Thursday 23rd March 2017

Broome

We're back on Australian soil today.

There was some early confusion over the shuttle buses from the quay to the town centre, with growing crowds gathering and the prospect of long waits in the heat and humidity. In the event, more coaches than expected showed up and the problem eased.

We arrived in the town centre just as a heavy tropical downpour started – just our luck. We sheltered while we waited for it to stop, and fairly soon it was hot and humid again. Just over the road from the coach drop-off point was a London-style double decker bus offering tours. We had a chat with the owner-driver, who said that he was setting off at midday for a 90 minute tour and would drop passengers back at the ship at the end. It was now 10.45am so we had an hour to kill.

We found a cash machine to top up our stock of Australian dollars, had a quick walk around town, Gill booked an appointment to have her nails done and we went back to the tour bus. The rain came again briefly while we were waiting to set off, but after that it stayed dry.

Broome is really quite a small place, and we must have seen absolutely all of it plus its suburbs in the 90 minutes. It's another town that was bombed by the Japanese in 1942, and there are still flying boat wrecks in the sea that emerge at low tide. There's a large tidal range here and a very flat beach, which makes it too dangerous for swimming, quite apart from the 'stingers' (jellyfish), submerged wrecks and strong currents. This is a shame because its beach is beautiful and stretches for many miles in both directions, and camel rides take place along the beach at sunset each day.

Broome was an important centre for the pearling industry, with Chinese and aboriginal divers taking enormous risks and dying in large numbers over the years. In 1889 an undersea telegraph cable was laid from Singapore to Broome, thus connecting Australia to Britain via India, Egypt, Malta and Gibraltar. The point where it came ashore is now called, predictably, Cable Beach.

The area is also noted for dinosaur footprints dated to the Early Cretaceous period, which can only be seen at low tide. Twenty years ago some of them were cut from the ground and stolen, but have since been recovered.

The more the bus driver kept up a commentary over the speakers as he drove the more familiar his accent became. Earlier he'd said that he'd been 'here' for thirty years, and initially I thought he meant Broome, but when we took a brief break at Cable Beach I asked him if he was originally from the UK. “Yes, Stepney, and my parents live in Sittingbourne.” After that it became quite hard to hear an Aussie accent at all!

He drove us back to the ship, but several of us opted to go back into Town. While Gill was at her appointment I stopped in a bar for a pint of 'Five Lashes Pale Ale'. It sounded promising, but it was just another lager. We then took the shuttle back to the ship in time for afternoon tea and the string quartet.

Yesterday morning we went to a lecture on Broome and Exmouth. The lecturer does a pretty good job at getting through a lot of information in his allowed 45 minutes, and because it was a sea day he had a full house. We found today during the tour that he'd given a pretty accurate resumé of the town.

The captain's midday update informed us that we had 4,000 metres of water under the keel! That's over 13,000 feet, or about half the height of Everest.

Yesterday evening we were invited to the 'Oceania Club Members Cocktail Party'. We're members by virtue of having cruised twice with this company. Again, the lounge was packed, which led us to suspect that there were very few first-timers on board, and this proved to be correct. The woman who runs all of this on board came up with some incredible numbers. There are 640 passengers on board, only 70 of whom are on their first Oceania cruise.

There was then a ceremony to hand out silver and gold 'membership pins' for people on their tenth and twentieth cruises – there were loads of them! At the end she announced the names of people on board with the most days spent on Oceania ships. There were half a dozen couples with over 400 days, and even one with 1,004 days!! We've scraped together fifty or so in our two cruises. Calculating what all of these people have spent so far, let alone what they've spent on board, comes to some eye-watering amounts! It certainly shows that Oceania has a very loyal following, and that their, 'Finest Cuisine At Sea', claim isn't just marketing hype, as we can personally confirm!

It's another sea day tomorrow with Exmouth on Saturday.





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