Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Broome Broome Broome or A Bunch of Firsts (Week 1)

(26 August – 1 September)

Broome. Well, here we are for a fortnight and timely too for it is their Shinju Matsuri – the Festival of the Pearl. Running over ten days, we enjoy the festival at the opening and closing and parts in between. But first, what is Broome like, you ask.

After our drive from the NT it is a welcome stop – a town by the coast with the famous Cable Beach, a place not too big and not too small, with enough on offer to keep you interested and engaged for at least a week, if not more.

Much is written about its history, from the days it rode on the back of the pearl and mother of pearl, an industry that was responsible for 80% of the world’s button production and cutlery handles until plastics became mass produced. The bombing by the Japanese in WWII devastated the community – ironic in that the Japanese were significant in originally developing the pearling industry. And now, it is still the centre of Australian pearl interests (think Paspaley, Willie Creek, etc) yet tourism per se is now key with Broome being a base for travels around the Kimberley and the Dampier Peninsular. It’s a sizeable town 100s of km from any other decent sized town. Yet it must be the only place in the world where you can walk from an international airport to the centre of town in 10 minutes.

And of course, Cable Beach – the beautiful pristine fine white sands that go on forever and turquoise waters is a site that will always be easy on the eyes. The only thing it isn’t, is easy on your pocket if you were looking to buy property as the median price for a house is well above that of Sydney.

Not long after setting up camp in the caravan park did we experience our first meeting with a frill-necked lizard. It (for we don’t know how to tell gender) didn’t get its frills out however it did its funny run on its hind legs, head held high in the air with the frills flopping back like a horse’s mane and its small forearms dangling by the sides. It climbed a jacaranda and tried to camouflage itself on the tree trunk.

We were timely also to be able to see the ‘Staircase to the Moon’ phenomenon where the rising moon’s reflections at night over the tidal flats of Roebuck Bay create a staircase like imagery – something that occurs with the combination of the full moon a few evenings a month with a low tide only between May and October. Also, with the low tide, we were fortunate to be able to find dinosaur footprints in the rocks below Gantheaume Point – although the first morning we seeked and failed to see them as there are no signposts directing your way – you just have to clamber the rocky foreshores in the hope you chance upon them.

For the tribe, it was their ‘first’ experience of a moonrise at night, plus a first in seeing dinosaur footprints. The latter was first for M and I too!

The festival’s opening takes place on the oval behind the information centre, and is comprised of entertainment from local community groups and performers, some of whom had partaken earlier in the street parade. The community spirit is strong with the audience of locals and tourists alike enjoying and showing huge support for the performers.

The tribe met Postman Pat and Spot the Dog as well as marvelling at ‘Sammy’ the (Chinese) Dragon who is the mascot for the festival. While Postman Pat and Spot were friendly, Sammy was a little too loud (banging drums and symbols) and scary-looking – but the tribe were cool with that.

They shook their tooshes to the music on offer, as well as marvelling at the dancing – the traditional Indonesian dances were of particular interest for Saffiya and Soraya as well as those performed by the local dance schools.

The Town Beach playground and waterpark is big hit for the tribe as is Cable Beach with its wide stretches of sand and shallow water – a perfect combo for the tribe to run amok, mucking about in the water and making muddy pies.

As a change from the norm of being chauffeured about in the car, the tribe also took a couple of bus trips about town – such a simple yet highly enjoyable novelty for them. Also, they took in the story time and craft activities at the local library, making a donkey the first week and a sheep in the second week. (A good tip here is that the library also has a small and limited range of books to swap instead of borrow).

A special treat for the tribe was a visit to the cinema to see ‘Toy Story 3’ – a first time experience in the cinema for Kaydin and Zak. Initially they complained at the loudness of the sound, but were soon settled into the film and the enjoyment the big screen brings. Afterwards, they exclaimed to M that they saw the movie on a “really big TV!”.

Another first for us was an attempt at fishing from the jetty – we could see some big fish around the pier posts and we got a good nibble on Soraya’s and Zak’s lines to the extent we lost the hooks (and of course the bait). One of the locals fishing was using a mud crab as bait to catch whatever was big enough to gobble that. Mainly, there was to be family-dinner sized catches of barramundi

The markets at the old court house were fun with the usual array of gifts, knick-knacks and food – but more so for the entertainment by the couple who juggled and performed acrobatics with a healthy does of comedy thrown in. The tribe were a little frightened of the fire juggling, but were in awe of the overall performance.

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