Off season

25 Mar

We’ve been in Australia during the ‘off season’.  Where I come from that means we wear more layers and turn the heating up, but stuff still happens.  It takes very unusual weather to close London.

Round these parts it’s a bit different.  Once the school summer holidays end in early February, huge swathes of Northern and Western Australia simply shut down.  Shops are closed, museums are closed, roads are closed, even huge many thousands of square miles national parks are closed.  Sure, you can call ahead and ask what’s open, but you don’t always get a straight answer.  He might be running his tour, or he might have gone bush.  The train does run at weekends in the off season, but they might be repairing some flood damage to the tracks.  You have to call Arnold and ask him to open up the museum for you, no I don’t know whether he’ll be around or not.  When you’ve driven three hundred kilometres to get there, it can be a little frustrating.

We knew we’d have to contend with rain, serious rain.  We knew that this would mean that roads would be closed.  We understood that.  But it never occurred to us that art galleries and museums would be shut up.  That tours would be not running until April.  That we’d arrive in a tourist office and ask what there was to do in the area and they’d look at us as if we were slightly deranged.

But it’s not all bad.  Apart from the obviouses, like half price accommodation, there have been lots of benefits.  When we have found an open museum, we’ve been lucky enough to see it without the crowds.  We had our own personal guided tour of the pearling museum in Broome, by a very friendly and entertaining local who was delighted to actually have some visitors.  The children tried on early Japanese diving outfits, we ate pearl meat and we held one of the most valuable pearls in the world, without having to compete with a cruise load of other tourists.  We got to ask lots of questions and the things we learnt have really stuck with the children.  They now turn their rashies into helmets and dive for pearls in the swimming pool.

And we couldn’t go to the famous Kakadu National Park because it was closed, so instead we had a wonderful three days camping in Litchfield National Park.  Where we got drenched on a daily basis in rain so fierce it made us laugh and were literally the only people there.  Falling asleep to the sound of drumming rain and howling dingoes is an experience I’ll never forget.

In many ways the emptiness and closedness feels fitting in this place of huge spaces and few people.  We may have missed out on tours and activities, but we’ve enjoyed having the place to ourselves.  And what a place.

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