Friday, November 01, 2013

Monday, 10/21/13 Broome

Monday, 10/21/13 Broome

Broome is a small town of only 15,000, located on the far Northwest coast of Australia.  In the 1870s, pearls were discovered in Roebuck Bay and Broome was established as the base for pearling operations in the bay.  Broome soon became recognized as the “pearling capital of the world”.  At one point, more than 80 percent of the world’s pearls were harvested from this area.  Japanese, Chinese and Aborigine divers risked their lives in the search for oysters, and more than 900 lost their lives and are now buried in the Broome cemetery.  After the introduction of plastic, the pearling industry faded, and then the invention of pearl farming changed the production of pearls.  However, pearls from this area are still highly valued for their color and luster, and pearl farming is a big business.

Took the ship tour to Willie Creek Pearl Farm to see how pearls are farmed.  The trip to the farm was interesting as it passed through flat, extremely arid, red sandy terrain covered by low trees and bushes.  A recent fire had blackened the grass and killed many of the low trees.  There are only two seasons in this area, wet (November to April) and dry (April to November); the dry season is ending and the wet season is about to begin.  The Northwest coast of Australia is called “cyclone alley”, and cyclones (hurricanes) are common in the wet season, when many residents leave.  During the dry season, the area is a popular tourism location, and the population of Broome swells from 15,000 to over 50,000.

At Willie Creek Pearl Farm, a very pleasant, entertaining young woman explained the process of pearl farming (which I will not go into here), and then we were served refreshments before going on a boat tour of the oyster beds and shown how the oysters are cared for during the process of producing oysters, which take about two years to grow.  One interesting aspect of the boat tour was to see how high the tides are in this area; the water marks could easily be seen on the trees and bushes growing along the banks.  Tides reach 9-10 meters, or about 30 feet.

After the visit to Willie Creek, the tour dropped passengers off in town, where we could catch a city bus to Cable Beach to watch the famous sunsets.  Cable Beach is a 13 mile long, wide stretch of beautiful sand that is hard enough to for vehicles to drive on, like Daytona Beach in Florida.  Sunsets at Cable Beach are famously spectacular, and a visit to see the sunset is a must in Broome.  The bus arrived only a half hour before sunset, time to walk along the beautiful walkway all along the beach and pick a spot to view the sunset.  Thousands of people were lined up along the walkway to watch the sunset, and restaurants were filled with people, gathered to watch the sunset.  The entire area is beautifully developed and it is easy to see why tourists love to visit there.  Unfortunately, the sunset on this day was nice, but not spectacular; still, it was nice to see the sunset at Cable Beach.  Cable Beach got its name from an event that occurred here.  When the first undersea telegraph lines were laid between Australia and Singapore, the cable came ashore at this point -- hence the name “Cable Beach”.

The little town of Broome has been extremely well developed for tourism.  It is beautifully laid-out; the stores and houses seem to follow a strict building code that requires buildings not only to be “cyclone proof”, but also of a certain level of beauty.  Although the town is small, it seems larger than it is because it is so pretty and so well maintained.  The beauty of the town invites walkers and shoppers, and it is easy to see why so many tourists visit here, especially with the wide, beautiful Cable Beach.

After the sunset, the next attraction was to watch the full moon rise over Roebuck Bay.  At full moon, the reflection on the water seems to create a “stairway to the moon”, and people flock to take photos.  However, once the bus had arrived back from Cable Beach to the midtown area, clouds had formed in the east, blocking the view of the moonrise.

The last transfer to the ship was not until 8:30, so there was time for dinner in town before returning to the ship; however, the only restaurants seemed to be bars and burger places, so I boarded the bus to return to the ship.  The ride back to the ship took half an hour through extremely dark, winding streets with many turns.  Finally, after a final turn, the fully lighted ship suddenly appeared.  The departure from Broome was delayed until almost midnight to wait for the tide; at low tide, there was not enough clearance for the ship.  After returning to the ship, the hamburger at the grill was very tasty.

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