Our next destination is Broome which is often known as the southern gateway to the magnificent wilderness region of The Kimberley. It is a tropical seaside town with two distinct seasons, 'the wet' or 'green season' and the 'dry' season. Unfortunately for us April is classified as the start of the 'dry season' and we were arriving at the end of March and according to the guide book average rainfall in Broome in March is 95.6mm with average temperatures of 34.0C max and 25.4C min.
Broome was originally founded as a pearling port over a hundred years ago with the discovery of the 'Pinctada maxima', the largest pearl shell in the world, in the waters off Roebuck Bay. In the first decade of the twentieth centaury, Broome produced 80% of the worlds Mother of Pearl shell. The lugger fleet peaked in 1913 with 403 registered vessels.
Whilst pearling was prosperous for the pearling masters, it was often fatal for the many divers who were subject to the 'bends', drowning, shark attacks and cyclones. This is evident in the Japanese Cemetery, the final resting place for over 900 pearl divers.
Today the Willie Creek Perl Farm, located just north of Broome allows visitors to see the modern day industry of pearl cultivation and perhaps more importantly for the female readers, a chance to buy some stunning pearl jewellery in their shops.
The van was now requiring another oil change so one of the first tasks we needed to do was to find a garage and arrange a service. One of the guide books we had picked up had an advert for a garage so all we had to do was find it. We actually found it on the way in and after a quick visit we had a service booked for the following morning. The manager told us a good place to stay was at Cable Beach so we went looking for it. Having missed the turn we decided to carry on to Gantheaume Point which meant travelling through a detour for the road works. What a detour we found, since the rain the mud had turned into a quagmire with the van sliding all over the place. We thought we were going to get stuck and don't know what we would have done if we met anything coming the other way. Having got through this we then found we still had to go down an unsealed road which did not look very good. So we decided to turn around and retrace our steps through the road works (there was no other choice) and find a caravan site.
Cable Beach Caravan Park is just a short distance from Cable Beach which is named as one of the top five beaches in the world, and stretches for 22 miles. It is here where the telephone cable linking Australia with Indonesia came ashore; this 1,031 mile cable provided the third link to Europe in 1889 when it was installed.
Broome has King Tides which produce high tidal ranges, and today was the highest one of the year at 10 meters over 6 hours and peaked at 1.51pm. We went for a walk along the beach at 3 pm and the tide was just going out, we later watched many 4 wheel vehicles negotiating the rocks on the beach to take a drive up the sand. It is obviously a popular past time as it was like a traffic jam trying to get on and off the beach. We continued our viewing from the cocktail bar of the Cable Beach Club where you get the best sunsets, as we returned to the camp site we met the Cable Beach camel trains arriving to start work offering camel safaris. Watching the news on TV this evening there were pictures of Broome with some flooding close to the town and the airport as a result of the high tide.
That night we had quite a heavy rainfall, at least it was while we were in bed. Up early Friday morning and down to the garage for our service. The staff took us into town and we treated our selves to breakfast in a local café, (that gave us a half hour lie in bed) then we went for a walk around the town. We had only just left the shopping precinct when we bumped into our neighbours from the camp site at Port Smith, we can go into Dundee and meet know one we know. We had been told to go and look at Streeter's Jetty, the original Broome jetty used by the pearl luggers, early in the morning and then return at high tide at 2pm to see the difference. The jetty is quite small and goes out into the mangrove mud flats, on our first visit all that was there were hundreds of small red crabs running around but no water. We continued our tour of the town and came across Sun Pictures; the world's oldest operating open-air picture gardens. This morning it was open for people to have a look around but in the evening it becomes a cinema. We had been told that you need to take a pillow as the deck chairs can become uncomfortable, and you can also take in your fish suppers. Tonight they were showing Helen Mirren in The Queen so we decided to return to see it, before we left we tried out a few seats to select where it was best to sit.
Once our van was ready we collected it and returned back into town to look at Streeter's Jetty to discover the water just coming over the top. It did not take very long for it to disappear completely and the water began to edge up towards us. A tourist from Tasmania delighted the crowd by giving his impression of walking on water as he got his feet wet walking on the jetty. We had a quick drive up to look at Town Beach and an even longer one finding our way back through the housing estate to the campsite.
This evening saw us collecting locally caught fish with chips and heading to the cinema. Waiting for the doors to open we met Kevin and Anne, on holiday from Ireland, who wanted to know what we had in our big bag. When we explained it was our pillows they were quite relieved as they thought we were bringing in our wet weather gear for sitting outside. We got our seats, ate our fish and chips and sat back to watch the film. It was a very unique experience. The evening was warm and balmy, behind the screen was a brilliant lightening show which lasted the length of the film, we were under the flight path for Broome International Airport and three planes came into land and a number of small lizards were crawling about on the screen, oh yes, the film was good as well.
On leaving the cinema the heavens opened and we got a very heavy downpour so it was a quick run to the van and home for the night.
In the morning we woke to more rain but it soon went off so we set off to visit the Saturday Courthouse markets. There were some local produce stalls but most were craft stalls selling jewellery, paintings and clothes. There were also food stalls selling a variety of Brazilian, Thai, Malaysian food and fresh wood oven cooked pizza. Wandering around the market we met up with Kevin and Anne, from last night. We continued on to the internet café and then a weekly shopping trip to Coles Supermarket. We decided to drive up to look at the pearling luggers and then on to Broome's micro brewery, as we were arriving Kevin and Anne were leaving, Broome is a small town. Matso's Broome Brewery produce a range of beers that aim to deliver flavour, one of which was an alcoholic ginger beer, we had a try some of that which was very refreshing, before getting down to the serious stuff. The one I tried was called 'Top of the Toad' and for every glass sold a 10 cent donation is made to the foundation working to get rid of the cane toads which have a range of environmental, social and economic impacts. We will soon be moving in to the affected areas where we will be required to check our van to ensure they are not travelling with us. A quick trip to End Point followed to look at the beach and then home again.
Another heavy rainfall again this evening but even worse, we switched on the news to hear that another tropical cyclone is forming off the coast of north Western Australia and Broome was mentioned: and more would be known on Monday, on no not again.
Tonight is the end of daylight saving for many of the states in Australia including Western Australia, so we had to put the clocks back 1 hour. This is the first year Western Australia has had daylight saving and in the three months we have been touring in the state we have only met one person who likes it. The state is undertaking a 3 year trial of day light saving but there are many petitions being handed into the state legislature to ask for it to be abandoned. It seems strange to us who live with day light saving every year and have it as an accepted part of life even looking forward to the longer evenings of daylight.
Sunday we undertook a trip up the Dampier Peninsula but Jeff will tell you about that one.
Monday morning dawned and it was blue sky every where; we have been living with clouded skies for a few days recently. So it looked a good day to get some washing done, it was just on the line when we had a tropical downpour which lasted over 2 hours. I'm not sure how much it would dry outside in this very humid weather so looks like the driers will be highly sought after. Listening to the news today it appears Tropical Cyclone Kara is moving down the coast towards Port Headland, missing Broome, and should be downgraded to a category one when it crosses the coast, though cyclones are unpredictable.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, we will be moving on to Derby.