MY AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURE Pt. XVIII – A VISIT TO KINGS PARK

Towards the end of my 2-month Down Under odyssey, I took a day trip to the fabulous gardens overlooking the city of Perth, Western Australia, and although it was only just the start of Spring, the flower beds and meadows were filled with colourful wildflowers and trees indigenous to Australia.Many years ago, as a child, we would often take family Sunday drives through the acres and acres of bushland in the heart of the city. This time, I got to go with my kid sister, Jenny, and traveling companion Suzi, reliving so many memories and realizing how much has changed over the past 50+ years. There used to be a massive fallen tree trunk, either a Jarrah or Kari tree (Australian hardwoods), where we would pose in front for photos but it had long disappeared from the park. There used to be a giant flower clock as well as a fancy-schmancy restaurant where my father would often host business dinners that I actually attended as a well-behaved (!) little kid.  But my memories of school trips from up in the hills down to the park every ANZAC Day (April 25) to pay respects to all the fallen & wounded old Diggers (Aussie soldiers) from WWI and II came rushing back. I remember standing to attention as WWI veterans marched by, some on crutches some in wheelchairs and some a little bent over but marching proudly.

The trees were magnificent, especially the Queen Elizabeth II tree she planted as a sapling on her first visit back in the 50s. Look at it now…So many plants and blooms to view…and the fragrances were heady and exotic, too. We also visited at night to view the spectacular city lights and skies….wow! Just typing this brings back memories of the scents and sounds, as well as the views I saw a few months back. I really hope I can make it back to Perth again…such a beautiful city – clean streets, mostly graffiti-free, friendly and welcoming. Am buying more lottery tickets this week…I just got a feelin’.  LOL

https://www.bgpa.wa.gov.au/kings-park

 

 

MEET THE YOUNG GUNS OF OPAL HUNTING DOWN UNDER

During the 2yrs of Covid lock-down here in Toronto when there were no film, tv or theatre productions for me to promote, I got hooked watching Outback Opal Hunters on TV’s Discovery Channel. Turns out, that was a good thing ‘coz when travel restrictions were lifted last year, I booked my ticket home to Australia and headed out to the opal fields in Queensland to buy a pair of opal earrings. I’m obsessed with the stunning ancient gems, as well as pearls (yes, I purchased a really big pearl in Broome, WA, too).  For the uninitiated, opal is formed from a solution of silicon dioxide and water. As water runs down through the earth, it picks up silica from sandstone and carries this silica-rich solution into cracks and voids caused by natural faults or decomposing fossils. As the water evaporates, it leaves behind a silica deposit. This cycle repeats over very long periods of time, and eventually opal is formed.  Below is the gorgeous pair of earrings I bought in Winton, Qld, direct from Opal Hunters miners Joe and Tash.Another team of miners from the international hit show is known as “The Young Guns” and they are comprised of 3 mates, young fellas who are not the usual grizzled, snaggle-toothed old miners like most of the other teams featured on the show. In fact they’re really cute and the show has taken viewers from their early days down their mine, learning as they go and discovering all sorts of amazing treasures. We have also witnessed their frustrating days of no finds or machine break-downs that have set them back thousands of dollars. I reached out over the Christmas holidays and spoke with team leader Jaymin Sullivan who kindly shared stories with me of great finds, hopes and dreams for the team…..

Jaymin, what first inspired you to head out to the opal fields with your mates to dig for treasures, fame and fortune?   Honestly I was living a pretty average life working 9-5 at a local hardware store paying rent and mortgage and just felt I was getting nowhere and that there had to be more to life. I remember thinking about dream jobs and what I really wanted to do and that lead me to “treasure hunter”, a job that’s hard to do in Australia as we don’t exactly have Viking hoards of treasure or maps leading to ancient ruins. Luckily however my father was an opal miner and I decided to look at mining in a new light as treasure hunting. And it really is when you uncover something precious that’s been hidden for millions of years and you are the first human being to ever see it and on top of that it can be worth thousands even millions, it is treasure and it is definitely exciting to say the least. There is also something to be said for the fact you can, as an opal miner, be poor in the morning and rich in the afternoon that’s a strong motivator for wanting to do the job!  As for the fame, I didn’t really go there for that hahaha that just sort of happened along the way. Did you recruit your mates Noah and JC once the idea took hold or were they in it with you from the beginning? And what special skills do you each bring to the team?   Noah and JC where in a similar boat to me, JC was working as a lawn mower and Noah worked at a local fast food place. Not, I guess you could say, living life to its full potential. Initially, I invited all of my friend group  to come out and give it a go, of the 8 guys only Noah and JC where willing to make the 14hr drive out to the opal fields and see what I was up to.  I think JC brings to the team a lot of enthusiasm and hard work, Noah has a lot of perseverance and a willingness to learn new skills and me, well I’m obsessed which means I’m pretty full on with every aspect from the work itself to filming and editing for our YouTube channel to opal cutting and marketing.  What was it like the first time you discovered opal? And what was the biggest haul you pulled in?   There’s nothing like your first time, when you uncover opal that’s actually worth money…worth thousands…and that it’s there sitting in your hands; it’s incredible to know your hard work had won something so beautiful and precious is a really cool feeling and when it keeps on coming out of the wall and you’re onto a big find your hands can literally shake.  I think our biggest find in one afternoon was around $80-90k in the rough; we didn’t end up selling rough, we mostly cut it and made it into jewellery which ends up going for around 5-8x the amount. It’s a long game, trying to sell the finished product and we have still got a lot of the material and jewellery, but with all the hard work to find it, it’s important to make as much money off the opal as possible and the best way is to sell direct to the customer and cut out all the middle men.  It is always going to be cheaper purchasing opal direct from the miner whether it be jewellery or rough stones as oppose to buying it in a shop or from resellers.Selling your finds to local specialist buyers can be nerve-racking….do you, as young miners, feel you’re treated fairly or do you think buyers in the big city are a good option? How does it work?  We do some deals of rough opal though that is quite rare, you never get a good price for rough opal so we tend to avoid it…. when we aren’t desperate for rent or food or fuel. We live in the age of technology and we have the ability to reach thousands of people online so we have a pretty good understanding of how to market our opal online and sell direct to the customer which allows us to get a fair price as well as the customer.Do you enjoy cutting/polishing the opals yourselves or do you only deal with rough or partially polished stones?   I love cutting opal – I actually do a cutting demo in White Cliffs (in the state of New South Wales) every morning for tourists who come to town. I take a rough stone and walk them through the whole process until we have a finished polished stone. Cutting opal is super relaxing and it’s amazing to see it go from a rough state to a finished piece, you see it transform in your hands!   On average, how much does it cost to run all the equipment, house, feed and water the team each season?  The costs vary depending on the set-up, but we probably spend anywhere from $20-40k per season which is only 6-8months (in the cooler months) in order to run our mining business.How long have you all been working the opal fields now? Any goals for future explorations – any new claims you have your eyes on?   We have been out here for the last 4 years now and loving every minute! Future goals would be to get an operation set up in Lightning Ridge in NSW, and in the Queensland opal fields. We love White Cliffs but want to do some more work on the other fields we have visited also.
When did you join the cast of Outback Opal Hunters and has the fame brought you more secure income from sales and/or any sponsorships?   Opal Hunters was definitely an experience and was actually a lot of work. We joined the show because we thought it would be fun and for the most part it was. We met some incredible camera men and we learnt a lot watching them film us. The show is great in that it’s helped the opal industry a lot internationally and definitely helped us initially get our name out there.
If you take a look at all the other teams on Opal Hunters none have the same sort of following we do and the simple reason is if you want to be a real presence you have to create your own content and promote yourself. Which is why we started our YouTube channel and why we use Instagram, Facebook and TikTok – these platforms allow us to better connect with our audience and grow a meaningful community. We are super reachable which we pride ourselves on; we reply to 90% of messages sent to us and are more then happy to help serious newcomers to the industry.

One of our biggest goals has always been to promote opal mining as an alternate lifestyle, not everyone is meant to fit into a standard 9-5 work life and we have seen the positive impact it has on your life first hand once you do follow your dreams and work for yourself. We hope more people find in life the thing that makes them happy and can turn it into a job that gets them paid enough to support themselves and family.  As for sponsorships we weren’t really allowed to have them while working on Opal Hunters though we have been pursuing this more now with our YouTube channel, and if all goes well we may have something exciting to share in the future.  As for the impact of Opal Hunters on our sales, the show definitely helped give us credibility and helped customers purchasing opal online feel secure in the fact they’re buying direct from miners and from a source they know.

Discovery Channel is very popular here in N. America, esp. the Outback Opal and Gold Hunters shows – do you have a good fan following home and away? Ever get asked by fans for a “ride along”?   We love that so many people around the world have become so interested in opal and the process of mining it, I was actually a fan of the show before we joined, but since joining, however, I no longer watch it hahaha as it’s too weird seeing yourself on tv. The most common thing people will reach out and ask us for is a job. I would love to say yes but at this point we only really make enough to keep us in the game. One day if we can scale the operation or get really lucky, I hope to open up some more opportunities for those who are really interested.  In the meantime, we’re actually working on setting up a mine where fans will be able to come out and do some mining for a day or so and give it a shot! We hope to have that up and running by 2024.

If you couldn’t mine any more, what profession would you choose to pursue (and JC and Noah)?   I think opal mining is in our blood now forever haha we all do have a taste for adventure and if it wasn’t opal I know we’d love to go for gold and may very well some day. Outside of mining, I’d love to explore creating other YouTube content and we do have some of that in the works.
As for Noah, he’d love to continue exploring/adventuring for a living – I’m not sure what form that would take but there is always a way.
JC recently got himself a new dream job raising baby Ziah his son. He’ll still be mining with us but right now he’s loving every minute of being a dad!Thanks, Jaymin, now I can really appreciate all the hard work & long sweaty hours spent underground as well as the millions of pesky flies and the inherent danger of working in unstable conditions. I will happily spend the $s for a piece of their glory…and so can everyone else. If you love opals, you can purchase rings, pendants or earrings (and even vials of opal chips for your own jewellery making) directly from the Young Guns and they will ship around the world.

Etsy – https://etsy.me/3mSG7uI Ebay – https://ebay.com.au/usr/younggunsopal Check out their Shopify store: https://younggunsopal.myshopify.com/  and visit their social media pages, too.
Facebook: Young Guns Opal Hunters
IG: @youngguns_opalhunters
and their YouTube channel @younggunsopalhunters

MY AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURE, PT. XVII – A VISIT TO THE MUSEUM/ART GALLERY IN PERTH

Wherever I travel, I always make a point of visiting the museums and art galleries to get a better understanding of time, place, culture, history…and back home in Perth was no exception. I grew up and was educated there in the 60s under the old colonial school system that had been so white-washed as to obscure any references to the first Australians, the aboriginal guardians of the land, sea and sky. This was a civilization that was over 50,000 years old and when Capt. Cook and the first fleet sailed into what is now Sydney harbour on August 22nd 1770, that culture immediately became endangered – the original Australians were vulnerable to European diseases as well as being easy prey for slavers and target practice.  It was a history that had been wiped from the pages of our school history books…but thankfully, no longer are white Australians ignorant to the facts of conquest, settlement and stolen lives and land. I’d learnt a lot over the past 5 years, all the way over here in Canada – another land conquered by Europeans. When my sister Jenny and traveling companion, Suzi, visited the museum, we saw an amazing collection of indigenous art and stories from more current times that illuminated the culture, life and legends …the spectacular canvas and bark paintings caused one to stop, stand and stare for a long time, taking in all the colours, textures and lines.
We checked out several of the other galleries and floors and of course, we had to play with the dinosaurs (Jenny, below) and the giant blue whale skeleton that I actually remember from the early 80s when visiting the family for Christmas. ….and what’s an Aussie museum without a great white?Another display that caught my eye featured stories and ephemera from the post-WWII immigration push that my family was part of…yes, we were “ten pound poms” – British families who emmigrated to Australia under a programme that required payment of 10 pounds per person (I got to go for free) and you got practically free passage Down Under, with basic accommodations upon arrival which were nasty, cold nissen huts on mud floors with wooden slat flooring, and communal baths, laundry and dining – awful things that we fortunately only had to stay in for a month or so before getting a nice little house in Melbourne. We sailed from England in 1959 on the Fair Sky, one of two Sitmar line ships that had previously been used as troop ships in the early 40s. The Gibb family (i.e. the BeeGees) came out about the same time on sister ship the Fair Star. Lots of posters, recruitment info and other bits and bobs from that time were on display and they brought back memories from my early childhood. Wow, what an adventure I had at age 5! The museum also had a thylacene (Tasmanian tiger) in a glass case. They had been killed off back in the 20s and 30s and although there have been many recent “sightings” (just like Big Foot) there is no proof that the poor wee beasties still exist. I felt so sad looking into those glass eyes….There were also meteorites I could touch as well as displays of rock formations, precious gems and night skies…what an amazing visit I had! If you ever find yourself heading Down Under, do visit Perth’s museums and art galleries…you’ll see things you’ve never witnessed before.

https://visit.museum.wa.gov.au/

MY AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURE, Pt. XVI – PERTH’S RAAFA AVIATION HERITAGE MUSEUM

Some of you may know that I am a history junkie…my father was in the RAF just at the close of WWII – he worked on engine maintenance and was stationed in the middle east incl. Palestine and Cyprus. As a little girl he used to show me his book on enemy aircraft recognition (silhouettes of planes) as well as British and Allied planes; I learnt to tell the difference between a Spitfire and a Junker at an early age. This past September, my sister Jenny took me to Perth’s amazing aviation museum where I geeked out on all the aircraft displayed in the huge hangars, as well as all the exhibitions on the history of Australia’s air force, outback transportation and flying doctor service. I was in my element, as was my young nephew Maclean, who has already started flying lessons at 16yrs old.

I remember learning about aviation hero Charles Kingsford Smith, above, for whom Sydney airport is named and it was cool to see/touch his belongings. If I remember correctly, I wrote an essay on him in primary school that scored me an A. I stood in front of the Spitfire and read all the details for quite some time before I was drawn over to the spectacular Lancaster bomber, one of the planes that flew the legendary damn buster raids over Germany in WWII. Maclean joined me in front of the giant plane (below) and one of the knowledgeable guides kindly explained the mechanics of the “bouncing bombs”. I was thrilled to be invited to climb up into the belly of the beast…the guide was kind enough to explain what it was like inside for the crew (bloody scary and very uncomfortable)…
Earlier that same day, I received a “butt dialed” call from back in Toronto from my friend, Christopher, whose stepdad, famed Hollywood director, Michael Anderson, had directed the award-winning “The Damn Busters” movie (1955)…what synchronicity, eh? So I made a video for Christopher which I’ll share here so you can see just how huge the plane was.

I was amazed to see how many women were involved with the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) during the war…and pleased to see they got the recognition they earned.
So many incredible artifacts are on show and Maclean loved his experience in a virtual reality simulated bomber flight, courtesy of Aunty Glenda! I encourage you to explore the museum’s website for lots more info as well as visiting hours & directions – this is a not to be missed tourist attraction when visiting my home town of Perth, WA.   https://aviationmuseumwa.org.au/

BIG IN BADEN-BADEN

Each year end, as I approach my Boxing Day birthday, I’m reminded of all the wonderful things I’ve experienced throughout the year and my life as a whole. For instance, this year I’ll be thinking about my 2 months back home in Australia traveling to all the towns and outback outposts I had only dreamed about as a kid – Alice Springs, Darwin and Broome. Now I can add the town of Winton in Queensland as my new favourite spot in Australia.

Much like a Facebook memory popping up each morning, today I suddenly remembered an encounter on the Toronto subway back in the 90s that put a smile on my face and made me feel like a big time celebrity.  Back in the mid-80s, there was a popular yet silly game show called “Jackpot” where multiple players attempted to solve riddles and win cash. I was asked to be on the show along with other interesting people from all walks of life. At the start of each show – we taped an entire week’s worth of shows in one day – one of the contestants would jump up out of his/her seat and yell “Jackpot”. We were each told to bring 5 different tops to wear, changing prior to each episode taping so it looked like 5 different days. Apparently only one contestant did that – me.

The director instructed the cameramen to focus on me as I would be the only person jumping up and yelling Jackpot; I wore a variety of sweaters, each fitting my then-curvy bod perfectly. Imagine Suzanne Summers as Chrissy from Three’s Company jumping up and jiggling – that was me! Back in the 80s, there were no concerns about young women being exploited for their looks or physical attributes and, of course, we all bought into it anyway.  I ended up winning a little less than a thousand dollars on the show, which was a lot back then; I could go buy a whole bunch of new sweaters for that amount…LOL

Skip ahead to the late 90s and I was riding on the Bloor-Danforth line of Toronto’s subway system one day. I noticed a young man staring at me – I ignored him and dropped my eyes so as not to make eye-contact with him. He moved towards me…oh dear, I hope he’s not some sort of masher or perv. He got up close then said “you’re the Jackpot girl, aren’t you?”  What?  “Sorry, I don’t mean to be rude but you ARE the Jackpot girl…from the tv show, right?” I felt slightly embarrassed and not sure what he wanted…an autograph or maybe he wants me to jump up and down and yell Jackpot for him. “Yeeeees” I answered cautiously. “Did you know that Jackpot is very popular on Canadian Forces tv? My brother is stationed in Germany and he told me how all the guys replay the Canadian TV shows over and over again as it reminds them of home. They loved it when you jumped up and down…” I think he suddenly realized what he said and stopped, looking rather sheepishly at me and blushing bright crimson. “Oh how wonderful,” I replied, not wanting to hurt his feelings or draw attention to the obvious sexual implications – he must have been all of 20 or 21. “ummm…my brother sent us photos of his buddies all watching the tv and you’re on the screen doing your jump up….” I nodded and smiled. Then he said something I will never forget: “You’re big in Baden-Baden!”

So now, whenever I’m feeling down or lacking respect from others, I remember that encounter – no matter how small and insignificant I may feel here in Toronto, I know I’m a big star in Baden-Baden…and just maybe I’m still jumping up and down for a new generation of military folks in reruns on Forces TV?

MERRY CHRISTMAS to all our military men and women serving overseas – wish I had a video of the show but consider yourselves being Jackpot’d.

Not my episodes but this will give you an idea of how cheesy it was!

MY AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURE, Part XV – Yes, you can go home

My final 10 days in Perth included a visit to my childhood home in Lesmurdie, up in the hills overlooking Perth that, in the 60s, were considered “the bush” but now is very much a bedroom community for the city. My parents designed our house up on top of the big hill (my father was a draftsman so it was easy for him to create the blueprints), it was set in a half-acre lot filled with gum trees and wild shrubs. There were incredible stone walls along the boundaries built by a hard-working Italian stonemason, and our house soon became well-known as the house behind the great wall, and was considered a landmark for locals and visitors on their Sunday drives in the country. It was here that I experienced the frightening Meckering earthquake in 1968, and the birth of my kid sister, Jennifer, who was now my tour-guide on this outing. I had planted a beautiful magnolia tree in the front garden in 1965 or 6 and was hoping it would still be there – it surely must be at least 60ft high by now?! We drove the back way, down Shasta Grove, and saw the overgrown back/side garden…sigh!It was so overgrown and I could barely see the house which had been so altered and expanded over the past 5 decades – all the beautifully groomed wildflower beds and lawns were unrecognizable. Jenny drove around the corner of Basildon Rd and pulled up in front… Here, I could see all the “improvements” previous owners had made, completely changing the integrity and beauty of the building. The wall had fallen into disrepair and only a few sections were still there. My heart was heavy…  BUT the lovely new owners who had just moved in were in the garden so I decided to put on a smile and go introduce myself. What a lovely welcome – we spent about 20 minutes chatting about the house’s history, and I got shown around inside to see what has been change…OMG, the beautiful Toodyay stone fireplace was gone (stunning sparkly stones from Toodyay, north of the city), and the kitchen had been reconfigured (much better) but my bedroom was still there – I took a photo of bro-in-law Geoff from the window.Sadly, as you can see, my magnolia tree was long gone. It would have been right there in the middle of the grass. The greenbelt across the street was still there, though, and I remembered fighting a huge bushfire there along with my parents and neighbours in 1969 (I think it was) – with water-soaked hessian sacks, beating the ground and scrub, trying to damp down all the vegetation so it wouldn’t catch fire. The flames rolled in across 2 valleys to the left of this photo…we saved the house and our neighbours’ homes along the street but all around us, the devastation could be seen for a couple of years with burnt tree stumps and blacked ground.

We then drove into Kalamunda, where I went to school (primary and high), about 5 miles from home. Yay, the old Kalamunda Hotel was still there so we went in for a nice pub lunch.The toilets were a treat – they still had the old dispensing units hung over the sink. Aaah, I think I’ll take some “vanity mints”.Next door to the pub, we found The Cheese Shop of Perth Hills, a wonderful cheese emporium where we all picked up cheeses for the night’s dinner. OMG, yum yum yum…I discovered cheeses I had never seen or tasted before. And the cheese mongers were all so friendly, making suggestions to suit all our varying palettes. So deelish! The store has since moved around the corner to the main Kalamunda drag to Haynes Street. Congrats, mates.  https://www.thecheeseshop.com.au/ 

Jenny then drove to the famous “zig-zag” road that winds its way down the hills from Kalamunda and although the road had definitely been improved and paved over, the thrill of seeing such beautiful views of the city in the distance as well as seeing all sorts of wildflowers was so exciting for me….weeeeeeeee.

I hope you enjoyed my visit home to the hills…it was quite the emotional rollercoaster for me. Next blog or two I’ll share my visit to the big museum & art gallery of Western Australia as well as the awesome aviation museum where I had the privilege of climbing up inside a Lancaster bomber that flew in the Dam Busters’ raids over Germany in WWII. Yeah, you’ll see me geek-out on all the RAAF memorabilia!

MY AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURE, Part XIV – and on to Perth!

Suzi and I were sad to say goodbye to Broome…we’d had so much fun on our adventures with pearls, crocs and art. So along with Eduardo we flew down the coast of Western Australia to Perth, my home town where I grew up, went to school, got my first job and had my first kiss (thanks, Alan Mitchelmore).

My sister Jennifer picked us up (with lots of hugs and kisses) at the airport and drove us to the hotel/motel on the South Perth shore – 2 blocks away was the magnificent view of the city across the Swan River (pictured above). Our first sight-seeing trip was to Fremantle, the world-famous seaport for Perth where we had the most delicious lunch at Cicerello’s – when I was little, this was a small family seafood diner/shack on the fishermen’s jetty but now…OMG, it’s a huge dining and entertainment centre, out front of which there’s a big bronze statue of the late Bon Scott of AC/DC fame. Suzi was thrilled to touch the figure and take lots of pics…yes, she’s a huge fan. We took a walk around the city centre with its historical buildings, and just about every small side street had wine bars, cafes and boutiques. What a difference from my childhood days when Freo (as it’s known to locals) was a rough and tumble area that wasn’t too safe after dark. The Fremantle Market has been around since the 1800s and has become a must-see tourist attraction. It sells all sorts of touristy things as well as yummy foods like this awesome fudge. Being diabetic, I had to walk past…but not before taking photos of the deelish treats. Jenny then drove us up the coast to visit my favourite beaches including Cottesloe where we stood overlooking the surf and even saw lots of container ships and other cargo vessels waiting to get into port. Along the way, we passed an iconic image – the Dingo Flour silo. Every true-blue Aussie knows this one!Back to the hotel to relax before a wonderful dinner with the family. More adventures ahead including an emotional visit to the family home (below) up in the hills of Lesmurdie and a visit to the neighbouring town of Kalamunda where I went to school in the 60s.

MY AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURE, PT. XIIID – I am the crocodile whisperer!

My final story on my visit to Broome, Western Australia, and I maybe saved the best and scariest to last?! Am sure most of you are familiar with the late legendary croc wrangler Steve Irwin – he was a hero to the animals indigenous to Australia and created his Australia Zoo park to preserve hundreds of species and educate people on the importance of the tiniest or even the most vicious and terrifying beasties.  This day, Suzi and I experienced the wonder of Down Under’s fiercest critters – the crocodile. The entrance hinted at things to come….off you go, Suzi, you first!About 15 minutes outside of Broome is the Malcolm Douglas Croc Sanctuary and Animal Refuge where we experienced this up-close-and-personal encounter with the crocs and oh my, was it ever exciting! I turned into a little kid, running from enclosure to enclosure ahead of the guided tour, seeing all the big and small reptilians and watching as the keeper (with several fingers missing!!) feed them.

I was just ahead of the crowd when I saw this monster…

The famous daily feeding tour showcases some of the largest crocodiles on display in Australia – you get to see both fresh water and salt water crocs who live behind safety barriers and chain link fences.  Best thing was when Suzi and I got to hold a baby croc – even though he was tiny, his bite could take off several fingers, hence the elastic band around his snout. If you want to visit, check out the website for details, hours and directions. It really was a brilliant afternoon, never to be forgotten!  https://www.malcolmdouglas.com.au/crocodile-park/

 

MY AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURE, PT. XIIIC – Arts & entertainment in Broome

Broome may have the feel of an outback or frontier town but it’s full of art and entertainment to be envied by any big city. One of the first places in the historic Chinatown centre Suzi and I visited was the famous Sun Pictures movie house.
Inside the front doors, we found a number of museum displays including the old projectors and the outdoor seating for screenings under the stars – very similar to Winton’s Royal Cinema. Next was the beautiful Short Street Gallery which looks modest but it holds so many treasure….hundreds of world-class contemporary indigenous artworks… https://www.shortstgallery.com.au/  

The gallery’s director (sorry, I cannot remember his name just now) was so knowledgeable and shared the artists’ stories and backgrounds with us. He also directed us to their bigger storage facility (they rotate the artwork on a regular basis to keep visitors updated with new paintings). It was just 10 minutes’ drive away so Suzi and I popped over there for a visit…so glad we did. WOW! There are numerous galleries around town plus many of the restaurants and cafes display local artists’ works but after the Short St Gallery experience, my head hurt from being visually bombarded with colour, energy, stories and history. Time for a rest so Suzi and I hopped on the Broome Tramway bus for a touristy experience viewing buildings and historic places with someone else doing all the driving! Fun as well as educational…definitely recommend that. Next time, we visit the crocodile sanctuary for a full-on reptilian adventure where Suzi and I get up close and personal with hundreds of crocs!

 

MY AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURE, Pt. XIIIb – PEARLS, PEARLS, PEARLS!

Ever since I was a little girl, I was fascinated by pearls, and after a school project on Broome and the early pearling industry, I vowed that one day I would own one. It’s taken me several decades to get there, but the #1 must-do for me in Broome was…buy a beautiful pearl. So I went on my own grail quest to find the pearl that would be mine. First thing was to learn more about how pearls were harvested, where they were found, how to tell a good pearl from a great pearl, how to listen when they “talk” to you. Your pearl will choose you!  Suzi chatted with the lovely lady at Broome Pearl Merchants store who shared all she knew with us. I checked out all the display cases (below) and although the jewellery was stunning, no pearl called out to me…. All around the shopping precinct, we found historical references to the industry from back in the last century and 1800s. It took a couple of shopping expeditions until I found MY pearl. I finally found it in the Pearls & Boheme store (pearls-boheme.com) – I saw the pendant in one display case then walked around the store a couple of times, but I kept coming back to that one big, bright shiny pearl. I told the lady working that day that I was interested and would come back for it. I needed time to decide whether I was going to spend a little more than I had planned. That night, I tossed and turned and all I could think of was that one pearl. So the next day, Suzi drove me into town to complete the transaction – I walked in the store to be met by owner and jewellery designer Brigitte Hoesl-Lindenberg. Yes, the pearl had been put aside for me…yaay!
PS: yeah, as you can see there was no make-up for me to look pretty. Would you wear it in 35degree heat? Naaah. The pearl sparkled enough for both of us…LOL. Pearl is now with me here in Toronto and all I need is a special event to wear it. But as Brigitte said “every day is a special event – wear your pearl”. So I sometimes sit and watch tv with it, I’ve even gone grocery shopping wearing it. And I’m wearing now as I write this blog.
Next Broome story will be on the fabulous old Sun Pictures outdoor cinema and the art galleries featuring the works of local indigenous artists. And after that….we go croc hunting!!