It’s a pretty gloomy winter’s day here in Canberra today, more reminiscent of a Melbourne winter’s day rather than the blue sky winter days I have become accustomed to seeing here. I think it’s about this time every year that I begin to think how nice it would be to get away and explore some place new. But, as that’s not possible right now, I have spent a rather unproductive day gazing out of my window and day dreaming about some of the adventures I have enjoyed in the past.
One of my favourite winter destinations is Broome in Western Australia’s Kimberley region, a place where the desert meets the ocean. Established in the 1800’s, Broome is an old pearling town with a rich multi-cultural history. As with many frontier towns, it has a colourful, and often violent history and in it’s hey-day supplied more than seventy-five percent of the world’s mother-of-pearl. These days, Broome is a tourist destination where you can revisit the Chinatown of old to learn of Australia’s early pearling industry, or take a sunset camel ride along Cable Beach.
I’m lucky enough to have been to Broome twice, the first time was with my husband on our first wedding anniversary. The second time was a decidedly less glamorous visit, but I have always loved a bit of an adventure, so the opportunity was too good to pass up.
A few years back I had the job of accompanying a youth group on a tall-ship adventure, sailing from Broome to Exmouth, a town further south on the Western Australian coast. Now for some inexplicable reason, I had always wanted to sail on a tall-ship, despite the fact that I consider any wind-powered craft to be an instrument of the devil—that is, I get chronically seasick on them!
Two days into the adventure I had mastered the art of climbing the main mast and venturing out onto the yardarm, and I had even convinced myself that I was emerging from the dark tunnel of mal-de-mer … I’m very good at lying to myself!
Sadly, one of the youth had received some bad news from home, necessitating the ship having to return to Broome—the nearest town on such an isolated stretch of coast—to disembark her.
Upon our arrival, the ship anchored several hundred metres off the beach in deeper water and my charge and I were conveyed to the beach by dingy. Due to the need for the ship to get underway again as quickly as possible, we alighted the tender in waist deep water, and farewelling the tall-ship crew, waded in to the shore with our backpacks above our heads and holiday-makers looking at us askance.
Let me assure you, in no way did I resemble Bond girls Ursula Andress or Halle Berry when they made their glamorous beach appearances—alas, sunburned, seasick and waterlogged I emerged from the surf with all the grace of an elephant seal!
And so my dream of retracing the footsteps (or wave crests) of past explorers such as William Dampier came to an inglorious end.