There is a period, particularly in Darwin, called the “build-up” – the humidity starts to increase in October until it becomes almost unbearable. Then the rains start, and can last a couple of months, when the region becomes saturated and many of the roads are under water. There is no doubt we are here at the right time – the temperature in Perth, our next major stop some 2,300 km to the south (yes, really) is 15 degrees! We’ve spent almost all our waking moments in shorts and sandals up until now.
Tuesday, 11th September – Broome
At last, a proper lie-in. Then an eye-wateringly priced breakfast and a trip into the town of Broome via the hotel coach service.
We were dropped off in the Chinatown area of the town. Not sure why it’s called Chinatown – not much evidence of Chinese people here, but Japanese pearl divers have had quite a part to play in Broome’s history and economy.
First impressions were of an Australian version of the Wild West, to be frank. Very hot, dusty and full of small, rather seedy looking shops. Not at all impressive. We wended our way to the tourist office, where we picked up some interesting leaflets. As a result, we decided to visit Broome Museum by walking to it. Bit of a mistake, really – it was very hot and rather humid, and the distance was somewhat greater than we were expecting along some very humdrum roads. However, the museum itself, when we finally got there, was genuinely interesting. Quite a lot of detail about Broome’s pearl fishing history – this brought a lot of money into the town in the late 19th and early 20th century until plastics were invented. It was a brutal business – this was the era of divers of different ethnicities having to go down for long periods, so suffered the bends and other potentially fatal afflictions. A dreadful tale of human exploitation and outright cruelty. Now, of course, the industry is based on cultured pearls, far less damaging to humans and the environment.
There was a lot also about the Second World War period in this area. The Japanese bombed it to smithereens, together with shipping and aircraft. Again, some pretty brutal stuff – really quite harrowing, but very well presented. Good, if overlong, videos of the pearl oysters, the Japanese bombings and the stories of some of the telephonists who worked the exchange there from the late 60s up until the time it closed in 1982.
We then went for a much-needed beer at the Broome Brewery, known as Matsos. We both tried a mango beer – actually a nice flavour, but rather sticky. Caught the bus back to the resort, having learned our lesson re walking in Broome. My opinion of the place improved somewhat after that.
Many of our fellow travellers on the ship were staying at various locations in Broome and we kept on bumping into them, both in the street, in the pub and on the bus. It’s quite a small place……
I haven’t commented much about the weather. It has actually been fabulous, generally, if a bit humid now and again. The temperature in these parts rarely drops below 25 degrees at this time of year, and reaches the mid-30s during the day. We haven’t had a drop of rain since we left Darwin and barely seen a cloud in the sky. We keep hearing stories about how this area changes during the wet season, and how it gets hit by cyclones, fire and brimstone (I made up those last two), but absolutely no sign of any of this.