Broome & Cape Leveque
White Australia has a black history.
For 60,000 years every star, every plant, every one of the 6 changing seasons (including “knock em down storm season”) has been intimately known.
But our recent past carries much shame and horror.
In Broome on the main oval, I met Kathy from Balgo who lives beneath the big tree. She was happy to share stories from her life and acknowledged this collective Australian sadness.
She quietly told me of massacres that her people had experienced, how they were rounded up with chains around their necks, made to work in concentration camps, then burnt in fires. This happened to her parents family, the Pintupi tribe, in The Great Sandy Desert. She also told me stories about her birth, how she was buried in the warm desert sand to keep warm, how her dreaming comes from what her mother saw when she gave birth. Soon her extended family came over and joined us, cross legged on the grass and told their stories too. (You can read more about their stories, under their names and images below) And then a giant lawnmower revved it’s engine behind us, and it was time to stand up, pick up the blankets, the lamb chops they’d fried up for breakfast, and clear out. Along with the lawnmower, guys with a whipper snipper and hedge trimmers arrived, cutting away her tree. Kathy pointed out a birds nest, and they agreed not to disturb it. The symbolism of the situation wasn’t lost on me.
Our white government talks about “closing the gap” on indigenous illiteracy.
How about we “close the gap” on whitefella illiteracy of the natural world?
I do think that there is a way forward. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It starts with sitting together and having a yarn.
Here are just a few stories from the people I met:
(there’s more at the end too, and some travel tips)…
Here are a few travel tips:
- Use frequent flyer points to get to Broome if you can. The flight ($800 from Sydney) is never discounted. So use those points!
- The best time to visit is the Aussie winter (May, June, July, August, September).
- I went in October, when the ocean becomes choppy with onshore winds, but it was before the stinger season of Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb, March: (when swimming is not advised and going troppo is a problem!)
- Broome Time is a thing. Pack some snacks for your arrival day, cause you might find the local establishments having a siesta.
- It’s too bloody hot to walk anywhere during the day, (it was 46 degrees one day) although I saw lots of Europeans attempting it. (What’s that quote about mad men and Englishmen in the midday sun?) The town is spread out, the bus comes once an hour in the low season, so HIRE A CAR. It’s $80 a day from Broome broome broome. It’s only 5 minutes from the airport, but you’ll probably arrive dripping. There’s also rentals at the airport.
- Once you have a car, you can drive out to Gantheaume Point to see the dinosaur footprints, or (if they are covered by the king tides), at least you can admire the red rocks, the blue, blue sea, and head onto the Jetty.
- The Jetty . All sorts of things are exported from here by sea to the big wide world, such as iron ore, cattle, gas, etc. Beneath this jetty you might see local kids fishing for Barramundi with spears and leaping off the rocks into the sea. A lovely place to cool off, or drop a line. (You can get fishing gear in town).
- I swapped my town car for a 4 wheel drive and headed up north to Cape Leveque, where I stayed 2 nights at Kooljaman. It’s not that far on the map – only 200 -300 ks, but it took about 6 hours as it’s red dust all the way. Little did this city girl know that if you let some air out of your tyres (ideally down to 28 psi), you get a lot more grip and can go faster. Ah well…
- Cape Leveque is beautiful and remote. Bring food. They have camp grounds, or simple huts. I joined a bush tucker tour and a “Tagalong”- following Bardi Jawi elder Bill Lee in a convoy of 4X4’s. He caught turtles, speared mud crabs, showed us where baby osprey eagles were nesting. It was a fascinating day, and pushed my brand new sand hill driving capabilities to the limit. One morning I spotted a giant manta ray. It’s a raw and untouched landscape, a world away from the masses of tourists in Europe.
- In town I visited Magabala Books, Kimberley Bookshop, The Green Mango Cafe, the Short Street Gallery (both in town and in an old Bungalow nearby), the Museum, Matso’s brewery, and of course sunset over Cable Beach – you can watch this from a camel, whilst sipping a cocktail at Cable Beach Resort, whilst saluting to the sun from a yoga class, bobbing in the sea, or just blobbing on the green. I also attended a fantastic star gazing Astro Tour just out near the crocodile park. I visited the oval early in the mornings and sat with the mob that lives beneath the “Balgo Tree”.
- Check out these books & doco for more inspiration: