I promised several people that I would write a blog, and two and a half weeks into my trip, I feel like it’s only fair to deliver the first entry to my awaiting fans.
It also helps that it’s currently pouring with rain and there’s nothing else to do…
“I love a sunburnt country / A land of sweeping plains, / Of ragged mountain ranges, / Of droughts and flooding rains.” – My Country, Dorothea Mackellar (1885-1968)
“This is a country where even the fluffiest of caterpillars can lay you out with a toxic nip, where seashells will not just sting you but actually sometimes go for you. … If you are not stung or pronged to death in some unexpected manner, you may be fatally chomped by sharks or crocodiles, or carried helplessly out to sea by irresistible currents, or left to stagger to an unhappy death in the baking outback.” – In a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson (1951-present)
One is undeniably more romantic than the other.
But both, I think, are encapsulated by the Aboriginal philosophy that if you look after country, country will look after you. Skimming the surface of such a complex relationship with nature, there’s both a respect and admiration for the land and an intimate understanding that if you piss it off, nature will always bite you back ten times harder.
Broome, Western Australia, “Gateway to the Kimberley” has now been my home for almost three weeks. With a permanent population of c.15,000 and hordes of about 45,000 a month at the peak of the dry season, it’s currently in a state of transition, having just entered the dry (although you wouldn’t know that after the weather today). Getting off the plane on 18th April, I was greeted by a wall of 40-degree heat during the day and a freezing 38 degrees at night… Now it’s a far more reasonable 35 and 22/23 respectively.
Much of my time so far has been spent in either pool, sea, or hammock (hard life, I know). If you ever find yourself in Broome, go to Cable Beach at sunset. In my first Monday to Friday week in Broome, I went four out of five evenings because, why not?
But ultimately, my reason for being in Broome is to work. On Saturday, I head off on my first twelve-day tour as a camp host for Kimberley Wild and I’m absolutely buzzing about it. My experience in the Kimberley last August is the main reason I’m back in Australia now – you could say it was love at first sight. I’ve gone on about it so much at the hostel that I’ve already been referred to as “Amber of the Kimberley” (not gonna lie, I was secretly extremely chuffed about that). The tour travels on a loop from Broome, stopping at Cape Leveque, Tunnel Creek, Bell Gorge, Lake Argyle, El Questro, and the Bungle Bungles, among many other places. Pindan red roads, blue skies, stunning scenery, sleeping under the Milky Way, hiking through a land that dwarfs you at every available opportunity, and patchy phone reception at best – I can’t wait.
Until now it’s been a bit of a waiting game, except for the odd day tour and overnight trip. I’ve already picked up a bit of the rhythm of tour: you unload the food, eat the food, reload the food (in a nutshell).
Except for when the fridge breaks…
Then you unload the food, throw away the food (including the questionably warm chicken), and get lunch at Kooljaman (because they do a cracking Barramundi and chips).
(N.B. I also cooked eggs for the first time, and for anyone in the know, that’s a big deal.)
Finding my feet was a bit intimidating at first. Hostels are scary. Especially if you’re an introvert.I arrived at the backpackers tired, hot and utterly overwhelmed; questioning whatever had possessed me to organise a eleven month trip, alone, to the other side of the world. Luckily, just as I was teetering on the edge of hysteria, my roommate decided to appear, and I was distracted from my own brain by another, much more stable, human being. Things started to feel more normal after that and I kept myself busy with all the bureaucratic hoops I had to jump through to get settled in Australia.
My main realisations:
- It’s okay to feel a bit panicked and apprehensive in a new place, and taking things one step at a time has always been my way of coping.
- As an introvert, it’s important to sandwich your way into as many conversations as possible early on, however awkward it may be. They might think you’re a bit weird, but, silver lining, they’re more likely to remember you.
- You will adjust to the heat, as impossible as that may seem to the sweaty, red-faced, dehydrated person staring back at you in the mirror. It helps if you have air-con (which I don’t), or a pool (which I do), or a decent-sized fridge you can hide in for 20 minutes at a time (this is still my last resort scenario).
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if it makes you feel incompetent – odds are, the people who have been travelling in Australia since last year will know more than you do…!
It’s been hard being away from friends and family, but it’s been pretty exciting too, and I’m really looking forward to the next two weeks. My general aim is to avoid being eaten by salties (saltwater crocs), killed by snakes, or terrorised by dingoes, and to make sure the guests survive all of the above (+ me) for twelve days. No biggie.