Living in town has been different. We have become accustomed to the noise which accompanies living in the midst of 15,000 others. This has probably been the biggest adjustment (along with drinking chlorinated town water). No more waking to just the sounds of birds & waves breaking on the beach, with breeze rustling the leaves of trees around us. Instead the sound of aircraft, road traffic, yapping dogs, people shouting, lawnmowers, leaf blowers, children playing, speedway car tuning (a forte of one of the neighbours) & sometimes the doof doof of music through to the early hours. As I write this, I’m feeling it makes it all sound horrendous, but really it has been survivable. Give me the sounds of nature any day, but the adaptability of this pair of humans is such that we have been able to put these potential irritants into the background and enjoy life in Broome.
Living in a house has been different. Having our kitchen, living room, & bedroom all under the same roof has been a bit of a novelty after 6 months of walking between different buildings, each with it’s own function. We still have green tree frogs who live behind a framed picture hanging under the veranda, but no snakes in the dunny. It’s convenient having everything in the same place, although convenience isn’t everything. We no longer see the birds & the goannas as we walk from the bedroom to the kitchen for example. As I consider this it’s hard not to wonder about the degree that most folk are ‘insulated’ from the natural world around them, whilst understanding how seductive convenience is.
Living with a dog has been different. It’s been a while since we last had a dog of our own. We had ‘Missy’ in our lives for a few weeks when down in Tasmania a little over a year ago, & now we have had Nyx, a loving & mostly very calm 12 month old female black Labrador with a tongue made for licking, (& seemingly never running out of saliva!) She has bonded quickly & well to us & us to her. She sleeps where she pleases in the house, anywhere except on our bed which is out of bounds, but every morning the moment she hears us stir there she is at the bedside, two front paws on the mattress & head nuzzling first one of us then the other. If we pretend to still be asleep she retreats to the cool floor of the bathroom on the opposite side of the hall watching for further signs of life in our bed. Then it’s paws on the bed & pushing & snuggling her head into both of us in turn. Within a short time, if allowed, this becomes a potential bedbath with her licking, as good as any alarm clock to get us out of bed. Dog owning readers will know the joy of a dog’s unconditional love, we’ve enjoyed being reminded of what we have been missing. Until we eventually get another dog, (and we will), if for no other reason we see more house/pet sitting in our future.
We arrived in town pretty much at the same time as the dry season. Still warm (apparently record breaking warmth for Broome with 16 consecutive days at or above 35 degrees in May) but very pleasantly so with the humidity having dropped away & night temperatures dropped into the teens. We had adapted to constant wet skin & virtually overnight re-discovered the luxury of being dry. With the lowest night time temp dropping to a chilly 11 or 12 degrees a blanket has been kept ready to supplement the sheet over us, but nightwear remains unthinkable.
Most days we take Nyx for walks along one a number of local beaches which see few tourists (who mainly go to the world famous Cable Beach) & where she can get to play with other dogs out with their owners. Our favourite is Entrance Point, a pretty beach, adjacent to Broome’s Jetty & Port, with sand varying from firm to very ‘sinky’ depending upon where in the tide cycle it is when we walk. The beach quadruples in size at least when the tide is out. A rise & fall of up to 10 metres exposes an awful lot of sand. On the Roebuck bay side of the jetty is Simpsons beach, a red pindan beach, lined in part by clumps of mangroves, beyond which is the often milky blue water of the bay. On the other side of the Broome peninsula is Redell beach, named after a murdered Pearling Lugger captain, back in the days where pearls were the gold of the north & Broome was the lawless capital of pearl diving – supplying ‘blood’ pearls to the rich & famous around the world’s major cities. ‘Town Beach’ is the site which tourists flock to to see the famous ‘Staircase to the moon’ each month when a full moon coincides with the biggest tides. With the tide a looong way out & the mudflats exposed as the full moon first rises ‘behind’ them it’s golden reflection is cast across the flats. Interesting, but an over hyped tourist drawcard in our opinion. The night markets which accompany the monthly occurrence, with the many craft stalls, food vans & entertainment out compete the staircase, although the anticipation itself of the moonrise was quite delicious. Nyx handled the often swirling & dense crowds without any drama whatsoever – impressive for a young dog.
Matso’s is Broome’s own boutique brewery, renowned for it Mango beer, Chilli beer, & Ginger beer among others. All with a decent kick to them. Nyx whispered in my ear one evening that she would love a walk along the thickly mangrove lined beach out the front of Matsos, & who am I to turn down a doggie’s wishes, & so the following afternoon that is just what we did, & just by coincidence found our way from the beach to the shady Matso’s beer garden to sample a few of their wares. Thanks Nyxy. 🙂
Later that evening it became windy. We were comfortably lazing as one does after a visit to Matso’s when BANG! there was an almighty & unexplained noise, followed by BANG! another. Investigation revealed coconuts laying around the garden which hadn’t been there earlier. They are no lightweights, & make a lot of noise when they land on a tin roof as well as offering a reminder that a palm garden is no place to be when the wind gets up!
In the dim & distant past, when we were both employed, diaries were central to our working days. 0ur first 3 weeks in Broome reminded us of this impost. It seemed that once again our lives were revolving around appointments which needed to be kept. Mainly for me, but a couple for MrsTea too. All health related.
Optician, Podiatrist, GP, Physiotherapist & even the hospital’s Emergency Department!
Multiple appointments with some – it felt like it was never ending.
A year ago I was told by an optician I had uneven intraocular pressures – indicative of glaucoma, a condition my father has treatment for. “Get re-tested in 12 months” & so I did. Turned out the inexperienced optician back home had tested me incorrectly & tests here showed my eye pressures to be normal! – Well that’s a win in anyone’s books.
Walking had become increasingly difficult for me whilst up at Goombaragin, well not so much the walking itself, but rather the pain which followed when I stopped walking, enough to discourage me from much more than short walks, a less than ideal situation for travellers such as ourselves where without walking little is achieved. The problem – achilles tendinopathy – the solution see a podiatrist who says best option is custom made orthotic inserts for your shoes, plus a few gentle exercises. The inserts were a blow to the budget & the jury is still out on just how effective they will be, but I am determined to walk the nine rocky kilometre round trip to the Mitchell Falls in a few weeks time. 3 podiatry appointments.
Also at Goombaragin I injured my back when replacing the brakes on the Tvan (which I can now say I managed successfully after our drive back down to Broome). It was a re-run of a ‘slipped disc’ – back not brakes! 🙂 – I experienced a bit over 2 years ago, & it laid me up similarly. No way could I drive the bumpy 180kms to Broome to seek assistance, so I suffered stoically (I like to think – but MrsTea’s version may differ!) – & it improved with rest. Back home a physio had strapped me up with some sort of elastic tape on my back & it had helped during the acute phase. We went to the physio in Broome in order to have them demonstrate to MrsTea how to do this strapping should I hurt my back again when on the move & a long way from anywhere. How naive am I? The physio, Liz, was no hulk, rather a diminutive woman with a hulk hiding inside her muscular athlete’s body. How someone her size can spend her days massaging with the pressure she exerted on my back I don’t know, but it was clear from the first tortuous push that this was not someone to argue with! Liz was extremely thorough & professional & I trusted her examination & findings. Result – she has taught MrsTea how to hurt me & prescribed a series of tortuous exercises to strengthen various muscles in order to give my back an easier time. Strangely enough MrsTea appears to enjoy this new role she has, but better still after just a short time my back is feeling less vulnerable, enough so that I am encouraged to stick with the bi-daily torture.
Alongside all of the above were the series of visits to the GP. Both of us for annual check ups we have been advised to have by our GP’s back home. Check ups used to be a simple matter of routine, but in the past couple of years they have become dangerous affairs. A case of ‘What will they find wrong this time?’. At least for me. MrsTea got through unscathed. I even managed another win – blood tests which had been abnormal 12 months ago are now inexplicably ok. No asking this time whether I had suffered with ‘worms’! Previously one of the abnormal results were such that this was considered a possibility & my very good GP back home commented along the lines of “Well I had to ask as I know you go galivanting off around the outback & for all I know you survive on eating roadkill you find as you go”. I assured him I wasn’t as weird as he thought I might be & that I had never suffered with ‘worms’. At least I didn’t have to go through that again this time around!
Feeling in a positive frame of mind about the good blood results must have gone to my head, I behaved somewhat rashly & mentioned to the nice young lady GP that a little over a year ago I had been required, by virtue of age, to have an ECG done prior to a knee op, to keep the anaesthetist happy. This had shown I have a ‘Left Bundle Branch Blockage’ – a heart anomaly. Quite a surprise considering I had no symptoms. “You may eventually need a pacemaker, but for now just get another ECG in 12 months time” I was told. In the midst of this rush of blood to the head I was also silly enough to mention some back & chest pains experienced a few days earlier. The wires attached quicksmart, all done in the Doctor’s surgery. Of course having a left bundle branch blockage the ECG came up with abnormal results, the machine printed out the result, including the suggestion that I had suffered a heart attack & the nice young lady GP worried & felt that I must be seen by someone more someone more competent asap. My assertion that the pains I had experienced were most likely muscular resulting from new exercises & walking differently with the orthotic inserts fell on deaf ears. All I wanted was a tick of good health saying I was fit to leave town & undertake remote travel. Instead I was instructed to go straight to the Hospital emergency department to be more thoroughly checked out which I did.
Whilst waiting in the Emergency department after seeing the triage nurse I had need to relieve myself due to the 1.5 litres of water I had drunk not long before in order to provide the urine specimen for yet more tests the GP had ordered. The single toilet was in use presumably by someone in great need, given the age they were in there. I went looking for another loo, setting off a mild Emergency dept panic when they thought I may have had a heart attack somewhere on the premises. By the time I returned MrsTea had mentioned the 1.5 litres of water etc & I found them all grinning & smiling at me & just a tad relieved I hadn’t karked it on their watch! The Doc there was great, I had a further ECG, blood taken & tested & a good talk with him. The outcome of all this was that he felt the pains I had reported were indeed muscular & most likely a result of my new physio exercises & the orthotic inshoe inserts which have altered my posture. He explained that a Left Bundle Branch Blockage is something many people live with to a ripe old age (Phew!) with never any need for pacemakers or any other intervention. Essentially, he said, it was more of a problem for doctors than for patients because it makes an ECG more difficult to interpret. I was free to go after a couple of hours. Back at the GP’s for a final appointment a day or two later it turned out that my wee was ok, & I was able to reassure her that I would have sent me to the ED if I had been in her shoes. I finally got to hear what I wanted to hear – “Well after all we’ve checked out I don’t have any concerns about you going off grid for extended periods – bon voyage” Hoo bloody ray!
In among the medical sagas were a couple of real highlights. First was the opportunity, early in our Broometime, to see a new release Australian Movie ‘Top End Wedding’ at Broome’s Sun Picture Theatre. Reputed to be the longest running outdoor cinema in the world. It’s a quaint quirky little place, part indoor, part outdoor, with deckchairs to sit in, watching the outdoor screen, with occasional jet planes flying low overhead as they come in to land at the nearby airport. So a visit to the movies is quite an experience in itself, but to see a movie which encompassed the ‘Top End’ living style & aboriginal culture made it special. In addition it was a one-off charity affair, with food laid on & a local audience, this being just before the tourist season had kicked off (which now has – amazing how much busier the place has become in a short time). The charity has raised money in Broome every year for many years thanks to the tireless work of a local woman, & the town has supported her strongly. The movie was great & we enjoyed feeling like & mixing with locals.
Then there was a bucket list item ticked off. Actually ticked off twice. Not that we have an actual bucket list written down, it’s in our heads I guess. We both love the music of the Pigram Brothers, a family of musicians from Broome who have become well known for their particular brand of ‘Saltwater’ music. It’s not just their music we love, but the fact that like many things Broome, they are all about family & community, & this being a fundraiser for a local school fitted with that perfectly. The town may be far from perfect but there is a strong sense of pride & belonging which seems to be expressed in so many ways. The Pigrams capture that in their music & the town stands behind them. We have listened to their music for years but had never seen them play live, but always thought that we would love nothing better than to see them play to a home crowd in their home town. Up here they are considered ‘musical royalty’ . Steve Pigram has the distinct raspy voice which identifies much of the band’s music but the composition of the band is fluid & the extended family, & often friends join them at gigs, & it really is a just a musical family gathering but with an audience, & watching them is quite a joyful experience. I’m not sure how many siblings there are, quite a few I think, & they are all musical. Several of them write & they all sing each other’s songs. Imagine family gatherings like Christmas at their place!
The first concert at a pub – The Divers tavern, known locally as just ‘Divers’ . The concert wasn’t quite as we had expected. Steve Pigram was first up – the audience warmer – upperer instead of the headline act. He sang a few of his songs & covered a few by others. One band was a local one playing together again for the first time in years, Baby Bluebone, & another Puertside (pronounced Portside but we think a play on a local family name Puertollano). Steve played again with his daughter Naomi Pigram & now & then his brother Bart would leave the audience to sing harmonies with them both. The Mango Mob was another band from Derby featuring Bart’s daughter Kristi as lead singer & with Bart playing & singing with her. Toward the end of the night all were mixing it up & jamming with each other, including various friends enticed up on stage to sing, shake tamborines or whatever. Being at a pub the amplifiers were turned up. We had a great time, but we both felt we would prefer to see an acoustic set. P’raps we’re just getting old?
The second concert had less promotion, & we only found out about by chance when we read a small A4 ad on a noticeboard outside a supermarket. Steve Pigram was to be playing alone at the National Sorry Day celebrations put on by the Kimberley Stolen Generations organisation. This annual event on the anniversary of the official government apology to the stolen generations by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. These are the thousands of indigenous Australian children who were removed from their families, often by force, via white government racist genocidal policies & denied their heritage. There are so many terrible tales of families ripped apart, often by well meaning white folk, and with an ongoing reality of inter-generational trauma. So many mothers who still know nothing of their children, so many of those children with no sense of belonging. It is a crime that can never be undone, but for those affected the celebration of survival, brings folk together. The Kimberley stolen generations organisation has the lilac coloured wild hibiscus as it’s emblem. This is an endemic Kimberley flower which flourishes in the right conditions, but is able to survive in the face of the most adverse conditions too. The organisation’s main work is in supporting families & facilitating where it can the reunification of family members. Most of the attendees were obviously folk who had direct experience of family loss & some of family found, but above that there was a powerful sense of all who attended being family, whether by blood or as supporters. We felt very welcome , had a good feed made by those who were there and got to listen to Steve Pigram play a solo set, including many of our favourite tunes. Afterwards I shook his hand & thanked him – his response ‘No worries – thanks bro’. The following video isn’t the greatest video quality but at least you can tap your toes to part of one of Steve’s songs. Enjoy
We have watched polo played on Cable Beach, & joined in the Chinatown celebrations as it re-opened after months of road closures during a large scale upgrade to it’s aging appearance. We have become adept at using Broome’s unique postal service where no-one gets mail deliveries & overall have felt that a little over a month in town has been worthwhile.
I’d have to say that as towns go, we love Broome. Despite it’s remoteness, or perhaps because of it, it is a town which punches far above it’s weight. With a population of just 15000 it is known worldwide, has an airport which has regular passenger jets from major airlines landing, a university campus & an active & productive arts scene including Film & TV studios, music recording studios, radio station, and also supports a number of nationally & internationally renowned painters & other artists who live & work here. It has a sense of big city bohemia found in many of the world’s major cities, but without the city. Instead it exists on a small remote peninsula surrounded by stunningly blue ocean, blue skies & lined with green mangroves & red pindan cliffs & gorgeous beaches scattered with shapely & intriguing rock formations. The town’s history is different to anywhere else in Australia, hence it’s different sense of self. It still had the white policies which took aboriginal children from their families, but family connections have survived better here than elsewhere because many children, although taken, were kept in the region. Pearling saw exemptions to the White Australia policies because the skills & abilities of a range of asian foreigners were needed for the pearling industry. Today as you walk through Broome you see todays generations are a mix of races which are exceptionally attractive, male & female, & with the acceptance & tolerance of difference that this breeds. There is of course a bogan redneck element in town, but this is rarely easy to spot & appears to largely live in little pockets of the online world – at least that the only place we have come across it. The climate whilst hot & sticky during the wet season is manageable, but the dry season started, fanned by dry easterly winds, reducing humidity, dropping night temperatures to high teens, whilst maintaining warm days around 30 degrees. Were it not for the high cost of real estate on a small peninsula which has limitations on how much it can expand – combined with it’s desirability, it is a place we could find it easy to live in full time. It is nothing like the coastal resorts over on the east coast, it is far more laid back & down to earth. Tourist brochures refer to ‘Broome Time’ & it’s a real thing!
We are now in our final few days in Broome, although it is hard to imagine that we wont re-visit this town like no other again. These few days are focussed upon repacking & final preparations to once again be in travel mode. It is over 7 months since we last lived on our Tvan. Things needed checking, & just as well that we had. We found two electrical switches no longer working, a result of internal corrosion we believe, oxidation resulting from months of high humidity. First was the switch which operates the water pump in the Tvan. Easily fixed with a replacement, whilst still in town. Second was the winch controller. We left home with it in a condition I would describe as 95%. Most of the time the switch to reel in the winch rope worked. Occasionally it needed a second press. When I tested it a couple of days ago it’s functionality had dropped below 50% & at one point I didn’t think I would get the rope reeled in. Repeated hard stabs on the switch eventually got it to work. I was stressed just by this, imagine how it would feel hung up on a steep slope relying on the winch to save us! As soon as the rope was in, I was in the car & off to the local 4wd shop. How convenient there is a local 4wd shop?! They have ordered a replacement & expect to have it before we leave next weekend. Car has been re-shod with new tyres & the air conditioning for the cab repaired. Now what box did we put that thingummyjigger in, could have sworn I saw it somewhere yesterday, better unpack everything ’til we find it. If we need a thingummyjigger out in woop woop and we don’t have it we could be in real doodoo.