Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Doing the blog and R&R in Broome

The concept of “being in contact” has changed significantly over the past few years with emails, blogs and constant phone access becoming the norm.

We manage to compile and post our blog and do emails etc by making the most of every opportunity which presents itself to access the internet. The blog is written on a Samsung NC10 mini laptop which has the advantages of being very light and with a long battery life. Whenever we can connect to the Internet, either through WIFI or a network point, we send off a few chapters. All of the pictures and videos we take are transferred to the laptop very easily by inserting the memory card into a slot on the laptop and then we edit them down to a reasonable number and some go into the blog.

Access to the Internet is not universally available for travellers although most medium sized towns will have an internet cafe somewhere – costs vary from “Free at McDonalds” to $5 per hour (£2.50) as a typical price through to as much as $25. The ideal solution for us is somewhere where we can plug the laptop straight in thus avoiding the chance of virus infection which is prevalent at Internet Cafes. For such as large country, Australia has a very good mobile phone system and mobile broadband is widely available at a very high cost (therefore we do not use it). Our three mobile phones connect to three different networks (two UK and one Australian) and it is the Telstra 3G system which has proved to have the widest geographical coverage.  We chose a “rural Telstra T6 phone” which was sold as not having all of the bells and whistles but was a basic phone with good rural coverage. Other than a rudimentary address book, it seems to do all that an expensive UK phone will do and also is very good at accessing the internet (again at a price).

Keeping in touch by phone with the UK has been quite easy because Vodafone abolished their roaming charges for European countries for the summer period and decided that Australia and New Zealand were in Europe and so we can call the UK for 7.5p a minute (previously £1.70), receive calls for no cost (previously 70p per minute) and we have 600 free texts per 30 day period (previously 50p per text). The only disadvantage for us is that Vodafone is only accessible in the larger towns and we are avoiding many of those.

Australia Map Showing Exmouth

Broome (about 10 pm on the map above) is a target for many travellers in Western Australia. It has a reputation for being the home of “Broometime” – during “the dry”, a phrase which means that everything slows down nicely in a more agreeable climate (30 C as against 37 C a few days ago in the Kimberley and with manageable humidity levels) during the Australian winter.

The town is full – by that I mean that if you were to go to the Tourist Office and seek advice on where you could stay, their blackboard shows all caravan parks as being full and there are stories of people queuing up outside parks at 7 am to grab a space as someone leaves. The parks also charge a very high $39 per night much to the disgust of visitors.

We decided some weeks ago that we would have a few days luxury after such a long period on the road and booked ourselves into a hotel a few kms from the centre of town. It turned out that the reason this hotel had

The Oaks Broome 2

vacancies was that it had only been open a few weeks (i.e. was brand new) and as a consequence, we are experiencing a few of their teething problems (Internet not working, room safe not working, whine whine whine!!!!) To be in an air conditioned room with clean white sheets on a bed larger

Oak Hotel Broome

than our van is somewhat strange. We dared not sit on the bed until we had showered because we felt our dirt would be so ingrained after six weeks on the road and to our shame, some of that dirt soon showed on the brand new towels despite long showers.

Whilst here, the Van took the opportunity to go into a local garage for its 145,000 km service and to get a few faults fixed (it has at least 10,000 more kms to do with us and some challenging roads ahead). We also took the opportunity to get our hair cut (I need to go short again since I will be diving in a couple of weeks) and all of our clothes, van bed linen etc are now washed.

Although Broome is an old town (in Australian terms), most of the old buildings have been destroyed over the years in one of the numerous cyclones which roar through during the wet season. Hence it has a “new old” feel about it since they have tried to keep the original corrugated iron

Corrugated Building

appearance of many buildings and the airy verandas. Many buildings are now built on stilts to keep them above flood levels and all areas seem to have a cyclone disaster plan since it is in one of the most active cyclone areas of the world.

Broome is home to a few famous sites which we have enjoyed. The Sun Cinema opened in 1915 and showed its first talkie in 1933.

Sun outside

Sun posters  Paybooth 

The Box Office - $12 per ticket, not 1915 prices! It is an open

View from the screen

Deckchairs undercover

air cinema where everyone sits on deckchairs and the audience has to cope with planes taking off from the local airport and appearing just above the screen (since the airport is adjacent to the cinema). If you have seen the film Australia you will have seen the cinema (which then was supposedly in Darwin). Appropriately protected from the ravages of the local sand flies, we went one evening and enjoyed a film plus three jet takeoffs, one turbo prop and six helicopters.

Cable Beach is a long stretch of sand on the western side of town much

Cable Beach

Mermaid at Cable Point

photographed and visited. The beach is lovely and the sea a unique shade of blue.

Gantheaume Point and Sea

Camels rides are available along the beach

Camel Ride on Beach 

and it is a popular sunset viewing point.

Sunset at Cable Beach

The origin of the town is related to Pearls and hence much of the town

Pearl Lugger

history is focused around them. Pearl Luggers were in use until the `980s and Hard Hat divers last dived for pearls in 1975 when scuba divers took over. There are numerous shops selling expensive pearl based products and museums describe the history of the industry. In the early days, Japanese and Chinese labour was used to harvest them and they have left their mark in the road names, numerous Chinese restaurants and

Japanese Cemetery Broome

also their own cemeteries where most of the divers who died from the bends are buried (33 in 1913).  It was not until 1915 that the concept of decompression was introduced for divers. The Broome Museum has a large section of the pearl industry and diving and the stories about the methods and deadly dangers of diving do not bare thinking about today.

Our assessment of Broome is that is very nice and with a lovely winter climate, we are not too sure whether all of the hype about it is justified but it gave us a nice break about half way through the trek.

The next week demands some significant kms (1400) as we are now travelling towards Exmouth (which is on the top far left of Australia) for some diving. We are however planning three days at 80 Mile Beach (so called because the beach is 80 miles long) where the camp site offers nothing  but sitting on the beach, drinking beer and listening to the sea. Travelling often is a hard life isn’t it!

Sam – here is a picture of a nice Chevrolet truck that we saw in Broome

Chevy Truck

We also saw some Dinosaur footprints preserved in the rock near the beach here.

Dinosaur Footprint Broome

Dinosaur Footprint 2

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