Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Asia in North Australia

There's a long distance between Broome in North Western Australia and the bulk of this country's population both in miles and cultural makeup. It's kind of a shame that time is tightening it's grip and like many other unique places in the world the gap is closing fast.
Since I was a kid I have wanted to visit Broome. I have had a romantic fixation on the place ever since I first heard of the place years ago. I can't remember when the image first came to me of that tropical paradise:

~ Red earth; blue sky; emerald sea!
~ Brown skinned beauties, the daughters of pearlers
~ Wild kids on the edge of a place...
~ they say it's Australia but it sure looks like Asia
~ Busted tin roofs, dirty red shoes and the sun lazy and tropical
~ Sometimes a hint of frangipanni, clove cigarettes and dried fish
~ rise on the cool desert breeze
~ It's the dry!
~ Bougainvilleas fill the gaps in rusty tin walls
~ easterlies nudge shells strung on fences
~ nothing like I know...
~ Did AB Patterson or Lawson ever write it?
~ That man in his dingy little office or the bushman Clancy never knew a thing about it!
~ Mangoes, fresh fish, and Music
~ Salt water cowboys.. tough proud men...
~ Skin tanned by sun, fed on sea and torn by shells!
~ Survivors! So far away... forgotten... A bureaucratic anomaly...
~ A true haven for dreamers drifters and reprobates! The raged unwanted
~ A place for me?


It may have been on one of Alby Mangles amazing adventure films or it may even have been the Leyland Brothers... I can't remember but from that time on I was headed north and west.. Would I ever get there?

That place is far from where I come from and the cost had prevented me from getting there... (well unlike Alby I never made the decision to just GO!) So eventually back in 1996 I plucked up the nerve to take extended leave from my job, sell all my stuff and head off on a world trip of my own with the intention of coming back to Australia and Broome! I made it around the globe OK found myself back in Darwin, a good launching place for a trip to Broome, and wound up married with a 1.5 children and still no closer to my destination! Ironically my wife, who I met in Darwin, also landed there on her way West!

Well finally, after countless holidays back to Melbourne we both decided enough is enough! We packed up the car squeezed the kid into a gap on the back seat, filled the glove box with Play School, Hoolidoolys and Seseme Street tapes then set off! Across the Kimberleys and Westward towards Broome. Broome the place of our dreams, Broome the romantic Asian haven far far away from the influences of the bland Anglo Australia that even Darwin reeks heavily of! Away to somewhere free of the network TV cutout figure of what Australia would be if we would all just white up a little. On to Australia as it could have been if the ever colonial Orang Putih had just been a little more friendly to the locals and the help!

We arrived at Broome by road, on a crowded single lane highway full of RV's. A multi million dollar rolling stock of diesel guzzling self contained apartments on multi axle trailers! Caravans & motor homes lumber in and out of town in endless streams the streets are choked with elderly citizens from southern towns come for the warmth and a pretty place to camp! As we roll through the roundabout past the giant new tourist information centre the next thing we see are those too, too familiar golden arches!

We have arrived! Just 20 years too late! All the stories were true! Broome has been consumed by tourism and is no longer the place it was. I looked hard to find the Broome I'd dreamed of. I'm sure there are still plenty of people still living who can recall it well but for our short stay it was only a relic or a curiosity from the past. There are plenty of facades to remind us of Broome but the cultural conversion has begun. They say the population doubles or maybe trebles in the the tourist season and we were just one more car load of tourists come to sit at cable beach or gawk at the peculiar architecture or the beautiful faces of an Asian Indigenous Australia so different from what we know!

Still I loved Broome. Among some of the relics around town I discovered a pair of Indonesian Becaks on display at the Sun Pictures open air cinema, too bad no one has thought of recommissioning them to cart the tourists around town. Alas Broome town is choking on the soot of 100's of dirty diesel burning 4x4 pleasure craft plying its otherwise lovely streets. Windows rolled up, air conditioners blasting as the folks galk for glimpses of the Broome they have buried!

Becak at Sun Pictures

No comments: