Friday, October 07, 2016

Broome 2 - In the footsteps of dinosaurs



Here stood Megalosaurus Broomensis - a smaller version of the Stegosaurus, about 155 million years ago. Hope it didn't have as much trouble getting here as I did
Eventually I must have slept regardless, because when I came to, it was daylight. I still felt a bit rumpled and grumpy especially without my morning coffee. Though I‘d brought a little for the plane – I hate aeroplane coffee, I couldn’t find a cup or a drop of milk and sorely wished I’d saved a couple of those little milk shots they are usually so generous with on planes. I then set off on the long trek to the supermarket about two Km away.
The bus stops are few and far between. Broome is a sprawling place and even several bus trips later, I am still totally confused as to its layout. Just as I was about to buy a cup and a bowl, annoyed that they would only get four days use, another hosteller told me I could hire them at the hostel.  

Cable Beach stretches out before me. What I thought were Broome's famed ships of the desert, the camels, turned out to be cars parked on the beach
 My first coffee inside me, I could really appreciate the hostel with its tall palms, its pool and new facilities including one of the nicest laundries I have ever seen. In the courtyard there were hammocks for lounging, and inside there were comfortable sofas, a pool table, a big TV, computers and even a little library. Do you ever come across books you wished you’d written? I found one like that called “High Heels and a Headtorch: advice for female backpackers.”  I had a bit of a flick through it and came across an invaluable hint. “Tie your sarong to the top bunk to give yourself privacy and to keep out the light when you want to sleep.” Brilliant. I also came up with one of my own. In this climate, it’s far better to do what kangaroos and vampires do – sleep in the daytime and come out at night. The nights are so much more pleasant.

The hostel was fairly deserted during the day with most hostellers taking tours or engaging in some kind of life threatening activity such as swimming with the occasional shark or saltwater crocodile, so I lazed by the pool for half the day and then took the free afternoon shuttle bus down to Cable Beach, all 22 km of it. It's named after the telegraph cable put through here in 1889 to link Australia with the UK via Singapore, India, Aden, Egypt, Malta and Gibraltar.

With the sea breeze taking the edge off the blazing heat, I walked the six kilometres to Gaunthaume Point where the lighthouse and fossil dinosaur footprints were.  It was a lot further than it looked and my water ran out half way (don’t go anywhere without water here! Fortunately the hostel supplies filtered water free of charge and I was able to keep topping my original bottles up). Luckily a lady walking her dog filled up my bottle again and drove me the last Km or so up the road up to the lighthouse. 

Some of the amazing rock formations at Gaunthame Point.
 At the far end, the rocks alone were a stunning sight, but I clambered around for hours with several hundred other tourists looking for the mythical dinosaur prints of which Broome and surrounds were said to have one of the greatest collections in the world. There were no signs and no clear tracks and I had horrible visions of being stuck there all night while the tide reached up to the car park.  A little local story goes that the lighthouse keeper used to carry his disabled wife over these rocks each day to Anastasia’s pool below.  Now that's true love!

One of several rock pools. I am not sure if it's the right one - there weren't any signs
Eventually, throwing caution to the wind I left bag and water bottle up the top so I would have my hands free to be able to haul myself back up and followed some children down. This proved moderately successful and after scrambling over to where a little knot of people stood, I was able to get a shot of  at least a few of these elusive prints which are only visible when the tide is at its lowest ebb. 

Climbing under some of these arches is optional
The way back by road is about 22 km too and I was very pleased that I’d mistaken another woman for someone I’d met on the bus  - sometimes there are advantages to not wearing one's glasses, who had said that I could share a taxi with her and her friends on the way back.
No, she wasn’t Vera from the UK, the woman said, but she’d be happy to take me back to Cable Beach anyway, which she did.  I waited around for a while for the famous sunset, but the clouds rendered it non –existent so it was back to the hostel via the Town Bus.

The print of  one or even two different dinosaurs - around seven different types made their home here in what is now one of the richest paleontological sites in the world.

I was very surprised to see and hear so many Germans, but then again Broome is the dead opposite of conservative, cool and almost landlocked Germany. I think it satisfies that ever present German “Fernweh” that many Germans have, that craving for the exotic which means  encountering Germans in some of the remotest places on earth – in Iceland, the backblocks of Mongolia or among the headhunters of Vanuatu. In Broome there are palm trees, heat, beaches, wide open spaces and freedom from the “alltags” constraints. Here you can shout and let your hair down, wear daggy clothes, get dirty, get drunk and be loud and no one will say a word much less “das gehoert sich doch nicht.” You don't even need farblich abgestimmte Socken. Broome may be more expensive than Third World destinations, but it’s also very safe and you can drink the water – ein keimfreies Abendteuer, that everyone should be allowed to have once in a while.


Since I am mostly here for a bit of R and R, I decline the invitation to go to the wet t-shirt competition at one of the pubs and read a book instead – a depressing saga indeed, but you can’t be too choosy and once I had started, I felt obliged to keep going. I traded my dorm key for the loan of a saucepan and frying pan from reception and enjoyed the luxury of one of those weird rice dishes that come in foil packets and sound really exciting but taste really bland. I topped it off Korean -style with a fried egg,  a bit of capsicum and some salad. At least it was better than two minute noodles– my usual fare while travelling. 

Much of the conversation at the long tables centred on work - who was hiring, who was leaving and whether it was better to work at McDonald’s which paid better, or at Subway which had healthier food.

Broome also happens to be the service centre for the largely trackless but spectacular hinterland to the north – about a half a million square kilometres of it, filled with gorges, waterfalls, wildlife and one of the largest collections of Aboriginal rock art in Australia. There are only two roads and one of those is a four wheel drive track, so most of the access is by air or sea or the occasional specially equipped four wheel drive. This makes it rather expensive and unless you fly, takes a lot more time than I had at my disposal.
I spoke for a while with three English girls who had spent several months working at El Questro, one of the stations to the north and to a gorgeous young man from Melbourne, who had worked at Fitzroy Crossing. He was an arborist and was helping his cousin who was a carpenter. Now they plan to combine their skills and go into the treehouse building business. An older man had just returned from a regular bird count that he does each year on the Gibb River. All these people looked lithe and tanned and had that light in their eyes of people who have seen and done things other people rarely experience. Why would I want to stay in a hotel room by myself? More reading, a bit of a swim and then it was time to try the sarong trick. It really worked! Or maybe it was that after my six Km walk in the heat, I would have slept even if the hostel had fallen down.

A glimpse of Cable Beach on another night -
White sands, palm trees, sunshine - the stuff of fantasies

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