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You Know You’re in Broome When You Notice BackPackers Arriving in March

Friday, March 22, 2019

Broome is such a rhythmical place. Its home to some of the best-known Indigenous musicians in Australia as well as a raft of talented non-Indigenous musicians, all busting out unique Broome inspired tunes for everyone to enjoy. The Pigram Brothers captured a different kind of Rhythm in their Broome anthem I Feel Like Going Back Home. The opening verse talks of the annual cycles of Broome.

“ I feel like going back home,
right now while the Mangoes are ripe,
Frangipani’s starting to bloom,
And the Bluebone starting to bite”

The song and that verse are synonymous with Broome and the rhythm of life here. There are other rhythms that can be observed in Broome. While most people in Broome (and indeed the top half of Australia) think in two simple seasons the wet and the dry, Aboriginal people recognise six seasons with various indicators that regulate the life of people, plants and animals.

Broome’s pearling industry developed around the rhythms of Broome’s giant tides. The difference between low and high water during the twice a month spring tides can be as much as ten metres.
Apart from the monthly rhythm of tides, the annual cycle of weather also impacted on the pearling fleet. Cyclone season had a devasting impact. The cyclones of 1887 and 1935 each caused the deaths of at least 140 men who are now laid to rest in Broome’s Japanese cemetery.

Broome has become a tourist mecca with a visit to the unique coastal town being on most people’s bucket list. The population of Broome can be like an annual king tide. During the wet season, it’s the bottom of the tide, there are mainly locals in town and some adventurous tourists with the total number of people being around sixteen thousand. Then as the season start to change, the tide starts to rise and the tourists start to flock to Broome escaping their southern winters. The peak of the human tide comes around July/August when there can be over 50,000 people in town.

Just as real tides bring things into shore, the Broome annual human tide brings backpackers to town before the tide picks up momentum. The backpackers usually come in on the first few waves of that human tide. Arriving often in mid to late March. They come early in the year to find seasonal work in the hospitality, pearling, agricultural and almost every other industry which is symbiotically dependent upon them to help their businesses service tourists.

Aboriginal people observe indicators in nature, march flies are an indicator that stingray are fat. Dragonflies with their appetite for mosquitos are an indicator that the dry season is approaching. They not only let people know the seasons are changing, they also get rid of the mozzies. Backpackers have become the Dragonflies in the tourism cycle of Broome. They herald the approaching dry season which coincides with the tourist season. They provide a welcome indication that the tide has changed and the tourist season is on its way.

When the season has kicked in they are highly visual zipping around town on their scooters. They can be seen posting on the community noticeboard on Facebook, buying and selling vehicles, looking for shared housing, or arranging rides north or south as they continue their around Australia adventure. Heading out for dinner during Broome’s tourist season is often a multi-cultural experience, with international backpackers waiting on most of the tables in Broome’s cafés and restaurants.

If there are people down at Cable Beach who are sunset tight rope walking, beating drums, fire twirling or playing soccer, they are most likely backpackers. If you are at the markets and there are people selling trinkets, braiding hair or busking, they are most likely backpackers. They bring colour and life and have become a significant part of the rhythm of Broome.

You Know You’re in Broome When You Notice the Backpackers Arriving in March.

You Know Your in Broome When.... is a blog series by #SoBroome, published every Saturday.

Click here to find more posts in the You-Know-You're-in-Broome-When series.

Share your Backpacker experiences with us in the comments below.






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