Friday 2nd October 2014
There pearling industry has only really become synonymous with the pearls themselves in recent times. Originally it was in fact the shells in which the pearl grew that was the more valued and sellable item. The shell was tough and attractive enough that it could be used for solid jewellery and personal adornments. Traditionally the Indigenous folk of many countries would use it for adornment in rituals, rites and ceremonies. Nowadays the shells are only occasionally used in inexpensive objet d’art and jewellery. The big money is in the pearl. Pearls that are grown in precise conditions, with human intervention to ensure the best size and quality are known as Cultured Pearls.
This morning Ma was up and semi-coherent by quarter past 7 today. We took a leisurely breakfast before the bus picked us up at 8am to ride an hour down an unsealed road by through some old stations to Willie Creek Pearl Farm.
A station, very loosely, is a rural section of land belonging to one specific family or trust of people. It is something like a farm in many respects. Except a station is much, much larger and much, much more isolated. A station may be, and often is, a section of desert on which cattle or horses roam. There may be pigs or sheep. But stations are found mostly in the north of Australia. I don’t know much about them because I come from too far south. The station on the way to Willie Creek was the first I’ve ever seen and I truly hope I have not described it wrong. Up north there are wild horses, camels, emus, cattle and pigs roaming around, as well as all the normal wild animals. I was entranced and in awe at how beautiful the rusty brush of the Kimberley is. As always I was thanking life for landing me in Western Australia!
At Willie Creek we learned about the manufacture and creation of saltwater pearls, the difference between them and freshwater pearls and how to identify the ‘5 Virtues’ of pearls which is how they are graded. Young Ben taught us about the pearling industry of Broome and showed us the anatomy of a fresh pearl and pearl oyster. Driver Gaz took us out in to the creek looking for crocodiles and barramundi and Boatman Gaz showed us the enemies, viruses and threats to pearl shells which exist in the coastal waters off Western Australia due to the old illegal boats which enter our waters from the Asian islands north of Australia. In their natural habitat north of our beautiful country are predators which attack and eat the bad things which attack and destroy our pearl shells. Unfortunately the predators don’t come south with the bad things so we have no way except our human intervention to stand in between the bad things destroying our ocean.
Driver Gaz shared damper and tea for morning tea overlooking the creek. Damper is a traditional Australian scone-style bread that used to be made by ‘Bushmen’ (Aussies like to be ultra-speccy with their names!!). It’s basically Self-raising flour, sugar and water or milk (a scone mixtur-ish) that when mixed it was once wrapped in foil and put in the coals of a fire to cook. It was eaten with tea (boiled in a Billy can over the fire) and sustained the bushman during long days or bouts working on isolated stations. (Again I hope this is accurate, I’m 80% confident it is.)
So we ate Damper and learned some more things, like how to guess prices of pearls, what is special about Australian pearls and would we like to take a ride in a helicopter? It was the cheapest price we’ve ever seen but Ma has always hated the idea of helicopters. She thinks they are unnatural and never holds back telling us how she dislikes the idea of them.
I said, “It’s the cheapest price you’ll ever see.”
She said, ” True”
“It’s only a seven minute flight.”
That isn’t long.”
“I’m off to the loo. You can decide. I’m happy either way.”
When I came back she said “We are going up.”
It was incredible. Very scenic. Well worth the money and probably my highlight of the trip.
We arrived back in town early in the afternoon. Ma and I bought our souvenirs. Her a rug and camel statue and for myself I just found some pretty rocks on the side of the road, as well as a scarf and some soap. I bought a flowy red dress, which was very different to what I’ve seen in Perth. I wore it out to dinner that evening to Matso’s my second big thing for Broome.
I was super excited for Matso’s Brewery as they sell a chili beer which my younger brother B-Dizzle raves about. We are both more than slightly addicted to our chili so I was frothing at the mouth over the idea alone. First we tried a taster tray of all the beers on tap, I enjoyed most but Ma only finished 2 and handed me half of each of the rest. As I had my two pints of Chili Beer Ma had a few more tasters and a pint of Mango and we both had Thali from the Curry Hut which serves on Tuesdays and Fridays.
The beer was exquisite. The Atmosphere was divine. The company was sensational. It was very well worth the wait and anticipation for me.