Old women tell tales
Despite having yet to immerse ourselves in any activity in Broome, we decided after our first night to extend our planned stay by two additional days. For two reasons. First, and the more important, medically I was scared. The toothache that I started nursing in Port Hedland was still an issue, very sensitive and painful. If I needed to go to an emergency for a fix, I don’t want to be in the middle of nowhere. Secondly, in some ways that I was yet to fathom, Broome is appealing to us. My first trip to Broome, a couple of years back, left me with the idea that it was just one over-hyped Australian town. It seems I am in a different Broome this time. The sights and the busyness that we saw from our arrival at the town till we got settled in the lovely room that will be our accommodation during our stay are inviting.
Again, we woke up late. Not because we didn’t have things planned to do but more as a result of the comfiness of the bed and the room we slept. This morning, the idea is to have a good breakfast and then leisurely stroll along the closest beach, the town beach. It took us some time before we made it to the beach, following google map direction was awry today. As we pulled the Explorer to a vacant parking slot, next to the hill, we found ourselves next to the pioneer cemetery consisting of graves, some dating back to the 1800’s. Truly, Broome has a lot of history tucked up in various areas of the town. Hunger would not allow Saf to do much exploring, so we hasted towards the little café with the commanding view of the ocean and the large expanse of mud flats, the Town Beach Café. Unfortunately it was closing in some few minutes time and wouldn’t offer us enough time to savour our meal so we chose to go somewhere else.
However, prior to leaving, the coconut trees along the beach and the sights of families playing in the mud at a distance were inviting, so we took to the beach. The most captivating one was that of a woman, backing us, seated on the sandy shores in a camping chair with her sight on the beach and the happening there. She cuts a sight of sereneness and I immediately fell in love with her unique definition of the essence of living, all expressed in the way she had chosen to spend her time. We soon passed by her side and made for as close to the flats as we could get, intent on not getting our footwears soiled. A few pictures here and there and we soon found ourselves not far from her front.
“Can I take a picture of you two”, she called out?
“Yes, please”, we answered, “we will like that”
She was soon off her chair and with a little prepping we handed our phone over to her. I lifted Saf up with all the strength I had, after all “Igbeyawo” in the yoruba land where I come from, interpreted as marriage in English, literally means a man carrying up his wife. She really took her time and all these while all the alarm signals in my body were telling me to drop the load I was carrying. Saf was enjoying it and I was determined to get a shot of me carrying her up. The woman finally did the task and beaming with laughter asked “Where are you two love birds from”? This is a question that we are constantly asked, everywhere we show up. Sometimes, we choose to be upfront in providing the answer and other times we’ll like to leave people guessing. This time I answered “We are from Nigeria but currently live in Perth”.
The mention of Nigeria prompted some discussions about skin colour and I told her that, all our way here we’ve not been in any position where we felt discriminated or treated untowardly because of our skin colour. She mentioned that she doesn’t see colours and sees us as wonderful people.
With that the lovely lady went into telling us how beautiful Western Australia is and wonders why more West Australians fly to Bali, Singapore and the sorts without getting familiar with the with the adventures in their backyard. Aged 71, she talked of having moved here almost 52years ago from new South Wales and just wouldn’t go back. She mentioned she has been coming to Broome since then and just like me, Broome did not appeal to her initially but eventually sucked her in. We were enjoying the dialogue with her and encouraged her on with a few clarifying questions here and there. She told us of her annual drive, pulling her caravan, to spend the summer months here in Broome away from the cold, chilly winters in Mandurah. Saf’s hair was attractive to her and she pointed out a few places such as the crocodile farm, the courthouse market, the walk around the coast etc, all areas where we can spend some time exploring.
Before she will let us depart, she would want us to listen to a story about her encounter with an Aborigine man on one of her 32 trips across the Nullarbor. She talked of having picked up the man in Ceduna, in South Australia, where he was stranded and helped him as far as he wanted to go on the trip to Western Australia. At a roadhouse along the way, the man came down, thanked her for her generosity and warned her of a coming encounter that she would have with a wombat by 4pm that very day. He told her not to attempt killing it but allow the wombat to go its way. According to her, exactly 4pm, as she continued with her journey, a wombat crossed the road in front of her and made for the other hedge of the road. She said she was awe struck and disquieted. How could this have been and such a precision in timing? Her later discussions, according to her, with Aboriginal elders informed her that the wombat was the totem of the man he had earlier carried.
With that story, we thanked her and made our way back to the Explorer. She was very delighted that we listened to all she had to say and sent back to take her seat. I had my various thoughts on what I have heard and whether there were some colorations in the story to show some love for people of my skin colour. I am used to that and have developed a thick skin towards such hidden biases and prejudice.
We made it to cable beach and settled for lunch at the iconic Zanders situated just right on the beach with its splendid view of the ocean and the sun. A young lady was playing on her guitar on the green lawn outside the restaurant with three little kids gentle seated by her absorbing her sonorous voice. The restaurant was moderately full, it wasn’t yet the evening time when all seats become unavailable.
As we were about entering, we encountered a couple, holding hands and walking towards us. We chatted them up, commenting on how lovely it was to see them holding hands at their age given that the marriage institution is almost dead in Australia. They acknowledged this and got interested in knowing where we are originally from. Nigeria, we said and this made them to delve into details about all the unfavourable news they have watched on television. The most recent being life in Lagos where many live in floating slums on water. I saw it as a great opportunity to correct the single story narrative. I took time to explain that what they have heard and seen were all true, even the scams as well, but these represent a tiny fraction of the Nigerian story. I talked of how my children are complaining of the lower accommodation standard they’ve had to put up here in Australia compared with what they had in Lagos. Talked a bit about the other stories that are not making the news, the ingenuity of the Nigerian, the ongoing contributions of people of Nigerian ancestry to the Australian story and more important, the care and concerns that Nigerians have towards family.
I talked a little bit about population, telling them of the fifteen million people in Lagos and how that compares with the twenty five million that Australia has as a whole. Yet the whole land mass of Nigeria at a little over 900,000kms is just about a third of that of the state of Western Australia and less than one-eighth of the entire Australia. They were surely more enlightened and grateful. It was then they revealed the secret of their holding each other’s arms. They are doing it not purely out of love but necessity. Each one has had a knee replacement surgery. The man, on the right leg and, the woman on the left. So, to steady each other, they’ve resorted to holding hands. They further informed of their quest to journey upwards from Broome to a solitary spot by the ocean, an escarpment located within an Aborigine settlement where they plan on camping for the next three months. However, there are still restrictions in place regarding travels to Aborigine community. With a hint that smacks of cynicism, they mentioned how there is a fear that the indigenous population will be wiped away if Covid19 were to enter into these remote villages. They just don’t have the resistance that we have, that was the way they ended it.
It was a late breakfast that we had, something akin to lunch. By the time we were done, we took a leisure walk on the beach savouring the beautiful sight of the ocean and the broken rocks that have been washed ashore over time by it. We got back into the Explorer a little much later and headed to the beach, clearly marked as something allowed only for 4WDs. Many more vehicles were already here to catch the sunset and take pictures of the Camel Trains as they carried tourists on their backs using the red sunset as a great backdrop, with their shadows reflecting back from the low waters on the edges of the point where the waves break.
Watching the camels, their passengers, the leads and guides holding the ropes was awesome. The wheel of commerce, well camouflaged as tourism, was in full motion. There were a lot more activities going on in different areas of the beach and at the very end is the nude area. Humanity comes in different shapes and sizes and for nature lovers, they would rather bare it all. Afterall, naked we came to this world and naked we will all go. For many, however, in-between our entry and exit points to the earth, it is a good thing to cover it all.
With the camels gone, and the sun having disappeared from the horizon, it was now operation find Saf. She had been gone for more than 40 minutes and should have been back. I got in then Explorer and started scouting the beach for her. As soon as I caught up with her, it was bye-bye to Cable Beach for the day.
The brief experience leave a fine impression. But if I may say, I do not totally agree with you on your literally interpretation of “Igbeyawo” meaning carry your wife o.
All the same, you have been projecting a good image of Australia and a very good ambassador of our country.
Kudos. Semper Fidelis !!!
Kola, thanks and appreciate the comment. Regarding Igbeyawo, it can be subject to different interpretations but literally means “carry your wife”. Is there something that I am missing?
Really enjoyed reading about your adventures on the road. Beautifully written!!
Will never look at a wombat the same way anymore…..👻👻👻