Friday, 21 September 2012

Working to Live

The season in Broome is winding down as the build up to the Wet begins but from my hours at work you’d never know it. As the other backpackers leave they are not replacing them and instead spreading the hours out amongst the remaining staff. This has been great for me for a few reasons. First and most obviously more hours equals more money. Whilst I do need to save up as much as possible with the hours I am working I am able to enjoy some of what I earn as well. The other was my own personal build up. As the three and a half year mark since Jonathans death approached I was glad that the number of hours I was working kept me busy and gave me something else to concentrate on.

One of the highlights of the last two weeks is the fact I got paid for two and a half weeks work. At 40+ hours a week lets just say I was feeling rather well off. With the next few weeks work more or less guaranteed I decided to use my first pay to do fun things and treat myself, after all my lifestyle choice is all about working to live so I had to do some living. Also as the dry season is coming to an end I wanted to see some of the Kimberly region before it became unbearably hot and inaccessible. With this in mind I made a list of some of the tours I might like to do and went to the local visitor centre to see what would be the best order to do them in. The girl I spoke to was really helpful and lovely. She strongly recommended that I do one of the gorge tours I’d chosen sooner rather than later now we were in to the build up but was happy to chase up a photo tutorial tour first for me as I really wanted to do that first. When she phoned to say that tour wasn’t available the next week I was happy enough to follow her advice and decided I would go on a one day gorge tour the next week and also try one of the whale watching tours before all the humpback whales headed south for the summer. However I got a lovely surprise when I got to work. Instead of the Wednesday and Thursday off as expected I was given Thursday and Friday off the next week. This meant on pay day I was able to go back to the visitors centre and book a two day gorge tour with Kimberly Wild for that week and a sunset whale watching cruise for the next week instead of settling for a one day gorge tour. Though the roster is done on a weekly basis I knew I would have the Monday off as that was the three and a half year mark and I wanted to do something special to remind myself how good life is and not dwell on what could have been.

I booked my two day tour on the Tuesday before it left and did try get some new clothes in town but I felt uncomfortable in the shops and I missed having a second opinion so I settled on doing some food shopping and headed back to the hostel to get ready for work. The next morning I slept in but still had time (just!) to go to the shopping centre at the edge of the town where I went to Target to get a second pair of work trousers. Well my shopping experience couldn’t have been more different. I decided to bite the bullet and buy a new bikini and some shorts that fitted since I was there and the lady in the changing rooms was lovely. She helped me choose the right sizes and complimented me on the weight loss, not in a sales type way but genuinely. In principle I’m not a fan of Target but with customer service like that and clothes that actually fit I shall definitely be returning, in my mind the cheap prices are a bonus. Next I went to a sports shop where another helpful person sold me reef shoes for my tour and then finally to top off my spending spree I stopped to treat myself to the new Matchbox Twenty album only to find that if I also bought a Gaslight Anthem I would get them both for $40 instead of $30 each. Well who could resist such a bargain?! I made it to work that day just in time but I still had to use my break time to run to the town centre to buy a torch which had been forgotten in the excitement of buying the mornings goodies.

Before I knew it tour day arrived and it was worth waiting for. I had an early start and was the fourth person on the bus. The other three were all older but the lady on her own looked like an interesting and fit person and the other older couple looked like they could do some walking too but the two couples who got on after me........They had walking sticks!! I was hoping for some exercise to work off all the deserts I’d been eating but here were people who looked like they would struggle to walk for more than 20 minutes never mind a few hours. Now don’t get me wrong I had nothing against them at this point I was just concerned about what king of tour I had gotten myself into. The rest of the group though were younger and obviously fitter and we ended up with an eclectic mix. We spent the morning driving and made it to our campsite in time for lunch. Of course we couldn’t spend all morning on the bus, we did stop for morning tea and biscuits which I enjoyed immensely despite being unsure of how much I would be working them off over the next two days. Whilst weightwatcher has made me more aware of what I eat I am glad to report it hasn’t stopped me from enjoying the finer things in life. On my first tour Last year I was amazed that everyone had slept on the bus but I must admit that after working so hard I was glad of the to spend most of our morning drive asleep. The campsite was lovely and there was a mix of actual cabin rooms, safari tents and camping on the ground. Our group was a mix of all three and I impressed out guide by asking if I needed a tent or could I just sleep in a swag under the stars. I did confess later that as well as wanting to see the stars I was also just too lazy to put up a tent! After my trip across the nullarbor last year I was more than capable but if it wasn’t necessary why waste the energy? Besides it wouldn’t have been the same without my nullarbor tent buddy.

We had a lovely salad buffet style lunch then we were back on the bus and on our way to Gekkie gorge. Here we got on a boat and took a trip down the river where I got my first real taste of the gorgeous Kimberley scenery. My camera was working overtime especially since we had been fortunate enough to get seats at the back of the boat which allowed me a clear view of the scenery behind us and enabled me to get some great shots. I also discovered that freshies ( fresh water crocodiles) are not at all scary and in fact are rather cute. We saw a number of them as we cruised up and down the gorge though none close to the boat as they are shy creatures who are easily spooked. Sadly I didn’t notice until the end of my tour that our skipper/guide with the rather nice voice also had a rather nice face. Myself and another younger girl got a little silly about it later and one of the other ladies had great fun teasing us about it which was entertained a few other as well.

Back at camp we had some time to ourselves before dinner and I got to know a few of my fellow campers as we took photos of our campsite and discussed photograph before a couple of us retired to the campsite bar. For once my not drinking alcohol was easily accepted and the discussions centred on photography and our travelling experiences amongst other things. It was soon time for an amazing barbequed buffet and once again I found myself going back for seconds. As a backpacker I eat an almost vegetarian diet as it is cheaper and easier so a buffet of steak, sausages, chicken, stuffing and salad was too much temptation. Of course being female I do have that spare section of stomach so was also able to fit in some mud cake for desert. I finished my day off with my first attempt at some night photography with my new camera but with nothing to rest it on I tried using Zack as a prop only to give up and use one of my shoes. This is why our guide found me at one point lying on the ground squinting at the sky with only one shoe on. I must have made quite a picture myself at that point! I can see why the visitor centre recommended that if I were to do a day trip I do the other one as it would have been too much driving not enough content for one day. However for me it was a perfect start to my two days off after my recent hectic schedule and the next day really gave us our money’s worth content wise.

The next day we were up with the sun. I set my alarm for 5am in the hopes of catching the sunrise. The sky was already light when I woke but as I put on my glasses I saw the moon and Venus in the sky and my first thought was ‘I must get my camera’. I rushed to get dressed (I had showered the previous night) then grabbed my camera and off I went again. I stopped to roll up my swag and dump my sleeping bag on the bus before making myself some tea and muesli for breakfast only to run off halfway through to get more photos this time of the sunrise. Yes I’m a nutter but I wasn’t alone as there were two of us trying to capture the arrival of the new day. Soon we were back on the bus and this time it was all change.  Remember the two old couples from earlier? Well they were so rude! They complained about everything and were never happy and they decided they wanted to sit at the front of the bus. Now on a tour there is an unwritten rule that you keep the same seat for the whole tour so though this doesn’t sound rude it is bad form. Another lady was suffering a bit and asked to swap and the rest of us decided to make the best of it and all moved about which is how I ended up at the back of the bus with my fellow  photographer friend. Once there we discovered we now had the best views plus I am blessed and can sleep anywhere so much to everyone else amazement and amusement I drifted off and snoozed on the longer sections of road.

Our first stop of the day was Tunnel Creek and it was stunning. We had been warned to put on our bathers and reef shoes and occasionally as we walked through the massive caves we had to trek through the water. The caves were stunning and at the other end of them we were rewarded by a swim in a deserted water hole. This was why we were up at 5am and it was worth it! The water hole was beautiful and the swim a great way to start the day. We were able to mess about in the water for just over half an hour before we started back through the caves. On my way through I had my camera to hand whilst strapped securely round my neck but on the way back I left it in my bag so I could just enjoy walking through the caves. On the way back we passed a quite a few people which made us extra glad we had gotten up so early and had the place to ourselves on our initial trek through. Well most of us were glad. The old couples complained of course and even suggested they didn’t want to go through the caves. It was the highlight of the tour and they didn’t want to go! Our tour guide explain this and since he wanted them to get their money’s worth assured them he would walk them through it and that they would be ok. All the way through both ways he only left their side at the waterhole whilst we rested and as we left the caves in order to enlist the help of two of the younger guys to help the old people out the cave entrance. We stopped for an orange break and never have oranges tasted so good. It had been a long time since breakfast, the day was heating up and the orange quarters were deliciously cold and juicy, a perfect end to our morning excursion.

Next we were on to Windjana gorge where I took the opportunity to catch up on some sleep. The road may have made for a bumpy ride but I had been up late then early with my camera and I had some missed shut eye to catch up on. Windjana was beautiful but I am glad I ended up taking the visitor centres advice and going sooner as I would not have enjoyed it as much if it were much hotter or more humid. Our guide walked us into the gorge and told us more about the site and the freshies of which we saw a fair few of.  He then left us to go make our lunch whilst we ventured along a path which wound in and out of the shade allowing us some amazing views interspersed with welcome cooler patches. We were given forty five minutes to ourselves in the gorge then it was lunch time. It was another salad buffet but just as tasty as the previous days. After a rest and some washing up it was back on the bus and we were on our way back to Broome. We stopped at an impressively large boab tree and a rather large termite mound, yes termite mound.  I thought they would be really spaced out but the landscape was covered in these impressive formations. We also stopped at the longest cattle trough in the southern hemisphere and the boab prison tree which sadly help up to forty aboriginal ‘prisoners’ during the white settler days. There were eighteen of us and we couldn’t imaging all of us fitting in that tree never mind twice as many. It was a sobering sight and a reminder of the more brutal aspects of this country’s history.  We were back in Broome by 7pm and despite or maybe because of all my sleeping on the bus I was too tired to go look for food and made myself a nutritious cereal dinner before going to my room to get ready for my 7am shift the next day. My ‘weekend’ was over but what a ‘weekend’ it had been!

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