Saturday, May 24, 2008

Broome: “It’s really nice…or so I’ve heard”

Andrea is...finally talking about Broome

So what is it about Broome?
Plenty of people have told me it’s really nice here. But I don’t know that any of them have actually visited. Sure, it looks great on the travel programs – lounging around the pool at 5 star Cable Beach Club Resort, camel rides on the white sands of cable beach (tide at perfect height of course), joy flights around the Kimberley, fine dining, pearls…

All this is really nice, I’m sure. If you can afford it.

Broome is a very expensive place to live and visit. A number of people I’ve spoken to are coming to the end of the few years they had planned to live here and are moving on because they can’t afford it. Even when working in the booming mining industry.

Broome is a bit of an oasis in the surrounding desert (I haven’t actually been out of Broome, so this is my assumption!). It is on a little peninsular with the sheltered mangrove-lined Roebuck Bay to the east and the Indian Ocean to the west. Roebuck Bay looks magnificent at certain times of day, with the water a stunning, picture-postcard shade of blue. When the tide is out, mud flats are revealed, almost the same red as the soil. Roebuck Bay-->

Roebuck Bay has the town’s port, ‘Town Beach’ and is famous (apparently) for the ‘Staircase to the moon’ phenomena (more about that later).

<--Town Beach...mud
Visiting Town Beach at low tide is not a pleasant affair. The red sand becomes mud long before you reach the water. There are lots of pretty shells, but you soon realise these are all sea snails of some sort (see Critters) and decide to be more careful where you walk (And Ang, certainly do not collect them to make jewellery!). They are everywhere and hard to avoid. You start sinking into the mud and decide to give up – heading back to the thorny grass, hoping to find a tap. Not surprisingly, there don’t seem to be any locals around. Any why would there be? Town Beach is very unappealing at low tide, and only marginally better at other times.

So you trek over to Cable Beach, approximately 7km away. It feels further though. Perhaps because the roads bend and curl, and the footpaths stop and start and change to the other side of the road at random points. Plus it’s 32 degrees with 50% humidity (I think the humidity makes it feel at least 4 degrees hotter). Finally you reach the surf lifesaving club, only to find that the public change rooms are another half a km away.

Being famished, you go to purchase a muffin from the kiosk. The kiosk is attached to a fancy looking café. Hmm…the kiosk guy is wearing a uniform, “That’ll be $5.50 for the muffin” he says. Well it better be bloody good! But it isn’t really, you discover as you hear a mother almost choke as she is charged $7.00 for two small cones of ice-cream for her kiddies. This must be Cable Beach!

Ok, so the sand is white(-ish/grey) and the water is a tropical blue-green . The tide is still out so you have to walk a long way to get to the water. But that’s ok because the sand feels like velvet and changes texture as you get closer to the water. And then your feet disappear. Is this quick sand?!

<--Cable Beach tide out-->
The water is a little cooler than you expect, being the tropics after summer. The sign says it’s 29°. A guy walking back and forth through the water and dragging something behind him (doing some sort exercise I presume) tells me it’s 27° and falling. It’s nice to finally have a swim and enjoy the clear water.

Four days later you return, only to discover the sign now says there has been an irukandji (a nasty type of ‘douse with 2 litres of vinegar, seek urgent medical attention’ jellyfish, pronounced ‘ear-an-gan-gee’ as far as I can tell) in the days since you were last here (the beach had also been evacuated due to a sighting of a 2m shark, according to my British dorm-mate). This is interesting because I’m sure I read in the guidebooks that you only had to worry about jellyfish from November to April. Before the May-11 attack, the last sting was in January. But turns out these (as well as box jellyfish) are present all year around and that it is recommended that ‘stinger suits’ are worn because these can prevent up to 80% of stings. What about the other 20% I ask?
According to my research ( irukandji stings cause ‘Irukandji Syndrome’, with the onset of pain about 30mins after the sting. Symptoms include: lower back pain, muscle cramps, sweating, nausea, vomiting, restlessness, anxiety and palpitations. In the most severe cases people developed pulmonary oedema (water in the lungs), hypertension and toxic heart failure. Victims are advised to go straight to hospital due to the possible complications and severe levels of pain.

Anyone want to come swimming at beautiful Cable Beach now?

Even better, the jellyfish are small and clear, so difficult to see. And no one knows much about them or the illness they cause. And you know the guy doing the ‘exercise’? Turns out he is a lifeguard in a stinger suit, pulling a net behind him to scour for jellyfish, as they do once or twice a day.

Sunsets (not just sunset camel rides) at Cable beach are very popular. I’m guessing because most visitors are from the East Coast, so a sunset over the ocean is a bit special (unless you are from Melbourne or Adelaide, or Tassie). I finish work at 5.15pm and sunset is around 5.25pm. So the evening I was invited to join some people for a picnic at Cable Beach, I had missed most of the sunset. But not all of it. I arrived at the full (yet quickly emptying) carpark to find the bus stop swarming with people and tour groups eager to leave. They were all staring at me as if to say ‘bit late, what are you doing here now?’. Yet the sun hadn’t quite dipped below the horizon, and the clouds were still magnificent shades of pink and orange. But I guess they had all seen enough.


Jayne said...

I've been hearing a lot lately about how pricey Broome has become.
Almost choked when someone on the radio said a 2 bedroom weatherboard rental was approx. $600 per week !
I'll skip the Cable Beach dip, thanks! Knowing my luck I'd probably step my size 10's straight into an orgy of every stinging bugger available LOL.

Sueblimely said...

It is inconsiderate of the stingers being transparent. At least the bluebottles of Sydney (and probably elsewhere) are more obvious - probably not as dangerous either.