had to transfer our hitch receiver onto his tow truck so he could hitch the van up. We were certainly the morning entertainment at the park.

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Almost ready to leave Fitzroy Crossing

And thus we left Fitzroy Crossing in style – with John and I squished into the tow truck.

It was fairly monotonous country between Fitzroy Crossing and Broome, with the only real point of interest being the Willare Bridge, where Highway 1 crosses the mighty Fitzroy River, not far from its mouth, where it enters King Sound.

B proved to be an interesting and articulate man – and a great driver – so the time passed quickly enough. He told us that this was a good job for him because it was all on sealed roads. It was even relatively short, compared to some! He said that he does regular retrievals from along the Gibb River Road, the Kalumburu one and even the Mitchell Plateau track.

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Having a quick break beside Highway 1

We reached Broome at midday. There is something about this town that seems to doom us! Last visit here, in ’93, we arrived in teeming unseasonal rain, in May, that had virtually shut down the whole region. It was far too wet to put up our tent and we took refuge in the only available on site van in the first caravan park we found. It was available because its roof leaked in several places – they did supply us with some buckets too! Even so, it was not cheap. John got his first ever speeding ticket there. We did virtually no sightseeing, were distinctly unimpressed with the place, and after three days of rain, moved on to Derby to wait there for the unsealed roads to open.

This time, we did not even get here under our own steam!

B drove us to Roebuck Bay Caravan Park, where a site had been arranged for us. He offloaded the van there and then drove Truck and us to Shinju Motors, the Landrover dealer. Truck was offloaded there. However, after discussion with the manager, it was decided that we would keep Truck at the caravan park, over the weekend, The fenced yard that Truck would be in had been broken into and some vehicles robbed the weekend before. As we had a lot of good gear in Truck, decided to play safe, look after it ourselves, and take some things out of it before it comes back here.


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Offloading Truck at Broome – then onloading it again…..

So the obliging B hoisted Truck back up on his truck and took us back to the caravan park. He put Truck off again, outside the gate, which his rules apparently called for, so we crawled Truck in, to our site, and set up.

We booked a week and paid $138 for it. We were really surprised at the lovely site we had been given, facing the sea, with only one row of vans between us and Roebuck Bay, and plenty of glimpses of the sea between the facing vans.

The bay was a beautiful aqua blue colour. There were some boats out on it, and mudflats exposed by the low tide. It was really lovely. I liked Broome better already!

Other campers seemed very nice, too. One stopped his car by the gate, as we were getting Truck off the tow truck, to see if we wanted him to tow us inside. Very good of him.

Apparently, such a great site was available because the couple who usually stay on it for several months each winter, had to depart a few weeks earlier than planned. They only left this morning! At least, we were lucky with that.

We felt quite relaxed, as we set the van up. At least we got here, and this would be a much better place than Fitzroy Crossing to while away time waiting for repairs.

After a late lunch, John suggested we go for a walk.

We walked to a small complex of shops, a couple of blocks away. I was able to buy a paper, but the shops were mostly shut. John said we should walk on and find other shops. We did not have a map of Broome at this stage! John was only wearing rubber thongs and by the time we reached the start of the commercial end of town, his feet were sore.

I bought some fish – snapper – for $25 a kilo, for tea, at a fish shop. It would have been cheaper at Coles, but this was not an occasion to walk further, to shop around!

It was nearly dark by the time we walked back to the van. I enjoyed the exercise, even if John didn’t!

Tea was fries and the fish. It was yummy.

We watched the moon rise. The best of the “staircase” effect has passed, but we got an idea of what it would be like. The “staircase to the moon” happens monthly, through the dry season (no clouds), when the full moon reflects on the mud flats at really low tides.

I saw a little owl sitting on a nearby post.

Unfortunately, the TV signal is not great, here.

It had been a tiring couple of days. We are not used to pressure any more.

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