Tuesday, 23 October 2012
Last of the Tours
After six weeks in Broome I had accomplished most of the tourist ‘must dos’ but there were one or two left for me to do. For the first I had to request and was given the first two days of the month off in October. This was so I could see the Staircase to the Moon. I spoke to various people and established that the best place to see this phenomenon would be at a local hotel. Their bar area overlooks Roebuck Bay and I heard they put on a good show. Now the Staircase happens when the moor rises over the bay when the tide is out. The reflection off the mud flats as the moon rises looks like a staircase, especially as the moon is just above the horizon. Since this is a natural phenomenon I wasn’t sure how it could be made into a show. I soon discovered it was more than that they provided comfortable surroundings whilst we waited.
The moon was due to rise at 6:48pm but I was warned to arrive at the bar before 5pm. I duly arrived and was able to secure a seat at the last table by the railings over looking the bay giving me a prime view which made my early arrival worth the while. I shared my table with an English couple and an older Canadian gentleman who I struck up one of those temporary friendships with. His opening conversational gambit was a comment on my Dr status. How did he know that? Not realising I had to be there so early I had arranged a phone call with a friend in the UK and became one of those rude people who has a full on in depth dissection of life conversation on the phone in public. I did redeem myself by apologising and since the others were also foreigners I was forgiven due to extenuated natural-phenomenon-deadling-time-difference circumstances.
The In the two hours we waited for the staircase the bar provided decent service and some nice tapas and music to keep us entertained as we waited. As the moon was due to rise the lights dimmed and the music became a bit mystical. Sadly cloud cover meant we missed the moon rise but as it cleared the horizon the cloud cleared and though not the most staircasey reflection it was still very pretty. Once the moon had risen the view really improved and the Canadian and myself decided it made for a much better photography practice. Yes I found yet another photography enthusiast. We not only exercised our cameras together he also showed me some of his previous photography efforts which included his maple syrup making operation back home. I kid you not I met an actual real life bona fide Canadian maple syrup producer though sadly he didn't have any samples on him, just his business card.
The next day I was supposed to skype with a friend but between us we missed each other yet again so my day really started when I got on the bus to Willie Creek Pearl Farm. Willie Creek is another institution and one of those ‘must do’s’. It’s not a working pearl farm but rather a show case for the industry. Our guide on the way there was informative and thought he repeated some of the stories I had heard from my tour the previous week the stories related to the pearling industry were mostly new to me. On arriving at the ‘farm’ I was delighted to discover our guide was none other than a girl I work with. She is always lovely and enthusiastic at work and was even more so as she guided us through the processes used to cultur3 and harvest pearls from the oysters. We had a quick break for lunch before getting on a boat and going on a quick tour through the mangroves where our new guide Jock showed us how the oysters are taken care of whilst they are creating the pearls.
Post boat cruise and it was on to the show room for some show and tell where my co-worker/tour guide told us how pearls are graded and allowed us to try some very expensive strings of pearls on. They left us to look around and since I wasn’t going to buy any pearls I bought some carrot cake instead. Though the tour was interesting and fun I did think they left us a little too long at the end though maybe our bus driver just got caught up in his book as I am sure I spotted an other employee going to find him once we were all gathered hopefully around the bus. Our drive home was a lot quieter with our driver only speaking to suggest one or two touristy things to do, including a visit to my own work. I had no idea when I started there that I was working in one of Broome’s top tourist spots but everywhere I go people go “oh you work there” and get very excited. Once back at the hostel I had a quick skype home before heading back out to attempt to see the staircase for the second time. Sadly this time I slightly misjudged it. I had planned on going to a different location this time where I was told the view wouldn’t be as good but there would be less people. I think this would have been great if I hadn’t gotten the time of the moon rise wrong. I got there just in time to see the moon and it’s distant reflection on the water as it had risen 10 minutes previously. I was a bit annoyed at myself but not exceedingly bothered as I had seen it the evening before and the sky wasn’t much clearer. I am hopeful that as I pass through Broome next year I will get a chance to see it at its best and maybe get a decent photo having practised this time round.
My two days off were followed by five days working before I my one day off for that week. We were short staffed as a couple of people left unexpectedly but I was glad of the hours. We keep being told how the hours will decrease as the build up to the Wet continues so I was glad to get as many hours as I could to shore up my savings. My one day off though was fabulous.
I went on my last tour of the season and the last on my list of ‘must do’s’. I was up at 6am and on the bus to Cape Leveque by 7am and asleep by 7:05am I think. Comments were made about the bumpy road and my poor chances of staying that way but once more I proved them wrong and provided yet more amusement for my fellow passengers by managing to sleep over hours of bumpy road. As is usual on these things we stopped for morning tea and I started to wake up and become a little more sociable. Our stop was at an aboriginal community church in Beagle Bay which had the most amazing mother of pearl alter and it’s very own beagle. From there we moved on the Cygnet Bay which was another beautiful bay with white sandy beaches and inviting turquoise waters. The reason for stopping there was to visit the working pearl farm which was the first to be fully owned and operated by an Australian. He s stated it with his sons in the 70’s and they now make world renown pearls including the world’s largest ever pearl which is showcased in there store in town, so sadly we didn’t get to see that. We were given a more thorough explanation of the different kinds of pearls and how they are graded as our guide brought out a box of individual pearls and passed them round us explaining why one was seen as more or less valuable that the last. They also provided us with an extremely tasty lunch which did include an amazingly delicious chocolate cake which a fellow guest and I bonded over.
After lunch I thought we would head straight to Cape Leveque but before we got there we stopped at One Arm Point where we met quite a character at a local aquaculture hatchery who introduced us to his fish and turtles before trying to sell us some really interesting jewellery made from local polished shells. I would have bought some earrings but cunningly went without my purse and so saved myself some money though really I would rather not have as the earrings were so different and pretty. Finally we arrived at Cape Leveque and I was able to swim in the ocean for the first time since I arrived in Australia. The water was the perfect temperature and there was more chatting than swimming in the end making it a very relaxing end to had been a pretty relaxed day all round.
Back on the bus for once I didn’t sleep but instead read a book on my iTouch until we were almost back in Broome and my phone signal returned. I had a few missed calls and messages one of which was sadly bad news. My grandfather in law had passed away earlier that day whilst I had been out of range. As soon as I returned to the hostel I phoned my mother in law to offer her my condolences on her loss but sadly as I am well aware there was nothing I could do or say that would make her feel any better. I waited until the next day to speak to her daughter who was understandably upset and confused about whether to go home or not. In the end she decided to go home but I of course opted to stay knowing that really there was nothing I could do. Of course I was sad to miss the funeral of such a lovely man and be unable to say good bye but I did so in my own way with a wee dram of malt whiskey which I hope he would have approved of.