Tuesday, Nov 29: This morning we arrived in the very remote town of Broome – home to the pearl farming industry. Weather was hot and humid. Like most parts of Australia’s tropics, Broome has two seasons, a dry season that runs from April through November and a wet season starting about now.
There is no actual cruise terminal, so everyone was taken from the ship via free bus shuttles to the town which was located a few kilometres away.
It is a compact little town, discovered in 1688, with a lot of history going back to 1861 with the discovery of pearl oysters. Chinatown is the name of the main shopping area. Once it was noodle houses, opium dens and boarding houses. These days, food, fashion and expensive jewellery shops. The Sun Pictures – the oldest operating outdoor picture theatre gardens in the world. Quirky buildings and story boards giving the history of the town and the many nationalities who came here in search of the pearl.
The local people were very friendly and welcoming and we learnt all about how pearls are formed and the sad history of the hundreds of Japanese divers who drowned and the aboriginal women who were captured and sold and forced into diving, some even when pregnant. This town has quite a history!
Monday, Nov 21: Today we arrived in Cairns, working our way up the east coast of Queensland. Cairns is a major tourist destination because of its proximity to two World Heritage sites – the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree National Park.
We have both visited Cairns at different times in the past, and travelled on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. I had fond memories of travelling in a steam train up the mountain past gushing waterfalls on a railway which dates to 1891.
This time we discovered that the steam engine had long gone, now replaced by a diesel. All the windows were small and barred which made taking photos difficult, especially as we were sitting in the middle. However, it was still a nice trip through the rainforest, crossing 40 bridges and travelling through 15 tunnels. Unfortunately the dry weather meant that the waterfalls were not as spectacular as we remembered them.
When we arrived at Kuranda, we had time to explore the local market and shops where we hoped to find some local crafts; unfortunately all we found were cheap imports for the most part. So, our souvenir consisted of a couple of postcards showing the scenery that we saw on the way but could not photograph very well. All in all, a bit of disappointing.
Friday, 19 August – We boarded the coach for a drive to Usa City where we visited the Usa Jingu Shrine, a Japanese National Treasure. Very lovely architecture and gardens, but it was also very hot that day as we made our way up the many steps that Shinto shrines always seem to find necessary. We were pleased we packed plenty of water!
Then back to Beppu for a visit to the main attraction, Jigoku Meguri, the “Boiling Hell” hot springs. They are named that way because each spring seems to depict an image from hell. We expolored two of them, Chinoike (Blood) Jigoku with its deep crimson colour and Onlishibozu Jigoku – mud bubbles, which emerge from boiling mud pools and look like the shaven heads of monks.
This was fun – no one told me that the water in the spring was about 40oC!!! It took me several minutes, but I did it! ( Obviously not looking too relaxed, because it was HOT!!!)