Thursday, 30 August 2012
The waves approached the shoreline with what appeared to be apathy, lazily slumping on the sand with an audible “puffff” as if the strength to reach solid ground took all the effort the water had. They didn’t dump on the sand in so much as slide onto the vast expanse of hardened beach. The tide was still on the way out - eventually to become eight metres - and it increased the distance to the water from the cliff every second. It receded so quickly you almost had to run into it to get wet, chasing the languid lukewarm water into the receding ocean.
The breeze, tender and gentle, was sucked into the warming land from the ocean as the sun baked the red earth, drawing in the cooling air. Above me, the fronds of the palm tree clatter laconically, every effort momentous, exhausting.
I lay back down on the grass, the cool green leaves in the shade providing a comforting mattress to while away the hours. My book lay beside me, the bookmark still stuffed halfway through the first chapter. There was a good chance that I wouldn’t finish the chapter, let alone the book. The heat, the culture, the lifestyle - it drew out all energy. Even my eyes needed to rest.
I lay on the grassy hill above Cable Beach, the café behind me selling beer and ice creams - in similar quantities I noticed - which only stiffened my resolved to grab one of each. If I could be bothered moving at all that is.
Welcome to Broome.
A place where life slows down - like the air is treacle and things just moooooove slooowwwer.
For the locals, there is no such thing of course. Life here is like life anywhere - there are livings to be made, families to raise, jobs to go to, schools attended and so on. But for the blow-ins, the tourists, life is in slow-mo.
Grey nomads flock here for six months of the year, filling the caravan parks to capacity with their Coromals, their Jaycos and their Paramounts. Oversized 4WDs, predominantly Landcruisers, dump their vans in the parks and then take to the town’s streets, hogging the car parking and creating an obstacle at every turn. Outside their vans, the nomads set up their pot plants - a couple of dozen palms, tomato plants and maybe a few herbs - a garden away from home, mobile oasis.
European tourists arrive in the thousands in the months April through to October - usually under 30 years old, beautifully tanned skin, barely-there clothes and full of nonchalant sensuality. Thousands of miles from home, a constant summer, and liberal sexual attitudes…it all adds up to the holiday by which all future ones will be judged. The time of their lives.
Broome-time takes over from real life. Things happen slooooow, life moves mega-slooooow. It’s a million miles from the rest of the world. It’s a different planet, an alien capsule separate from the rest of humanity.
Many words come to mind for this place - tranquil, paradise, oasis…it’s all that plus more. It’s culture and lifestyle. It’s a melting pot of Asian, Western and Aboriginal heritage - a fusion that creates uniqueness.
Anyone who ever comes here wants it to stay this way.
You don’t change Broome…Broome changes you.
Tuesday, 28 August 2012
Isolation - you know about that up here in the North West of Western Australia. On this trip - Karratha to Port Hedland to Broome and to Derby - I will travel about 1400 kilometres in 5 days, staying four nights and seeing numerous customers. The car is my lifeline, my office, my one and only haven. It is my time machine, shooting me forward into the future of the week, leaving behind the past of yesterday. My rear view mirror shows me where I have been and where I hope to go again soon. Ahead lay the open road - thousands of kilometers of bitumen winding its way through low hills, barren grassland and shrubby spinifex.
At this time of year, water is scarce in the bush and wild animals are drawn to the road to feed upon road-kill. Temptation brings more risk and, ultimately, more death. I have seen hawks and crows swooping down on decaying kangaroos on the side of the road. The Wedgetail Eagles, however, they don’t move for anyone. They sit on the carcass, in the middle of the road. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll go around them.
Emus dart out from two metre bushes, cunningly camouflaged like the trees - at first I thought the trees were alive and bounding at me until I realized that it was a couple of emus. I was about to curse that café in Port Hedland and their dubious looking hamburger when I realized the error was not as a result of food poisoning, but rather fatigue. The food poisoning part of the burger was to visit me later when I was in the relative safety and comfort of the hotel room.
Ancient valleys and ranges jut out of the flattened landscape at irregular intervals - as if a giant child had left his toys strewn all across the world. The roads wind their way between them - I’m certain done deliberately to give the weary drivers something interesting to look at. Road trains rumble past, multiple trailers chugging along like a great steel beast. Serpentine trains wind their way through the countryside, kilometers long, tens of thousands of tonnes of the precious earth in their cars. They snake their way to the coast, to the great export ports and deliver the Australian rocks to overseas companies - only for Australian companies to buy it back as a finished product.
Industry is as much a part of the landscape as the rest of the assets in the region - without that industry I wouldn’t be up here and neither would the vast majority of people. The vastness of the area, the isolation, and the distance from anywhere else conspire to keep this place raw.
I can be rough and it can break you.
But it can make you too.
The ports of Dampier and Port Hedland show us man’s contribution to the landscape up here - his ability to uglify it, to export it, exploit and pillage. Then there is the beauty up here - gorges of rare and pristine grandeur that to mention them here would bring them to attention…they are just for me and anyone else who stumbles across them.
I also know of places with Aboriginal rock art dating back tens of thousands of years. It’s not sign-posted, there are no tourists - and yet thousands of people drive past it every day without knowing. My lips are sealed to protect.
The Pilbara is a land of contrasts - a land as old as anywhere on the planet and yet the human element here is growing so fast the world can’t keep up. Extreme temperatures, extreme distances, extreme challenges.
I wonder how long it will last.
If you have made it this far...thank you.
If you have made it this far...thank you.
Tuesday, 21 August 2012
OK, so I have finally succumbed to starting up a blog and getting down to the business of writing on a regular basis. This is commitment 101. It's public, it's out there and now, Jamie, you better get on with it.
To be honest, I haven't the faintest idea what a blog should be about so I have decided to treat this as a public diary. There won't be any secrets in here (so, those who know me, rest easy!). It will simply be an assortment of ramblings, observations, and general bullshit - a bit like a conversation with me really.
- Expect - non-sequiturs.
- Expect - randomness.
- Expect -
Yes, even unfinished sentences...
My rules will be simple - no censorship by your humble narrator, and no deleting of embarrassing ramblings that will cause me to cringe or redden with humiliation.
About freaking time, you might think.
(Freaking? Come on Jamie, you've broken your rules in the very first blog! The word you mean is "fucking" - or, more appropriately, "fukkin" - even "fucken" as it is often spelt on barely legible graffiti. Everyone knew I meant "fucken" so fucking say "fucken" if you mean it! Come man, stick with it!)
Okay, I think you get the drift. I cannot promise to be entertaining or inspiring - nor can I promise that future endeavours will be better, worse, or similar in quality and frivolity than this one. But I will take the effort to at least do something. If it's not every day, it will be every few days.
- I'll do my best not to pick on easy targets (reality TV, Politicians, plane food...).
- I'll do my best to avoid pretentiousness and over-indulgent usage of words (if I go too far, you can be assured that i have actually had to look them up in an on-line thesaurus anyway, so I've just spoiled any potential ego-trip for myself right there!).
- I'll do my best to fix the "auto-correct" and pre-emptive text that computers employ at times (admittedly sometimes the typos are simply my own fat fingers no working like they should, but it's easier for me to blame technology because I don't fully understand it anyway).
Maybe this will be cathartic in some ways - opening my mind up and letting you in to comment/criticise/laugh. I might find the experience worthwhile and therefore it could lead to a whole new me. Some might say (cruelly) that this would be a desired outcome.
Well, that's about it for openers. I have no idea how long or short a blog should be so I'll just wing it and see what happens. If you want to comment, well, that's what true internet is for - to give a voice to people that can't/won't have one in real life.
If you made it this far, thank you,