I travelled to Broome both for work and pleasure. Rest assured, I won’t bore you, dear reader, with the work aspect of my visit, and will concentrate instead on what I did whilst there: nothing much really.The inactivity was mostly due to the weather. On most days this week the temperature was in the mid to late 30s, peaking at 40 and 41 on two separate occasions. Although there were times when it felt that warm, there were other occasions, especially when the seabreeze appeared, when it didn’t feel so bad. With temperatures like that, it didn’t take long to settle into “Broome time”.
Damien and I stayed at Cable Beach Club Resort which was terrific. Our room was about a five minute stroll to Cable Beach which we visited on many occasions. Cable Beach was really spectacular, despite the cliched camel rides, ocean sunsets and so on, reaffirming my belief that many places are tourist attractions for a good reason. Cable Beach was, however, at its best late in the afternoon or early in the morning, due to the heat.
In the midst of daytime sun we spent a lot of time by one of the resort’s two main pools which were mostly fairly quiet. The exception was on Thursday when newspaper types started arriving for the Caxton Awards for newspaper advertising. Upon asking one of those setting up for the function, we were told “It’s a function with Rupert Murdoch and Bryce Courtenay”. Although we saw Bryce, there was no sign of Rupert. Instead, there were lots of newspaper advertising people, all of them with a slight paunch, lazing by the pool.
We didn’t travel as much as I would have liked, due to the heat. With temperatures around forty degrees – what is it they say about mad dogs and Englishmen – though we did do a bit of landscape spotting. One of the most amazing parts of the landscape for me was the brilliant red pindan soil which dominates the landscape and which, I’m told, can be found just a couple of feet below the town’s famous beach sands. Seeing the contrast reminded me of a comment made to me earlier this year that the landscape of Western Australia is “the desert meets the Indian Ocean”.
The town itself has a unique beauty. Unlike many other similarly sized towns, which have become consumed by “shopping mall architecture”, Broome maintains a sense of history. Although Broome has shopping malls, the corrugated iron construction of the main streets dominates and prompted Damien to comment “it’s more of a frontier town that I expected”. I think my favourite building was the old Sun Pictures building in Carnarvon Street. Built in 1916, it’s thought to be the oldest open air cinema in the world. I loved the deck chairs and I loved the corrugated iron.
The corrugated iron, however, also highlights the impermanence of the place: with a big cyclone, the place could be blown off the map. But with an annual population growth rate of about four percent, a large area of scrub between Broome township and Cable Beach is being currently being cleared for a major housing development. In the midst of the red soil, suburbia is emergening with a more upmarket – though still constructed with corrogated iron – style of housing. Although I have never been to Port Douglas, I’d imagine this is what Broome might be on the verge of becoming.
On Friday night, a group of us held a beachside barbecue near Gantheaume Point which is located about six kilometres from the town itself. During the height of the dry season, we were told the beach is wall to wall with vehicles, though on this occasion there were just a few. On arrival, we were told the water was about a 1.2 stubbie walk from the car, meaning that it was about 400 to 500 metres away. The location was spectacular, especially as the sun began to set over the point. Looking towards the point I was told by one the locals, George, the story of how the one and only house became located there, despite local opposition, thanks to the perseverance of the owner. A story that tells a lot about the place, I think.