This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2007 Travels August 29


I had extracted a promise from John that, after his focus on bowls and fishing of the past few days, today would be a dedicated “tourist” day for us.

M had left early, to go on a seaplane flight north, over the Dampier Peninsula, and then on a boat trip to the Horizontal Falls. These were at Talbot Bay, well to the north of Derby. The unique “falls” are caused by the really high and low tides of the area causing a bank up and rush of water through narrow openings to larger bays, creating a waterfall effect. She had booked with one of the companies offering transport to moored boat bases, from which the intrepid could travel by small boat close to, and when conditions were right, through, the Falls.

Warnings and prohibitions abounded around Broome!

We went to the Shell House which, as the name indicated, was both a museum of a massive collection of different shells, and a source to buy same. John wanted to investigate buying some pearl shell, to use as inlay in his woodwork. He was able to buy some shells. I bought a half shell that held three pearl “lumps”, like little pearls, in a semi circle near the rim. It was an illustration of how pearls formed and appealed to me as a “different” ornament to go on our mantle shelf at home.

John bought a little conch like shell necklace for his younger daughter. Hard to describe, but a little shell, edged with some gold (plating?) in parts, hung on a fine chain. Delicate and very pretty. I bought one too – for me!

Then, at China Town, I exchanged some books in the very good second hand book shop there.

At a nearby tourist shop, I bought myself a polo shirt with a Broome-related logo on the pocket. Had to work hard to resist buying a couple of gorgeous sarongs.

Next stop was the Windram Art Gallery. We had seen copies of the work of this Broome based artist elsewhere, and wanted to look at the range that was in her own dedicated gallery. I loved the style of her works – seemed to me to be evocative of the many varied faces of the Kimberley and area around Broome itself. Obviously, boabs featured prominently in some of the works.

An unexpected “find” at the Windram Gallery was the decorative pool at the front, which inspired me to think about redesigning our fishpond at home. This one was a large rectangle, fairly shallow, with decorative stones lining its base. There were very large goldfish cruising lazily about, with a few feature plants and larger rocks. Lights lit it at night. It was beautiful landscaping and I’d loved to have been able to import it to home, just as it was!

At this point, John got sick of browsing shops – never his favourite pastime, unless it was for something he wanted! He said his back hurt, so we retreated back to the van for lunch.

In the afternoon, drove around the Gantheaume Point to explore the natural features around there – as opposed to the “cultural” features of this morning shops!

The modern light that replaced the original light house at the Point

We spent more than an hour, scrambling around the unusual rock formations, exploring and taking photos.

There were such strong contrasts at the Point, between the rust red rocks and the opaque aqua coloured sea.

Special features out there were the fossilized dinosaur footprints and Anastasia’s Pool – a tidal bath carved out of the rock by a resident of the light house keeper’s cottage, in the 1920’s. Supposedly, this was a place for his arthritic wife to exercise.

Anastasia’s Pool
Dinosaur footprints

From the Point, we could look out across to the long expanse of Cable Beach.

Cable Beach – and plane departing from the Broome airport

John wanted to visit the Broome wharf. On our 1993 first visit to Broome, a walk on this jetty had been one of the few activities we were able to undertake. Most of the several days were spent sheltering in an on-site caravan from extremely heavy unseasonal rain. We saw more of the green tree frogs that lived in the surrounds of the van, than we did of the sights of Broome!

Fish dinner……

We found that security, in this post 9/11 age, meant that we could no longer wander out along the Broome wharf. But there was a narrow walkway out alongside part of it that was open to the public, so we did that. Not the same and not as interesting or leisurely, though.

Not the same appeal as walking on a normal wharf…..

We did find a fresh fish and prawn sales outlet out there, and bought some prawns to have for tea.

M arrived back late in the afternoon from her adventure. I had never before seen her so excited  and ‘high” on an experience. She absolutely loved it. The plane flight north had given her excellent views over the Dampier Peninsula. The seaplane had landed by a barge/pontoon, where they transferred to boats for the trips back and forth through the Horizontal Falls, which she said had been exhilarating. It was not a cheap trip, costing several hundred dollars, but had been worth every cent she said.

We had decided not to do that trip, because of the cost for two people. I had said to John that I wouldn’t mind (too much) if he wanted to go with M, but he had balked at the expense. Maybe one day……

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2007 Travels August 26


It was very damp in the mornings, here. Sea mist or dew? There was much condensation under the awning roof, which dripped copiously on the table and anyone trying to use same, for several hours in the mornings.

John had organized that we three would, in the morning, play Scroungers bowls at the Broome Bowls Club. It was pleasant enough. They started early, to avoid the heat, so there was still plenty of the day left, after.

After that, we went to the markets in China Town. Didn’t think much of these. Yesterday’s Courthouse Markets were far superior.

I had a quick browse in a beading shop in China Town. They had some lovely materials – very tempting, but I resisted.

China Town – John being bored while I browse shops….

We had a Subway lunch at the Paspaley shopping centre – named for the family that is synonymous with the pearling industry in northern Australia.

We found a brilliant art gallery in that area.  It carried a lot of works from local indigenous artists, as well as the general run of items geared to tourist interest. I bought a wonderful painting by Melissa Waina, from Kalumburu. It was black Bradshaw type figures on a red brown background. Very effective and “different”. Her father, Kevin Waina, was also a talented artist.

M bought one of Melissa’s works too. A bit smaller than ours – and cheaper too! She bought a soft toy blue heeler dog, for a friend. M already travelled with a similar kelpie toy sitting on her passenger seat.

I went for an afternoon walk on Cable Beach.

There were bad bush fires around Broome – lots of smoke obscuring the sunsets. Apparently the worst of these was a control burn that got away! Red faces somewhere!

We had tea from Zanders take away at Cable Beach. We walked there from the caravan park. It was quite a wait for our order, but M and John’s fish and chips were excellent, as was my calamari and chips.

It was lovely to sit on the foreshore, eating tea and watching the evening light on the sea.

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2007 Travels August 25


I went for an early morning walk on Cable Beach. It might be legendary and all that, but it is really just another beach. We have seen better. It does have vivid sunsets, and it does have camel rides, but…..

Cable Beach

Whilst walking I got chatting with another walker, a lady from Melbourne who was staying at the Resort for a long weekend. Nice to have the life of some people……

At least, out here, there did not seem to be the groups of alcohol affected, yelling, fighting indigines that were so evident in the town areas, especially at night. From our past experiences here, early morning walking in town would involve picking one’s way through much broken glass and other rubbish, including that originating in the human body!

We went to the Courthouse Markets – along with a lot of other people. The atmosphere there was quite festive and very tropical. The stalls are set up in the gardens surrounding the old Broome Court House, as the name suggests, under lots of beautiful old shady trees.

Some of the stalls here were of a much higher quality than is often found at weekend markets. There were some very good jewellery stalls with unusual, local-related items. I bought pearly shell pendants for the three daughters, and unusual dichroic glass pendants for daughter’s partner, and myself. These were done in shades of vivid blue and red-browns, so evocative of the colours of Broome.

Bought a lovely smelling bath soaps pack for the errant daughter in law – in case a Xmas gift for her would be needed.

Another stall had items based on satellite photographs of Kimberley places and a few others of interest. (This was before the era of Google Earth, Zoom etc). I was really taken with a satellite image of the Kimberley, mounted on a lightweight board. It cost $90. but I thought it would be a real talking point at home, and illustrative of the area we had travelled this year. The detail was great. That whole northern Kimberley actually looked much more rugged on the satellite photo than it did, travelling it on the ground!

The same stall had a magnet with a sat photo of Antarctica. It looked like a slightly convoluted pearly shell – most unusual, so I had to have that too.

We bought lunch at the markets where there was a good range of “ethnic” food choices.

Also bought fresh vegetable and some fruit there – excellent quality.

We drove to the town shops, because it was where I could buy the Weekend Australian. Got sidetracked, first, by a stall that was selling floor rugs and bought a small one for the van, to go in front of the bed to help prevent the sand and grit from these ungrassed sites, that was finding its way into the bed.

Roebuck Bay at low tide

Refuelled Truck – $1.44cpl.

Spent the rest of the afternoon at camp, reading the paper.

Our not-so-spacious site at Broome
Cable Beach again

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2007 Travels August 24


Managed a reasonably early start, having been able to stay hitched up.

Refuelled – $1.44cpl.

Fitzroy River from bridge at Fitzroy Crossing. Caravan Park on right

Checked out the free camp area at Ellendale as we passed, but of course M was long gone – although we did wonder if her plans had worked out as intended, and she had even been there. Won’t know till we get to Broome…..

Today’s drive was less interesting than that of yesterday – no dramatic scenery of distant and near ranges.

The only points to note, amid the dry and dusty grass and scrubland, were the crossings of the impressive Fitzroy River – at Fitzroy Crossing and again at Willare Bridge, closer to Broome.

Fitzroy River from Willare Bridge

At this time of year, the river was a small flow in the huge river bed. It was hard to believe how high and raging it could become in flood times. In 1993, I’d bought a postcard of the caravan park where we’d stayed last night – with only the elevated amenity block showing amid the floodwaters from the river.

The Willare Bridge was one of the long, single lane bridges that feature in this part of WA. Again, it was hard to credit that, at times, Highway 1 could be closed here by the river in flood.

Willare Bridge (Google)

We reached the Palm Grove Caravan Park, at Cable Beach, Broome, about midday.

M was already there, of course. From her overnight stop at Ellendale, she’d had a good head start on us. She had found Old Halls Creek and its surrounding area, interesting, and worth the visit. But she had driven out to explore some of the area and at Caroline Pool had felt quite intimidated by a group of locals who told her white fellas weren’t welcome there. She didn’t stay round to argue the point.

The caravan park sites were on the small side, gravelled, but adequate. The amenities were reasonably modern, and clean. It was not the most upmarket park we’d stayed in, by any means, and really didn’t justify the $255 we paid for the mandated week’s stay. But, hey, that’s Broome.

M’s site was across the access road from ours, so at least that was convenient.

We heard that two of the Cable Beach caravan parks, including this one, had been sold, to be turned into resort units. That would put the squeeze on caravanners to Broome, even more. It was really hard to find a vacancy in a caravan park here, in the winter months. The overflow area used at this time of the year, at a gun club, was even hard to get into. It is one of those areas that poses real dilemmas for accommodation providers: in the winter months, a few more caravan parks could be easily filled, but for the rest of the year there would be insufficient patronage to be viable.

We set up, then went to the Information Centre in town, to see what we could suss out.

When I say, in town, it is because Cable Beach and the main Broome town were separated by a few kms  of scrub and industrial land. The original town of Broome, and the modern one that has grown up around it, is located on a peninsula that juts into Roebuck Bay. The much more recent development of Cable Beach is located on the other side of this peninsula, facing out into the Indian Ocean.

Broome and Cable Beach (Google)

We drove around the town, looking at the changes since we were last here in 2000. There had been a lot of development and building since then. Broome seemed to be really booming – we thought this might be due to the offshore oil and gas developments. Even Cable Beach seemed to be growing rapidly – and not only tourist resort development, but housing as well.

For our Friday fish and chip dinner, we walked from the caravan park, a few hundred metres, to a van parked overlooking Cable Beach, which did a roaring trade in take away food. The prices were reasonable, the food excellent. It was very pleasant, sitting looking out over the ocean, eating our dinner. Great to be by the sea again!

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2007 Travels August 3


There was no power on at all today. I was glad that we hadn’t paid the extra $5 a day for that almost non-existent service. Our Chescold fridge ran well on gas, anyway, and M had been taking the Troopy for a drive often enough to charge up her batteries that run her Engel fridge.

M and John went off in the Troopy to drive to the  ruins of the old Mission at Pago. I had seen these before, and the Troopy only took two anyway. John  thought it was a good idea for M to have someone with her in these parts.

They reported back that the track was very bad now, and the ruins hard to find.

Pago Mission remains
Once was bread oven
The well at Pago

While they were away, I talked with Les’ wife for a while. She was on her own at the old shed, the various family members having left over the last couple of days. She said that the little female pup that I so liked was going to one of the white guests currently here – so I hoped that it would have a good life, after all.

Had a session in the phone box – not particularly pleasant in the heat! Now our movements were clearer, I could try to firm up some places to stay. Phoned our caravan park in Kununurra and booked us back on site there, for three nights from 18th.

The family’s house; the phone box. The heap of rocks marks where the tank and stand was, pre-cyclone.

Knowing that accommodation could be hard to get in Broome, at this time of year, thought I should sound out what might be available at Cable Beach – our preferred place to stay, simply because we had not stayed out there on previous trips.

The first park I phoned informed me, quite abruptly, that they were full, and that I should phone closer to the time to see if there was a cancellation. I did not like the tone or attitude – I was only asking on the offchance!

The next park I called said they could take us for a week, from 24th. They only took bookings for week long blocks of time, and only from Friday to Friday! Take it or leave it. We did not really want a full week in Broome, but seemed like there wasn’t much choice about that. I guess it made their reservation system easier to work…….

I took the offered week, from 24th. Maybe we could have a few days in Derby, before going there?

The Bushtracker people came in with another large haul of red emperor for their freezers. The exploitation of the fishing here was really annoying and saddening me. I was really cross that white southerners assumed it was their right to behave like this, and presume on the inherent reticence of the aboriginals, in charge of the place to challenge their blatant over-fishing.

Late in the afternoon, Les wanted John to drive him and Ruth into Kalumburu. His car had gone with some of the family to Broome, a couple of days ago. He clearly expected John to agree to this. John said no. I think Les was quite miffed. Eventually they went off with someone else.

The shed – still used as a residence, some of the time

So, overnight, there was no one here who wasn’t a guest. No one in charge…. No power. Nothing. The dogs barked and prowled a lot through the night.

We talked about what could come after Broome. John had  originally thought that we should go home via the desert: via Telfer, Kunawarritji and the Gary Junction Track to Alice Springs. That route had been in our sights for a while now, and was one we had not previously tackled. Now, he had changed his mind, saying we would stick to the coast, then go across via Kalgoorlie. Part of me was a bit disappointed – new territory always attracts – but part of me was relieved that I wouldn’t have to hassle about, trying to get a heap of permits to travel through the aboriginal lands of two states.

At night, I trekked back up to the phone box, and by torchlight – no illumination in the phone box – phoned son and dictated a list of fruit and vegies for him to buy in Kununurra on his way through to us.

I was so sick of the heat and grubbiness here. Sometimes it is a mistake to return to a place. We had a great time here, before, but it was not the same place now….

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2000 Travels August 30


There was a heavy dew this morning. I could see the fog over the bay, to the south.

Today was another tourist day.

First, we drove around to the wharf area. The jetty was closed because there was a big ship in, so that put paid to our idea of a stroll along its length.

Drove around the red pindan dirt Kavite Road, following the shoreline around to Gantheume Point. We stopped there and looked at the brilliant turquoise sea and the contrasting red rocks. Saw some brilliantly coloured red-backed wrens.

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Contrasting colours at Gantheume Point

Continued driving, on around to Cable Beach again. The tide was right in, so there was not much beach! But we walked around there, for a little while, looking at what there was of the beach, and at the Cable Beach Resort, behind the beach – from the outside of it, though.

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High tide at Cable Beach – no 4WD’s on the beach now!

Then we visited the Willie Creek Pearl Farm Gallery, at Cable Beach. It had, to my taste, the best range and styles of pearl jewellery I’d seen in Broome. I bought a freshwater pearl necklace, earrings, and a bracelet made of pearl and ironstone. The total cost was $94, so that was affordable, unlike “proper” sea water pearls! I really liked the colour mix of my pearls – pale pinks and greys and creams. I put an entry in a draw for $500 worth of pearl items – it would be nice!

The gallery had an unusual outside  water wall, featuring water running down into a pool, and decorative pools with big carp in.

We went back to the van for lunch.

After that, we drove out to the Broome Bird Observatory, further around Roebuck Bay. We had to drive a little way out of town, then take an unsealed road to the south for a way; it then followed the coast to the Observatory. The road was rather rough, in parts.

The Observatory exists because of the tidal mudflats around Roebuck Bay. These attract migratory shorebirds that breed to the north, in Asia, but there are birds there the whole year round. It is a study and scientific facility.

There was a little campground out there and we wanted to check that out, for future reference, as well as look around. The camp area was basic, but pleasant enough.

We went down to the beach to look for birds, but the tide was right out – a long way away – so, of course, most of the birds were out there too. There were lots of crabs on the flats – big ones – and mud skippers and the like. We resolved to try to come back when the tide was in, and the birds with it. Gave a $5 donation to the place.

08-30-2000 broome bird observatory

Tide out at the Broome Bird Observatory

After a brief stop at the shops in town, that was it for the day.

A tooth on my part dental plate was loose – one of the only two teeth on it! Phoned the only dentist in Broome and have to take it in at 8am tomorrow morning.

Tea was dory and fries – nice.

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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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08-27-2000 sunset cable beach with sails.jpg

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.