Thursday, 6th September

Jodie arrives. She is our new driver/guide/cook and a real bundle of energy. To be honest our mood had been lagging a bit over our prolonged stay in Broome with its associated ups and downs and we were aware that the next section was likely to be more challenging than the first so I guess we were a little anxious. Jodie’s arrival changed all that!

She took us on a brief tour of the town (a little bit odd given that we have been here 3 days but it proved to be a delight!). Other personnel issues to note is that 6 people left our troop – Alison (English), Kevin and Fleur (Dutch), Sarah (Japanese) Ella (English) and Jess (German). However we gained 4, including a German astronomer who has just left his job to travel and write a book on the universe! So handy to have an astronomer on board when we have such wonderful starry skies!

From Jodie, who proved to be not only interested but knowledgeable about Australia’s indigenous people, we learnt that the area was originally inhabited by the Yawuru people. They are believed to go back 30,000 years. Then came the Dutch in the 1600’s and later the French. Then the English. The town developed initially was a place called Derby, further along the coast, based on the the pearl industry. At first harvesting pearls was achieved by deep diving. The Japanese were found to be best at this. However the pearl beds were nearer to the coast at Broome in Roebuck Bay which we went to see

and therefore, rather than commute, the town of Broome was established in 1883 and marks the westerly edge of the Kimberley. It is now a multicultural society, originally based on the different races of the first pearl fishermen. I say ‘fishermen’ but there was a view that the best pearl divers were pregnant women at one stage. This theory was totally flawed but a number of women and unborn babies perished before it was accepted as incorrect. Overall the Japanese continued to be the best divers, but there was a high mortality rate among them and there is a graveyard dedicated solely to these early Japanese fishermen. We had, in fact, unwittingly come across this on our protracted perambulation of the day before.

A family called Brown were the first English people to get involved in the industry in the mid 1900’s. A son of the family was sent by his father to work with the pearl divers to learn their trade. 2 years later the family firm was established and became the first company not to use Japanese divers. Broome claims to have the largest pearl producing oysters in the world. In the early days the aborigines traded them.

From these beginnings the town as it is now was born. To clarify, the three parts are in fact Town Beach, Cable Beach and China Town, not exactly the names I had been initially led to believe. Apologies for the previous misinformation!

Back on the truck, we drove to the lighthouse, so elusive the day before! 135 million years before the aboriginals, dinosaurs inhabited the the are as it was a key migration path for them along the coast. There is evidence of the footprints of three and five toed dinosaurs visible at low tide (as the tide did not permit, we saw a cast of their prints as we wandered down to the lighthouse).

Another highlight of this excursion was seeing the ospreys nesting in the metal work of the lighthouse, that I had been so dismissive of when we saw it from the seaward side two days previously.

Three little heads peeked over the top of the nest and screeching for food could be heard as the parent birds approached.

We had our lunch near the lighthouse and were to see our first example of what a difference a more organised tour guide can make. Jodie had a very different style, straight speaking, with highly colourful badinage, her expectations were clearly set out with defined guidelines as to how things would work. We were in a different league!

As part of our Broome tour we visited a pearl shop and rather wonderfully, I picked an imperfect pearl to add to my Birthday Booty of the trip, with the approval of and assisted by a hefty donation of the lovely Keith. It is beautiful and will be set for me and despatched to Wightman Towers to await our arrival in Sydney! A treasured reminder of the trip.

Next stop was a bit of a thirst quenching visit to Matso’s.

Returning to the Kimberley Hostel, we went via the bottle shop to obtained renewed beer supplies (we we were told that the road was too bumpy for bottles, cans only but bottles of wine were acceptable!?!). I don’t cease to be amazed at the enthusiasm with which these bottle shop visits are approached!!

We were re installed in our double room and spent the rest of the day preparing for the next section of the journey which, by all accounts will be more rufty-tufty than the first!! Water shoes had to be purchased and additional cosy wear for cold nights in the desert. We are to be out of touch of civilisation, by all accounts, for some time. Having said this there has been precious little communication up until now and nowhere near enough umpires to launch my blog missives.

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