If I was starting to get a bit anti there, Broome soon sorted me out. It was 2 weeks of pulling out the sunchairs and staring at the ocean, watching the giant tides expose sea urchins, colourful cucumbers, stripey snakes and plane wrecks. I walked to the wreck one sunrise, it was about 1km from shore, on my way back I helped a lady rescue a sea turtle from the mud. It was the most beautiful creature I’ve seen close up. Big gentle eyes. It’s flippers were as strong as angry arms slapping against me. I helped her take it to her home where she was going to put it in the bath and wait until the tide was high to put it back. I thought it a little strange but was too amazed with the fact I was carrying this turtle that I didn’t question the direction we were going. Only after I waved them both goodbye did I realize she was probably going to eat it.
Jacob caught his first Barramundi on a full moon from the beach in front of our camp. The ghost fish that haunts so many a mad fisherman, including Jake who had been talking about this phantom since we left the Sunshine Coast. This fateful night the fish finally surrendered to a quick left and right hook. It was massive, 74cm, big, beautiful shimmering silver scales. We shared the fish with our neighbours, 3 other families that Bodhi played with everyday. We had a great little community there. The kids would roam from one camp to the next, eating fresh watermelon at one and playing pots and pans at another. Together they’d search for shells and hermit crabs in the cool part of the day, that’s when the parents would salute another glorious day and recall stories of the one that got away. We got to experience a tasting palette of the sea, ate like ocean kings and queens, our neighbours also sharing their spoils. We tasted Red Emperor, Mullet, Shark, Garfish and Barramundi. We pan fried, battered, bbq’d and bubbled in broth. (Sorry to all my vego and vegan friends out there).
We could have stayed there a lot longer but the cyclone season was brewing and the Irakanji were moving in and I didn’t want to get too comfortable in a place, not yet anyway. Wanted to get back to the feeling of not knowing what’s next. So back to the road. We spent a lot of cash in Broome on concerts, accommodation and beer, so we’re free camping for awhile and having to look for work. We pulled up to a rest stop, I went to collect some firewood, swatting flies and getting scratched up by speargrass. I said “Hello” to a countryman named Johnson and he came to help me get some logs for the fire. He told me which trees would burn through the night and helped me carry them. We gave him beer and chatted about his community. He lived not far down the road, in but weren’t allowed grog, a law imposed by the elders and if you got caught you got fined. He and some family were “hiding” out at the rest stop, waiting for the cops to leave the community and then they would head back, pack their swags and take to the beach for a few days on the drink. We saw a lot of families in Broome hanging out in the park drinking till they couldn’t stand, quite a lot of fights, but mostly just family and friends in big groups having a laugh. I guess it’s just confronting for white fellas to see it so blatantly not hidden in dark bars and backyards. Johnson showed us a scar on his leg where he’d been speared by an elder for something he did wrong, He didn’t say what, but he’s lucky he bent back otherwise the spear would’ve gone right through his skull. It’s still law, depending on the crime, a person or people gather a certain distance away and you can’t move, you’ve just gotta hope to hell they’re a really bad shot.
We watched a bushfire in the distance get closer to our camp. Jake stayed awake, a naked midnight vigil. Next morning we moved further down the long stretch of coast, hardly anyone on the roads now. Tourist season is over. We stopped for lunch at 80 Mile beach, a million fan shells scattered its length. We stayed the night at Cape Keraudren. A gorgeous spot with white sand and huge conch shells and kangaroos and foxes and an open field for sea dreaming and sky gazing and a single tree for seven finches and a man named Rob with twisted limbs who lived in a lime green van with a capsicum tree who offered us weed and conspiracy.