Had you been sailing the West Australian coast a hundred or so years back and prior to any settlements, it’s not really clear why you would have picked Roebuck Bay to establish a town. Unlike Sydney or other major coastal cities there is no great harbour, just a peninsula where the vast outback meets the vast Indian Ocean. Scarcely a sand dune separates the two. Broome obviously came to be because of the money in pearl shell. Broome continues to be because of the money in tourists. The tourists come because the colours are exquisite, the Indian Ocean is warm, the history is rich and the pearls are pearly white.
The town itself strikes me as a halfway house between what you’d expect of any east coast town and an outback Aussie experience. Cable Beach has flags and life guards, with fish and chips at your beck and call. There are palm trees and lush gardens around the resorts and caravan parks, yet step away from these tiny patches and you are in the middle of an arid country side which would have trouble supporting a herd of feral camels let alone a population which swells from 15 to 50 thousand people in peak season. Where does the water for this enterprise come from? And I’d hate to think what would happen if the trucks stopped rolling into town. Still that seems unlikely.
Ninety percent of our waking hours in Broome have been spent at Cable Beach. I could scarcely describe the joy experienced by Amy and Oliver on their first swim in the warm turquoise waters, with sand so fine it would more accurately be described as silt. Their confidence in the waves has grown by the minute as it seems almost impossible to get dumped on their inflatable surf mats.
After cooling off in the waves they took to mighty feats of engineering in the sand. They really did actually, inventing a new system for drip castling whereby you make the sand drip over the edge of the bucket to create circular drip castles. I was worried at one point that their noisy games may have been bothering the mainly older set of Cable Beach bathers only told by one older couple how gorgeous they were as we packed up for the day. Yep that’s our kids!
We rode camels on our third afternoon in town. A memorable experience (in a good way) although the brochures and images fail to inform you that you have to share this section of Cable Beach with a healthy number of the total population of 4WDs in West Australia. I’m sorry but this is a phenomena which I just don’t get. I’m not anti 4WD, in fact there have been a few occasions this trip where I wish we had one, but why is it more attractive to sit on Cable Beach in the surrounds of a parking lot (yes there are that many of them) than on the virtually empty pedestrian only sections? Is it just because you can? Maybe it’s because when you arrive in the morning the water is right on your door step, and by midday the tide drops so far you have to walk (or drive as the case may be) a couple of hundred metres to go for a swim.
On our fourth evening in town we trekked down to Gantheaume Point to checkout the dinosaur footprints. Our timing was perfect, as you have to be there at very low tide to see all of the prints in the rocks. I loved it. Imagine being able to see the print, the actual spot where one of these crazy critters stepped 120 million years ago! Wow. Unfortunately I’m not sure the rest of the family was quite as wowed. Em was interested, but Amy and Oliver seemed to think the waves, rocks, sunset and hoards of other people were far more interesting. I must have been excited cause Emma picked me up for walking off too fast in my haste to see the next set of prints.
In town we visited a few pearl shops and saw a number of the old pearl luggers. Our experience was much enhanced having just finished reading the book ‘White divers of Broome – the true story of a fatal experiment’ that Sandra lent us (thanks Sandra) on the history of the pearling industry, particularly the attempts to replace the predominately Asian workforce of divers with white men under the regime of the white Australia policy back in the early 1900’s. Those outrageous white fella’s though demanded fair pay and wanted to decompress slowly during each dive so as not to die of the bends! Needless to say that the white divers didn’t last long. The Japanese though went on diving and dying and making the master pearlers rich.
This evening we witnessed that fantastic natural phenomenon known as the stair case to the moon, caused by the reflection of the rising moon on the mudflats of Roebuck Bay at low tide. Somehow the mud flat confines the reflection to a narrow band rather than spreading like it would on water. The result has to be seen really. I would have taken a great photo but the fence post to which I strapped the camera for a time exposure kept being shaken by others of the viewing hoards behind us. Never mind.