Sunday, October 30, 2016

Monday, October 24, 2016

Lost arts and found treasures – and an idea you might like to try at home

A money free Festival- What an excellent idea! Great weather too

Back in the Hills, it hasn’t taken long to feel as if Broome was just a mirage. However, I did have an unexpected pleasure on Saturday. Since my daughter was at home this weekend, she took the little girls and I to a small local event – The Festival of Forgotten Skills. Apparently it was to have been held in May, but the bad weather had led to its postponement.  Now the weather was perfect and it proved to be  a most enjoyable day.

Held in the community garden, there were pizzas being baked in a big clay oven and you could watch all sorts of things being made - jewellery, rugs, mosaics, spinning and weaving. You could also try your hand at many of them including nature crafts, fabric painting, making lagerphones from bottle caps, fairy pendants and other things. Produce and seedlings were being given away to the musical accompaniment of a young girl playing an accordion. The atmosphere was that of a small country fair but without the hoopla and the expensive showbags. In fact, everything here was free which was a most refreshing change.Perhaps the greatest lost art was having fun without having to spend a fortune.

There's pizza baking in the clay oven at the back, all sorts of things to try and a lovely time was had by all
 While trying to decide between several books on a bookstall, the lovely woman behind the table said, “Just take anything you want.” She then insisted that I  try on an orange peasant top from a rack of clothes. Though it made me feel a bit like an Iceland poppy, it looked so cheerful I left it on and wore it all day. Orange is the new black. Pleased with the results of her efforts, she also tried to give me a skirt and a scarf, but I resisted the urge to pack rat, knowing full well that I was already in danger of having excess luggage on the way home. We did however, exchange phone numbers with the sincere promise of getting together again one of these days. Definitely a kindred spirit.

 I would have happily spent the whole day there and really wanted to make a fairy pendant, not to mention picking up a bit of rainbow chard, but the girls were giving me that  eye – rolling, “been there,  done that” look and saying things like,” Aren’t you finished yet, Grandma!” so I had to give those a miss. 

Undeterred, as soon as we arrived as Chez Peche, I started looking through my newly acquired books, especially Jekka McVicar’s Good Enough to Eat, which was all about edible flowers. Edible flowers are all the rage in expensive restaurants at the moment and Perth has a whole company devoted exclusively to supplying them with same. 
Though I had always used nasturtiums, rose petals, calendulas,  borage flowers, lavender and the like, here was a wealth of flora as yet untasted and unexplored. I had no idea for example, that fuchsia flowers and their fruit were edible or that marjoram flowers go very well with baby beet. With the honeysuckle here going gang busters, I just had to make some honeysuckle sugar to use in some cakes on Friday. Next up chicken curry with citrus flowers or maybe pears with pansies and I can’t wait to make some rose petal confetti with which to shower the next bride that crosses my path! There’s a whole new world of possibilities out there, all thanks to the Festival of Forgotten Skills.. 

Behold - the sweet -scented honeysuckle
HEALTH WARNING AND DISCLAIMER: Not all flowers are edible. Stay away especially from bulbs, gladioli, lilies, oleander and the like. In fact, don’t use anything you aren’t sure of. No responsibility taken.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Broome 4 - Red Camels and a sunset at last

Camels, lots of them!
 When I woke up I realised with a start that my little holiday was almost over and there were lots of things still on my to do list. For a start, though it was overcast and muggy, I needed to pick up a little something for the man who was feeding the cat, so I called in at the Court House Market which is held in front of the former Cable House on Saturdays and Sundays.

At the market - I never did find out what a frozen fruit thingy was. Shouldn't have had breakfast first!
It’s only a small market but there were pearls and handcrafts on offer, homemade preserves, honey, liqueurs made from native fruit, a variety of food, some clothes and coffee. The naturally dyed cotton and silk garments made by an Aboriginal group were very beautiful but pricey, an indigenous man was carving the nutlike fruit of the boab and a digeridoo could be heard playing somewhere in the background. My dog -walking friend from Gaunthaume  Point (Helen?), had a stall there and she introduced me to a couple who were about to move to Tasmania. I tried on some clothes, tasted some tea made from native hibiscus fruit and only managed to resist the temptation to have a mango smoothie or a ‘fruit thingy,’ because I had just had breakfast. I eventually settled on mango colada sauce for the lovely cat -minding neighbour and then headed off to Cable Beach.

Wills, the youngest camel, prepares for boarding
Have you ever felt like you were living a clichĂ©? You simply can’t come to Broome and not have a camel ride, especially as it was precisely the stunning images of camel trains against the sunset, so emblematic of Broome, which made me want to come here. They take place on the far side of the rocks and there are several operators identified by the colour of their blankets. The Blue ones don’t operate on Sundays and I hadn’t heard about the others, so Red Sun Camels it was. Though sunset camel riding is the most popular option, it is also the most expensive, so I took the pre sunset one, thinking that would allow me to get better pictures of the main event afterwards. I ended up being eternally grateful that I hadn't signed on for the longer ride, though I can hardly blame the camels or the operators. Other people seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely.

The orange camels make their way back - the weather has greatly improved
So how did the camels get to Broome? Wiki says that in the early days of exploration and settlement, camels seemed an ideal choice for the hot, sandy and often waterless interior. Though the first ones were imported from the Canary Islands in 1840, only one survived and they were subsequently brought mainly from India and the Middle East, along with approximately 15,000 Afghan and Pakistani cameleers (usually called ‘Ghans’ whether they were Afghani or not) to tend them. The first major expedition to use camels was the ill – fated 1860 attempt by Bourke and Wills in their race to be the first to cross Australia from south to north. [They succeeded, but died on the way back, but also through no fault of the camels].  
 After that, camels - mostly the single humped Dromedaries, were used extensively by pastoralists for heavy work and to cart supplies and bales of wool. They were also used by merchants to supply the outlying stations and to build the railways, unaware that they were sowing the seeds of their own demise. By the 1930's cars and trucks began to replace the camel herds and they were turned loose in the bush. By 2008, there were over a million wild camels in inland Australia, more than in any other country in the world and they were doubling every 8 -10 years, wreaking havoc on fragile native vegetation, competing for scarce water and threatening pastoral properties. During the long Millennium drought, many died of thirst and starvation.

Culls were undertaken despite considerable opposition from the public. Some wound up as pet food, some became part of the live export trade and were ironically sold back to the Middle East, and a few ended up on the tables of gourmet restaurants. Now there are still around 600,000 feral camels of which about half are in Western Australia. It's likely that the first camels came to Broome with the pearlers, but camel related tourism didn't really take off until the 1983 when a man arrived from Darwin with six camels. Red Sun Camels has been going since 1991.

The red camels begin their trek

The camels kneeling in rows for tourists to board look well cared for and sanguine enough about their fate. It surely it beats being turned into pet food or even gourmet steaks. Four year old Wills (as in Bourke and Wills, not the other one) behind me at the end of the line and the youngest of the pack, lets out the most heartrending cry - a cross between a bellow and a bleat. He doesn’t yet have the nose plug by which the camels are “steered.” It looks painful, but I’m told that it’s no worse than piercings.  Tunku, my appointed camel is also one of the younger ones but I can barely get my thighs around his back. I also get a bit of a shock when he lurches to his feet and I see how far it is to the ground.
The camels do a leisurely lap of the beach. It’s only half an hour, but by that time, my posterior is numb and my back hurts. I can't imagine going thousands of miles across the desert on one, even with the padded seat. Perhaps it's because I ruptured a disc a couple of years ago, something I had almost forgotten about until now. Getting off was the worst. “Just swing your leg over the handrail” indeed! Though I did eventually manage to get off, I never did go back to take more pictures. I was too busy nursing my sore butt, but I did ask one of the girls if ‘cameleer’ had been on her list of preferred career choices as a child.

Red Camels heading back
 The sunset lived up to its promise on this occasion. It comes early here – 5.45 today, and the times are posted each day at the hostel. Alas, the equally popular “Staircase to the Moon” phenomenon only works on full moons in the ‘dry,’ so I have missed out on that for this year. There’s only one more on the 15th of October. There was however, one other unique to Broome experience I wanted to try, so I returned to the hostel until the Picture Gardens opened at 8.30. In a nice touch the girl I'd met at the cafe the day before, handed me a pie. "Sorry," she said, "They were two for the price of one yesterday and I didn't know."

The real  lightshow begins once the sun slips into the sea
 After taking a taxi back into town because the bus stops at 7.30, I seated myself in one of the deckchairs at the cinema. I didn’t last long. Nor can tell you much about the movie, except that it seemed a lot longer than 123 minutes. There was simply no position in which I could sit or lie without feeling twinges, but the setting was lovely and at least I had seen the world’s oldest picture garden in operation.

Afterwards the whole sky erupts in a blaze of colour

Still recuperating, I spent the last morning having a swim, consuming or giving away my remaining food- you end up with some novel concoctions at this stage, and reading all the women’s magazines – who got hitched, who got ditched, who had a baby bump and what they were wearing. It’s a sign of the times that I have never even heard of most of these people, much less care about what they are up to, with the possible exception of Princess Mary, who happens to hail from Hobart. Then it was back to Perth where it was still cold and raining. I really enjoyed my little break - worlds away from everyday life.

Last conscious memory - warm glow of the outdoor cinema at night

P.S. It's 30oC in Perth today. The warm weather must have followed me down

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Broome 3 - Broome Time and a visit to Town

Getting too used to Broome Time

I was really getting much too lazy. Here I was on my second last day in Broome and I hadn’t even seen it yet. Broome is a bit like that.  You settle in, slow down a bit and next thing you know, several years have gone by.  After an early morning swim and being savaged by sandflies* – it’s the little things that get you in the end, I set off to explore.

Broome (permanent population around 14,776 and about 45,000 in tourist season), started out as a base for the pearling trade in the 1860’s.  Initially it was the Trepanger coming from Sulawesi, Timor and Kupang in search of beche de mer -sea slugs and sea cucumbers for Asian markets, who frequented these shores in large numbers at least as early as the C17th. While Abel Tasman had mapped the coastline on his way back from discovering Tasmania in 1642, it was English buccaneer, William Dampier, who is credited with being the first European to set foot in the area in 1688. He noted the extensive pearl beds of Roebuck Bay in his journal.

A visit to the well kept Japanese Cemetery
Pearl shell for buttons and other artefacts such as cutlery was in high demand. The pearls were merely a by -product.  Not long after, entrepreneurial younger sons of the English aristocracy came to seek their fortunes. They owned the pearl luggers and crewed them with  naked “skin divers” drawn from many different cultures –Malay, Indonesian, the Philippines and Japan, with the more unscrupulous ones also kidnapping aboriginal people, known as 'blackbirding' to dive for them under cruel conditions. The Japanese divers were largely drawn from a single village in southern Japan which had lost most of its adult men in a whale hunting tragedy. The Japanese divers were regarded as the best and with good money to be made, they soon invited their friends and relatives, creating a strong Japanese contingent in the nascent town. When the ragtag settlement was declared a town in 1883, Governor Broome was less than thrilled to have it named after him.
The Chinese Cemetery  next door looks a little forlorn.....
With so many pearl luggers now using the port as a base, the shallow beds were soon depleted and a new method of diving using a heavy diving helmet which enabled divers to go deeper, stay down longer and gather more shells, evolved. This was dangerous work and once again, the Japanese excelled at it. Broome became the “Queen City of the North” with over 300 pearl luggers at anchor in Roebuck Bay. 

...but it does have  an impressive gate
Between 1908 and 1912 Broome was struck by a series of cyclones and had to be rebuilt. The real disaster however, was the outbreak of World War 1. Fleet numbers halved as men rushed to enlist and the only demand for mother- of – pearl buttons was for soldiers’ uniforms. Still the industry built up again and by the 1920s, pearl shell attracted its highest prices ever, with Broome supplying 75% of world demand. World War Two proved even more devastating. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, people of Japanese descent were interred, even if they had never set foot in Japan and their ships were appropriated or burnt. Air raids on Darwin and Broome devastated the town and with the Japanese military having already taken Malaya, Singapore, Ambon and Timor and now only 300 miles from Broome, residents fled for their lives. The pearl industry was in tatters.

Modern take on typical Broome architecture
 Once again, Broome rose from the ashes. This time it was the cultured pearl, an industry once again pioneered by the Japanese, which led to its revival. It now supplies 80% of the world’s pearls and they are of the highest quality. Another threat, the birth of the plastic button in the 1950s could also have spelled its doom, but once again, Broome was able to reinvent itself, this time as a tourist destination. It’s rambunctious, polyglot never -say -die spirit remains very much part of the attraction.There is a pearl lugger museum in China Town and one of the pearl farms can be visited too, though I didn't do either on this occasion.

More traditional architecture is represented in the quaint Sun Picture Gardens which are over a hundred years old, the oldest outdoor cinema in the world

Today, my first port of call was to the Japanese Cemetery since it was the furthest away, but closer to the hostel. Unfortunately there was no English signage there but I have managed to glean a bit of information from various sources such as trip advisor. Some 919 people are buried here, many of them victims of drowning or the “bends” while diving for pearls, 33 of them dying of diver's paralysis in 1914 alone.  Many also perished in the cyclones which periodically ravaged Broome.

 A large stone obelisk records that the cyclones of 1887 and 1905 each claimed 140 lives.  Many of the original crumbling sandstone headstones have been replaced by black granite ones from Japan and the cemetery is beautifully maintained thanks to generous support from a Japanese shipping company owner, local people, visitors and a government grant. 

 The Malay, Muslim and Chinese Cemeteries next door to it, have not been so lucky, though the Chinese Cemetery does have a lovely gate. Not far away are lavish graves with Indian names, reflecting the generally diverse population. I didn’t see any Aboriginal ones, per se but their names would not be easily distinguishable from European ones in the large general cemetery. 

Chinese Influences -Charming Jimmy Chi Lane

  The Town Centre and particularly Chinatown, were my next port of call and I especially liked Jimmy Chi Lane which was full of charming little boutiques and cafes and had seating and history panels along its sides. Pearl and jewellery shops were strongly in evidence too, but alas, most places were closed, despite signs around the town saying, “All Day Breakfast” and “Broome is open for business.” Though the predominant building material is tin – light, cheap and easy to ship and to replace, it has a certain charm. It used be used as ballast in incoming ships, but as with the brightly coloured buildings in Valparaiso, what was once a necessity, has become a feature in its own right. Modern buildings use their own interpretation, but buildings such as the Sun Picture Gardens, now over 100 years old, epitomise the traditional style.  Curiously, unlike every other town in Australia, pedestrians have no precedence here, not even on crossings, so don’t say you haven’t been warned!
You had better believe it.  This rule applies all over Broome
I consoled myself with a mystery pie and a Greek Salad at the aeroplane -themed Runway CafĂ©, the only one which was still open, pleased to find one of the hostellers behind the counter. Today was an important day in Australia. The national football finals were on, which may have been one of the reasons why so may places were closed. Australians take their football seriously and by that I mean the peculiar mutation that involves an oval ball and field. Up to 18 people play on each side and the ball is allowed to be touched. This is the sum total of my knowledge of football, being a card carrying member of the anti -football league who could never understand what all the fuss was about. The bus driver listened to the game intently on his radio and was thrilled when the Western Bulldogs who hadn’t won a premiership since 1954, came out on top. Though I didn’t share the excitement, I was happy for him and them.  The TV was in high demand for replays that night, when I returned to the hostel, so I finished my book and called it a night.

One Hundred Years young. At least the cinema has a good excuse for being closed at this time of day - it only works at night
PS Sandflies are tiny midges that like to come out at dawn and dusk. At first you don't really notice them. Later you come up in red itchy weals, especially when you get warm. Some people are very allergic to them and fare worse. My arms just look like I have some kind of nasty disease. I have however, just learnt an excellent hack from the girls'  iPad - you dab toothpaste on them. It cools and stops the itch, so you don't end up making them worse by scratching.  It does look a bit weird though! It also works for mosquito bites. Aloe vera gel is even better and lasts longer.