We arrived in Broome, Western Australia for some much-needed chill time. As the temperature increased, driving to a new destination every day was taking its toll. We arrived at famous Cable Beach and joined the congregation of van lifers in the shady part of the car park, hoping to discover some free camping spots from this crew, but they were very focused on rolling joints and playing bongos, and not keen for a chat. So we chose the Roebuck Caravan Park, as it was the cheapest and most central to town. Our camping spot was on a nice grassy knoll overlooking Town Beach.
Priority number 1 was to visit Matsos Brewery. We’d hope to join the tour but it was already booked out. Must be a lot of brew dogs in Broome. We tried the ginger beer, mango beer, chilli beer, stout and lychee beer (hot tip: lychee beer is the dud). We fell quite hard for the ginger and mango beer and made a couple of return visits to stock up.
We made the mistake of visiting the town centre in the weekend, when every store was closed and even the tumbleweed couldn’t be arsed rolling the streets. Sun Pictures, the oldest outdoor cinema left in the world (apparently) was very picturesque, but aside from that, Broome CBD is all pearl retailers and suspiciously warm sushi bars. We didn’t venture into the Roebuck Hotel, which has a reputation for getting a bit loose but we did see another of Broome’s tourists hot spots – the Japanese cemetery, which was built for the pearl divers back in the 1800s. A lot of them died young from decompression sickness or ‘the bends’ without understanding the cause at the time.
Other travellers had extolled the virtues of Cape Leveque to the north of Broome, so we decided to brave another off-road run in the campervan and trundled out to Willie Creek. After noodling for opals in Andamooka, South Australia, we decided it was only polite that we harvest some Australian south sea pearls in Broome.
The tour at Willie Creek Pearl farm was full of bum-bagged Grey Nomads, but boy was it interesting. The cultivated pearl only exists because the discovery of the world’s largest pearl oyster shell in Roebuck Bay and – an unscratchable itch. Technicians insert a tiny bit of shell, shaped into a ball, into the gonads of the oyster. The oyster finds this foreign object so irritating that it sends some pearly muck called nacrum down to the source as a combination healing balm/protective coating. This coating continues to build over two years as the pearl farmers rotate the oysters in their beds. Then it’s time to open’er’up and see the results. In a perfect world, the resultant pearl would big, round and super shiny, but as the disclaimer goes – results may vary. The one that our tour guide opened in front of us was on the meh side.
We took a tour of the creek, enjoying the commentary of laconic Old Mate, who called cable ties ‘oyster seatbelts’ and taught us the different between logodiles and crocodiles. The local salty George didn’t appear but we continued to keep an eye out for him as we camped and fished on the banks of Wille Creek later that afternoon. No fish were caught, aside from a puffer fish that expanded as Gaz tried to remove the hook, but a turtle did pop up to say G’day as we watched the tide quickly rise to cover our feet. Willie Creek was beautiful and if we had the 4wd capabilities we definitely would have ventured further up the cape.
Back in Broome we headed to Cable Beach for the obligatory sunset shot. We wanted to see the camels take their sun-dipped steps but weren’t that keen on riding them. The idea was definitively mooted when we clambered up and over a dune to take in the beach expanse and saw hundreds of 4 wheel-drives churning up the sand all the way down to the water. Attention backpackers! If you’ve drifted off to check FB, come back now. Do not book a Cable Beach sunset camel ride expecting a ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ moment. The camel train had to navigate a swarming masse of Jeeps, Landrovers and the indefatigable Toyota Hilux, tolerating the fumes and noise that accompanied them. It requires some careful positioning to get that sunset money shot. And this was a Monday night too – the weekend must be off chops.
Next destination on the road trip itinerary – Wolfe Creek and Palm Springs, Western Australia. Watch out backpackers, neither of these places are likely to do what it says on the box…
Highs: Picking up a cheeky keshi pearl for the Australian gems collection
Lows: 34 degree nights. Broome might be pretty but it’s still freakin hot