In the North Western corner of Australia lies unsuspecting Broome, a small beach town full of character, sunshine and mangoes.
We arrived in Broome in the evening of June 14th. After leaving wet and windy Sydney I was surprised to feel warm even at 7pm. It was a good start to our regional work, escaping a New South Wales winter and experiencing the mild, dry season in Western Australia. Our destination? The Mango Place. This is where we would be spending the next 88 days, undertaking agricultural work in order to apply for the Second Year Visa.
My first impression was how small and pretty the area is. The population for most of the year is just 15,000 but this goes up to around 65,000 in the busy season. Visitors from all over Australia, as well as hundreds of international tourists and backpackers, flock to Broome around June to September as the winter months provide dry days that generally sit around 26-30 degrees Celsius.
We didn’t see much for the first week, mostly just spent the time getting settled in to farm life and meeting our fellow WWOOFers (technically that’s Willing Workers On Organic Farms, but it’s come to mean any person who works voluntarily on farmland). By the end of week one, the count was two Germans, a Canadian couple, a Frenchman, a Japanese girl, a Tawainese boy and three Brits, ourselves included. People were nice, life ran at a relaxed pace and the work was fun, easygoing and social.
After throwing myself into Project Veggie Garden (more on that later) I made friends with aforementioned Frenchman, Olivier, otherwise known as Zitoune. He sits with us on the veranda outside our accommodation and plays guitar as we make up silly lyrics to match his rhythms. An enthralled audience, he teaches us how to make Psy-Trance on the jaw harp. I have heard of neither in my life, but it’s incredible impressive nonetheless (why don’t you head to his Facebook page!). After planting for hours in the garden we became good friends, he is a soft soul, and I ask if he will be my guide in Broome in exchange for petrol money.
Being the kind man he is, he agrees and after work one day I see Broome for the first time. It is exactly what you think of when you image Aussie life – palm trees, campervans full of hippies, beautiful people sitting in the sand who have been surfing since the crack of dawn, sunshine, happiness. After visiting the campsite and a stop see another friend of his (he has many friends, this Zitoune, his busking has afforded him many new relationships with people who cannot help but admire and like him) we head to Cable Beach. It is just as beautiful as the rumours would have it and we get there in time for a jump in the waves before sunset. Sitting on the beach with a new friend and watching a famous, colourful sunset makes you happy to be alive and I wrote a little in my journal for the first time in a long time.
I came home to my room in Broome with salty skin, damp hair and full of excitement for the next 11 weeks.