I ended 2015 in Broome. I drove there on Monday, and returned to Halls Creek on New Years Day.
In Broome I stayed at Bayside Holiday Apartments in Hamersley street, right opposite Matso’s Restaurant, where I had dined once before, on a previous (professional) trip to Broome . I reviewed it very favourably on Trip Advisor.
The accommodation was excellent, convenient and reasonably priced in comparison with other options even for the “off” season. Although it was so conveniently close, I dined at Matso’s only once; on New Tears Eve. (Oops – Freudian Typo?). For my last meal of the year I had an excellent tuna steak cooked medium rare, served with salad, spring onion croquettes and a superb sauce. It was accompanied and followed by a couple of Matso’s own beers; a light golden lager and a dark malty one. I had never heard a dark beer called lager before. Both were good.
When I arrived on Monday evening, I had a two course dinner of a filet of fish from McDonalds, followed by a six inch turkey and ham sub from Subway. That got my craving for fast food out of the way right from the start. For the rest of the week, apart from breakfasts and my last evening meal in town, I ate fresh supermarket food at the accommodation, which was fully equipped for food preparation. Not that I did any cooking. I had a lot of salads, loads of fresh fruit, some cooked chicken, ham, cheese and croissants. Nothing from a tin. Nothing from a packet. Each morning, however, I had brunch of a sausage and egg McMuffin and a double shot expresso just so I could use the free wifi at McDonalds. There was none at the motel. Not actually a downside. I was on holiday. No need for Facebook.
I visited Cable beach on Tuesday but did not swim there. It was quite crowded, though no one was in the water that day. I drove north up the beach to where it was much less crowded, in fact, there was nobody else there. I was not sure whether swimming was permitted, or advisable. I thought I saw a rip. I did go in for a paddle. My only companion was a seagull. I was pleased to see him. On the way back I passed a sign I had missed on the way in, because I had been looking out towards the sea. The sign said “No vehicles beyond this point”. Oops. That is why I was alone.
As I was leaving I saw they were closing the beach. Not sure why. Didn’t ask. The man on the gate waved me through and locked it behind me. I went exploring. After that I spent much of my holiday time just exploring the tracks that meander through the bush along the coast. Some of the time I was looking for crocodiles (and not seeing any – though doubtless they were there). I gave up on that and began looking for a beach at which I could swim in relative peace – and safety. That meant, at the very least, avoiding mangroves, estuaries and rivers, even though they are really interesting places.
I found the Malcolm Douglas Crocodile Park. I was taken aback to see admission was $35. It is only open from 2pm to 5. I had found it around 10am. I thought about it, but I didn’t go back later. I was busy elsewhere by mid afternoon. I prefer to see crocs in the wild, anyway. Though not salties, when I am swimming.
I visited the bird observatory and explored the coast around it. This was clearly not likely to be a good place to swim, despite its beauty. There were undoubtedly lurkers in the mangroves.
I saw many wallabies dashing around the coast here, all very timid and shy. None wanted to pose for me. I did not find many birds to observe. I did manage to see and distinguish the two species of kite that hang around here. It is easy enough once you know that one has a v-shaped wedge tail and the other doesn’t. Other than the kites and a couple of waders, the only birds I saw were seagulls. I expected more.
By exploring every little track along the coastline, I finally found what I was looking for. A beach that looked just as swimmable as Cable Beach. Gantheaume Point beach. There were no warning signs against bathing, though there was one with advice on how to treat jellyfish stings. Further along the beach someone was body surfing, and further along still someone was bathing a horse. I decided it must be safe. I hear crocodiles like horse.
This was the highlight for me. The best time I had for so long was the afternoon I spent in the sea at Gantheaume Point, on a beautiful beach which I shared with just a few others who were all keeping themselves a discreet distance away. It felt like having the ocean and beach to myself. The water was very warm- I’d have liked it to be a bit cooler- but it felt like home.
The sea has been such a big part of my life it was rather overwhelming when I realised once again just how much I have been missing it. I added a few tears to the ocean. A little sad, but mainly just overwhelmed with nostalgia.
Nothing nasty drifted by to disturb my pleasure, or to eat me. Sun on my shoulders. The taste of salt on my lips. The splash of spray and the wash of the surf. It was like heaven. If home is where the heart is, what little heart I have left to call my own is in the sea, wherever I find it.
Everywhere I travel, if I come upon a large body of water, I feel a need to ground myself in it. I have done this always, it seems. Every river and beach I have visited around Australia, NZ, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Guam, Palau, Hawaii, Tonga, and so on. In London I took off my shoes and socks and climbed down the steps to the Thames. I splashed in the Sid at Sidmouth, the Basingstoke canal and the river Wey in Woking, the Exe in Exeter and the Danube in Vienna. I stepped into the sea in Galway Bay at Ballyvaughan, splashed in the river Fergus in Ennis, the Shannon near Limerick, The Barrow at Leighlinbridge and the Liffey in Dublin. I try to touch or step in the water at all the beaches and rivers I visit here in WA, and certainly all the watercourses in the Kimberley, if they actually have any water, even if I don’t know the names. That is how I feel about water. It is a vital part of who I am. This may be my principal superstition. But I digress.
I contemplated the artwork of the tiny bubbler crab, and wondered at the artistry that went into something to be washed away as the tide returns. The beach was covered with different patterns like this, all centred around a hole back to which the tiny creature could dash if threatened by a seabird predator or some big chap with a camera. He seemed very shy. I could not get close enough to see him clearly and photograph him. If undisturbed, he spends his time scraping the sand for edible particles of detritus, and forming the inedible bits and sand into a bubble pellet to place in his temporary masterpiece. There were some extraordinary patterns on the beach. Some were random and organic, some seemed almost mathematical. They are fascinating. Here is a video of one I found on YouTube.
Of my five days away, two of which were spent traveling, that one afternoon was my real holiday. The rest of my time in Broome, apart from the exploring, was spent shopping for a few groceries and some beverages, and visiting an optometrist for a new prescription and new glasses. The consultation was free but the new specs are costing me $986. I was not expecting it to be that much. I wished I was still in Fiji! I could not afford to order a spare pair. I shall send the new prescription over to Fiji to have a second pair made up by my optometrist there. That should be about a third the cost of these.
On the trip home I diverted through Derby for a quick look at what I missed when I did not get the job there in August 2014.
There is not much there, though I did see something to make me start dreaming… Alas, a dream is all it shall ever be.
A holiday should leave one refreshed and reinvigorated, ready to start anew at the daily round of employment and life. But this trip has merely reinforced my feeling that I am in the wrong place, at the wrong time of my life. A feeling I have never had before.