Broome, 28th – 30th October
During the night I wake up from the sound of metal hitting metal - distant and short but it pierces through my dreams. I look through the tent window and see a man running out of the kitchen and jumping into a started car, ready to drive off. And because I am my mother’s daughter I officially decide that sound was from Nic’s steel water bottle which we left in the fridge. I am convinced that this person found the key to the fridge and from everything inside it picked exactly that. You probably think I am crazy but it is blue - easily attracting attention. That’s all I needed - another reason to not sleep. If it isn’t bushfires, heat or loud birds it will be water bottle thieves that will keep me up and add on to my stress so many nights in a row.
Everything is in its place in the fridge in the morning, including the bottle. But we can both tell that we are waking up more and more tired with every next morning lately. Therefore, today we will be slowing down. We sit in the local cafe to open up the laptops again and tick off some tasks from the list. We order some coffee to not intrude on the business and be polite guests of the town.
The pile of to-dos and the coffee do their job quickly - my heart speeds up, my hands start shaking and the existing worries amplify. And to fix this condition I, of course, continue to ignore the symptoms. In the end, the well-accomplished tasks allow me to calm down and even inspire me to write three pages of Cologne stories while Nic is driving to our next destination. The pride from this success makes me happy and even more excited.
Tonight the campsite is a few kilometres out of Broome - Australia’s pearl capital. The place is dusty and messy as the owners have only just reopened to get ready for the wet season. But it is cosy. A fat frog welcomes me in the bathroom.
We have hardly eaten today. We shared a mango and an apple in the morning and a portion of wedges in the cafe and it is already 4:30 pm. So, later on, I cook a hearty and filling dinner - boiled potatoes with all kinds of fried additions - onion, carrot, pepper, tofu, a lot of spices and whatever else I could find. We need to polish off the food because a lot of it is going off once again. I serve two plates and before I turn around one of them ends up in my feet well covered in red sand. Finished - I have nothing else to add quickly to bulk it up; we have no bread. We find a packet of crisps and reconcile in sharing it with the surviving plate of food for dinner.
We shower from the dust, watch a series and go to bed fairly early - we’ve had enough of today. I relax and just to doze off when I can feel my tongue and face going numb. I know what that means and what I require - Validol (a weak muscle relaxant) and lying still. I have been through this a few times in my teenage years on days of exceeding excitement so I always have Validol in my bag to calm the nerves. I manage to relax enough to fall asleep. But in an hour I have to readjust … and the sleep abandons me. The tablet didn’t work. I haven’t had to take a Validol for years and the one I have brought to Australia is long expired - April 2017. Could I be this careless and not renew it before such a serious trip!?
It is midnight for us. In Bulgaria, it is still a normal afternoon time. I call. My idea is to ask mum to call our paediatrician who knows best about my teenage issues and can react most adequately. She speaks to him from dad’s phone and from hers with me. She passes on the doctor’s questions and my answers. We check my nerves, the openness of my eyelids, my tongue sticking out … Together we decide it is nothing to worry about. Just my typical reactions when I am overexcited. I massage my arms with Karmolis and make some mint tea. I know that there are enough prerequisites today to warrant such a physical reaction.
The conversation distracts me. I feel much better and at least more confident that it isn’t anything scary. But I am left alone with my thoughts again and the worrying picks up again. I end up watching YouTube until 2:30 am for my body to make me sleep.
I need a break in the series of misfortunes.
The rest of the night went smoothly. I wake up totally exhausted. I managed to sleep but I don’t think it was sufficient. Will I survive the day?
We enter Broome - the main pulling centre of north Western Australia. Since our arrival in Derby 2 days ago we’ve been travelling on the west coast of the continent and we’re officially beside the Indian ocean. Not that it’s been any other ocean so far but on the west coast bays they like to give them their own sea names.
Broome is most famous for the local pearl farms with natural sea pearls but is also the tourist access to Kimberley National Park as well as some unique water sights to the north.
Nic stops at two lookouts. The views are stunning. The soft red sandstone has allowed the raging ocean and winds to carve them into unique shapes. And the construct between the vivid red colour of the earth and the turquoise of the Indian ocean is indescribable. My strength is only enough to take in the beauty and enjoy it. I assign Nic to photography duty so we can show these views when words aren’t enough. Up there on the plateau is a little house. It can’t be compared to the views of our villa in Bulgaria but I think they can be put in the same category - risks for views.
We park the car in the centre of Broome. Every other shop is pearls. Most of them are small jewellery places that create their own beauties. And the pearls they take from the farms which are just a few in the area with a monopoly over the yield. The bigger a farm is the more realistic the chance is to get a tourist trip to see how the process is done.
We are just about to sign up for one of those trips for tomorrow and … It turns out that to go on it we need to make our way up north 300 km, find somewhere to sleep and still pay for the expensive luxury of taking a pearl from the Indian ocean. And let's also remember how pearls are made - with the presence of a parasite (surgically implanted by the farmers) trying to destroy the oyster it produces a secretion that builds up and creates the pearl balls. For those balls to be separated the animal needs to be killed and its shell destroyed. I think you can figure out on your own whether vegan organisations would support this process. Okay, we’re not going for pearls - I don’t have the strength for it anyways.
In the cafe, we are served a perfect vegan burrito! The flavours were so well balanced that we thanked the chef personally. We walk through the small town which is actually very calm and nice but … my body is giving up. On our way back to the car we find the local cinema. ‘Sun Pictures’ turns out to be the oldest working garden cinema in the world and unlike other similar venues, it is very active. This could be a cool experience. A black and white film under the Australian starts. Yes, however, the films aren’t black and white but the newest releases. That’s okay, the programme for tonight is decided. We will be watching “Joker” with Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro. But we will first get ourselves checked into the campsite and settle in the pool.
On the way, we stop at a pharmacy for Australian Validol. They cannot give me anything similar without a prescription. Really!? See, I have been using a really light one but the date is expired. And I can’t go to the doctors’ here. No, it can’t be done without a prescription. Oh, well okay, thank you, goodbye ...
We enter the camp office to get ourselves registered. They welcome us kindly with “How are you?” as they should. This question knocks me down completely and quiet tears start rolling down my cheeks. I go outside immediately and I don’t think the woman thinks that anything is wrong. Nic finishes up the procedures and it turns out there isn’t a covered ventilated kitchen, nor, which is worse, is there a pool. Where would I be napping this afternoon then!? We are once again left in the sun, to the will of nature. But what could we do … it’s our luck.
We return to the car to drive it to the spot and the tears are pushing through again. And because it is just the two of us now they aren’t quiet anymore. I think about how far from home we are! How lost I feel and how I can’t take care of myself in this foreign place!
And there, the uncontrollable tears helped - they released the built-up tension. They left the physical exhaustion but fixed up the soul.
There is currently shade on our spot. I take out the yoga mat and a few towels and lay down on the ground hoping to nap. I would go to the tent but since we are going to the cinema tonight there is no point in setting it up twice in one day. Well, you won’t be surprised that I didn’t sleep at all - especially because of how sticky and dusty I was and definitely not with the ants and flies insisting on crawling over me.
However, the campsite isn’t bad. It might be missing a few facilities but one thing cannot be denied - its location right next to the ocean. There isn’t a proper beach but that isn’t stopping anyone from swimming or making the views any less beautiful. Okay, we’re going to cool down as well. We leave the towels in the shade and run into the water.
There is a little Aboriginal boy around us. His grandma is very clear - he is not allowed to go into the water on his own. However, he immediately assesses that Nic and I are the perfect way around the rules. He does not part from us. He’s teasing, running, playing. Nic is a magnet for children. They always see in him a wonderful game and entertainment even if he hasn’t done a thing to influence those children’s ideas. Nic turns into a water park for the little one. He picks him up and throws him into the water again and again. His laughter echoes onto the beach. Another boy comes into the water. His look is full of sincere desire to be included in the fun.
Their game doesn’t last long but the children are happy. The water of the Indian ocean is incredibly salty and you can’t stay relaxed in it for long. So once we cooled down we returned into the shade of the tree. The grandma calls Nic to her. They speak for a few minutes and he comes back smiling. She has sincerely thanked him for playing with her little grandson. There weren’t enough men in their family to take care of the boy as most of them were in prison - a typical fact for the Australian Aboriginals. Well, how could making a kid happy not make our day?
We stay in swimsuits until the end of the day and use the access to the shower regularly every couple of hours. There might not be a pool but we can still cool ourselves down properly. Later on, on our way to the cinema, I am texting mum to share what the plans for the evening are. She is intrigued by the building but not so much by our choice of film. It is still new and not a lot of people have seen it but one thing is clear - it is a heavy one. The story is dramatic, sad and overwhelming. Even my brother had shared that he wasn’t expecting such a savage story. After last night’s issues, I should not be willingly putting this extra weight on myself. But we’ve got our tickets already so it is a bit late to turn back. I go in but am prepared.
The cinema is old with rows of old, low, uncomfortable seats. But it is exactly these details that are adding to this unique experience. We have both never been to an open-air cinema before so we can only expect all sorts of new things to be happening. Like for example when in the sublime moments we can’t hear the conversation because a landing plane comes over - the airport is close by. But nothing can compare to the main attraction - the bats.
I talked when we were on the east coast about the Australian bats and what huge creatures they are with a meter long wingspan. The new “Joker” is different and Gotham’s superheroes aren’t mentioned. Not even Batman is included but we all know where the story comes from and what it will develop to be. And watching the screen with huge bats flying in front in a cool coincidence. Who else can brag with such an experience (other than the other people with us in the cinema)!
The film is amazing! I don’t know whether it was mum’s warnings or just because I didn’t expect the film to be any less brutal I don’t come out of it stressed out. The entire time I had one thought in my head: “And the Oscar goes to ...”. I was right - Joaquin took the male lead Oscar for this film. A masterpiece!
I don’t think last night I woke up even once. Whatever side I fell asleep on, I woke up on it too. I was obviously exhausted to an absolute verge. We do, however, have to leave the tent as early as 7 am as the sun has already completely surrounded us and the temperature inside is rising by the second. Swimsuits on and into the showers.
We will be sleeping here again tonight and we won’t even leave to do sightseeing in the area. Yesterday we decided we need a day for true cooling down of the hot nerves and this will be that day.
We first move to the cafe on the beach to have use of their ventilators and open up the laptops again. But it closes at lunchtime. So they send us back into the tent. We set up the side awning and stay under it for the rest of the day with regular visits to the showers. We open up the road map to trace the route so far and mark it down.
I use the free afternoon to share online that life on the road isn’t as nice as all Instagrammers and YouTubers try to convince us it is. To me, it’s now crystal clear how much they are hiding away, all the difficulties for likes and shares but I will not be like those people. I will either be telling everything - good and bad, or nothing at all.
I think we now know how to slow down. Because of the heat we were trying to escape through the desert it turns out we are now two weeks ahead of the schedule we prepared initially. So we have plenty of time to stop. To see places for longer. To drive less. We need to catch up on sleep.
As we prepare dinner we are visited by some new friends. Creatures that we can only now add to our new animals’ list - possums. On the tree that has kept us shaded all afternoon, there are two climbing - they look like a mum and a little one that is only now learning to deal with life. They rustle along the tree branches, their eyes glowing in the dark.
I wish I could apologize that the last few posts you’ve been reading have been negative and even a bit scary. At first I was planning to concentrate all difficulties we were going through in only one text to not weigh down the readers. But that could simply not work. How could I share our diaries step by step, kilometre by kilometre if I don’t include it all? How could I be honest of the true experiences if I hide half?
But you can expect amazing days - my birthday, our time in Perth, the arrival of my mum and dad, and so much more! Don’t give up on me because of a few heavy moments!
Vassya (and Nic)