After being with a friend in Perth then a group for the last ten days, to be finally left to my own devices was bliss! It's nice to share travel experiences with other people but most of all I like to do things alone. I love being independent, free to make my choices about what I want to do and when I want to do it without having to take anybody else into account, without having to compromise. I'm glad I had my time in Perth with Ellen and also that I did this tour up the west coast, having done it and witnessed the hours of driving involved I think to be driven is the best way and with a dearth of public transport (buses only every other day, only stopping in the towns) I am comfortable in my decision that a tour was the best way to get to see all that I wanted in my limited time.
Having said I like being on my own, my first free day in Broome was a bit crap; I was really tired thanks to the station stay, hours of sitting in a 40c bus then sleeping in a 6 bed dorm. The hostel I am staying at in Broome is awesome / weird. It's the Kimberly Klub YHA. Huge , tropical, laid back with palm trees, a pool and lots of hammocks. The dorms upstairs were once huge rooms now partitioned off so in my six bed dorm I could hear everything going on in the six bed and 12 beds next door! It wasn't as bad as I was expecting, I actually slept reasonably well thanks to non-squeaky bunk beds, dim lighting and the white noise of a ceiling fan - insane what a difference these small things make.
So that first day, I was not at my best. I got a few things done, stocked up on Bonds (40% off in Target yay!! Same price in $ as they are online in £ plus no shipping - best knickers EVER!). Visited the Pearl Luggers restored pearling boats, the small but interesting Broome Museum stuffed full of old photos and pearling / WWII info then sat for a while on town beach, watching warily the kids playing in the water, mindful of warnings from our bus driver "town beach has crocs don't swim there" but eh they were Aussies I guess they knew what they were doing. The rest of the group from the tour went out for dinner but I was too shattered and went to bed at 8.30pm.
My second day in Broome was great! It totally made up for the shortcomings of the first. I got up early and was out of the hostel by 8am. Walked around town a while til I felt I really knew my way- this is my favourite thing to do in a new place, walk with a map til I feel like I know it and Broome is quite small so it didn't take long! It has the regular stores, a couple of supermarkets, lots of cafés, a few art galleries and of course lots of shops selling pearls. Broome is weird / awesome in that the airport is smack bang in the middle of town, between Broome itself and Cable Beach. To get to various places around town, you have to walk along the perimiter of the airport and to get to the airport from my centrally located hostel was just a 5 minute walk. This has the awesome consequence that constantly throughout the day, small jets, old propeller planes used for scenic flights, seaplanes and helicopters can be heard and seen taking off from the airport over your head. It's very common to be in any shop or cafe in the high street and to hear and feel the rumble of a low flying jumbo jet passing overhead. I like planes, especially little ones so I love this about Broome!
Broome is pretty much the first place this trip (apart from Karijini where the Eco retreat was indigenous owned & run) that I have seen people of aboriginal appearance; they were noticeably absent from Perth, Fremantle and all of the places we stopped on the way up. I'm sure there were some in those places but I didn't see them. Actually, having looked into this, wikipedia tells me that 77.5% of WA's population is of European descent with just 3.1% Indigenous, so perhaps it does follow that I should have observed this.
After postcard writing and posting (probs won't get home til after me, sorry guys!) I set off to walk to Cable Beach. The walk was just under an hour, hot dusty pavements with no shade alongside the highway. I didn't mind as I was prepared for it to be like this- I had lots of water and a sun hat and walking sandals on. The heat can't be helped of course but it was a shame for a walk that lots of people might want to do from Broome to the beach to be so devoid of interest, features or shade / relief from the sun. Shire of Broome council (they call everything "shire" here in WA- it's the shire of Exmouth, shire of Port Hedland and now Shire of Broome) could do well to invest in that walkway / cycle path to Cable Beach but then they wouldn't get the income from people getting the bus there at $4 a pop so maybe that's the idea.
When I got there I was hot and dusty and the sea was sparkling blue. I'm a total wuss with the sea, generally jump in just long enough to cool off then straight back out again and don't go in at all if it's even slightly cold. I waded into this sea and my mind was made up in an instant- I felt like my entire body was thirsty to dive under the water! Is this how other people feel when they see the sea? I rarely want to go in that much, I usually don't want to but force myself, knowing i'll be glad I went in after.
Anyway, it was warm like a bath, the bottom was sandy, the water looked bright blue & the waves were just the right size to jump over / ride / chuck you about a bit without being dangerous or scary. I didn't swim between the flags but I had a patch of beach & water to myself, which was awesome! My time in the water was slightly limited by fear of crocs, which crept up on me and made me run for the shore prematurely but I'm sure it was fine I didn't get got anyway!
The only other people on "my" bit of beach were a trio of tourists and an Aussie surfer who wore his wide brim hat whilst surfing and bought with him two black dogs that amused themselves by chasing each other in the surf and barking at seagulls until the lifeguard came charging up on his motorised buggy thing and told the surfer to take his dogs to a designated dog area. Party pooper! They were having so much fun!
My third day in Broome (today) was not so great - I am due to fly back to Perth today. My flight was at 13:40 and I duly got to the tiny Broome International Airport two hours early at 11:40 only to find out that my flight had been cancelled with all reservations transferred to the next Virgin flight at 6.15pm. Now in theory, I am a fully grown adult person of 30 years old but I do not respond well to unexpected changes to my plans. First I had a mini breakdown at the virgin lady in the airport, wailing "I've only got three days left in Australia and I don't want to spend one of them sitting in an airpoooooort" then I went and sat on a bench outside and cried for 15 minutes, then I moved into the shade and sat on my big bag and stared into space for another 45 minutes or so, trying to get my head around a later flight.
This evening flight is the only other Virgin one from Boome to Perth today. I don't have a choice in the matter of what I want to do, my only option is to get this later flight, to get into Perth later than planned and just accept it.
Predictably for me but perhaps bizarrely to most people, my main concerns and source of distress was A. What will I have for breakfast in the morning tomorrow and what will I do for lunch today and tea tonight now that I'm not going to be where I thought I was going to be? I had planned to get to Perth, to go out for dinner in Northridge then go to Woolworths and get soya milk and a banana for my cereal in the morning. This later flight will not get in til 8.45pm, meaning everything will be shut and I need to sort out a packed tea to eat on the plane. My second source of distress was B. What will I do with my massive heavy bag for the next five hours? Once I had sat for a while and figured out solutions to both of these, I felt better. I unearthed my emergency jar of peanut butter from my big bag and made a peanut butter & vegemite sandwich for my lunch, repacked my bag and checked it in early, risking the not so secureness of it sitting in the airport for the next five hours. I went to the supermarket and got instant porridge sachets for breakfast (no milk required) and a banana so that I can have breakfast tomorrow!
I wandered round Broome a bit in the hot hot sun (32C today) then sought airconditioned peace and calm in the Broome Public Library, where anybody can use the internet for a 30 minute slot but the nice librarian said I could stay for an hour! I love librarians! And libraries! They are such peaceful, helpful and interesting places to be, makes me feel content about what I'm going to do next year (although I am still tempted to "miss" my flight home and stay away for another year or so :P). Barring further delays, I should get into my hostel this evening by 10pm still giving me two full days more to expore Perth, to give it another chance to wow me.