Broome, WA. 19th September 2015.
Somehow I managed to spend ten days in Broome. What was it that kept me there? Lethargy, to some extent. It was hot. Very hot, with temperatures in the high thirties. I dread to think what it must be like in Summer. Unbearable I should imagine. But Broome is a nice town and it’s easy to get attached to it. Initially I only booked the Kimberly Klub hostel for four nights, but kept adding more on. I kept finding reasons to stay.
But I was certainly busy too. Cleaning, mostly. Myself, my riding gear and my bike; all were crying out for attention and the tears were red from the dust that stained everything. The hostel’s washing machines gave good value and were worked hard. Across the road is a servo and it has a jet wash. That got worked hard too. Across three or four days everything got nicely cleaned up and I began to feel human again.
When I’d been in Kununurra I’d met a German woman called Ricarda at the hostel there. She was also at the hostel in Broome. It was nice to be able to chat to her, along with another German woman, Heike. Ricarda was due to fly off to continue her travels and that morning the three of us walked down to the cemeteries, European, Japanese and Chinese. They reflect the cultural mix of the town. The Japanese was the most interesting because there was a memorial to the divers who died of the bends, known then as Divers’ Paralysis. It affected far too many of them as the condition wasn’t understood back then. One way of combating the effects was to smoke opium, although it was never stated which of the two noxious substances did for the majority of divers.It was clear there had been some mixed marriages over the years, with one set of graves having a Japanese family name but with a mixture of Japanese and English forenames.
In the European section there was a very decorative grave with a Maori name and symbols on it, reinforcing the nature of the cultural mix of the town. I don’t often go walking among the dead but sometimes it can be quite instructive.
Outside the cemetery we came across a ‘drive thru’ coffee shop. What a great idea! Essentially, it was a stall in the lay by outside the cemetery gates, but nothing like the traditional lay by tea stall we have on British roads. Our surly, middle aged man, with his three day growth of stubble and suspect looking teaspoons sitting in a mug of dirty water, was replaced by a smart woman, dressed in baseball cap and polo shirt, with logos to match those on the stall, who cheerily greeted the occupants of cars as they pulled up, relayed their orders to the operatives of the espresso machines inside, then handed the freshly brewed coffee to them, cheerily waving them on their way. How refreshing. As was the coffee we bought. Not having a car, we sat at a picnic table nearby and speculated on the inventiveness of some people and noting that they seemed to be constantly busy.
On the morning I took Doris over to the servo for her clean up I also did some other necessary jobs. The dust seemed to have affected the indicators and the engine kill switch. The carb was flooding too. I’d bought some WD40 type lubricant and set about stripping and cleaning the handlebar switches. The indicator problem was actually corroded connections on the flasher unit but all three problems were eventually cured, along with a couple of other small jobs that needed doing. I have to say that working on your bike is a very pleasant way to spend a sunny morning.
The previous evening I’d been chatting to Heike and she introduced me to another German woman, named Kez. They had plans to head down to Cable Beach, not only to swim but also to photograph the sunset. Once I’d finished with the bike I set off to find them. Cable beach was so named because it’s the point where the telegraph cable from Indonesia, which finally connected Australia to the rest of the world, came ashore. It’s twenty two kilometres long, has nice white sand and a tide that can vary by as much as ten metres. That’s a lot! Fourbys are permitted on the beach but drivers are warned to remember about the rising tides and to avoid the fate of one Land Rover, which has been renamed Sand Rover. It still sits there, at the far end of the beach, as a reminder to the incautious. Further up the beach is a ‘clothes optional’ area, for those who want all over melanomas.
Sensibly, I left my bike in the car park and very soon managed to find Heike and Kez. It felt more like Arabian Nights than sunset over the ocean. Three different companies provide sunset camel rides along the beach and it seemed a popular past time. Each company had different colour saddle blankets and the one with the red blankets somehow seemed to have redder camels too. They were all Dromedaries, one hump rather than two, but looked sweet enough as they strolled majestically past the setting sun. Kez is a keen photographer and spent quite some time, with her Canon and tripod, taking plenty of shots of the sunset and its afterglow. Heike and I just took the usual snapshots, admired the camels and chatted.
Heike and Kez told me they’d cook something for us all so I was relieved of food duties for the evening, apart from eating it of course. We were joined by another traveller, a French woman named Jo (Josepha). She had just completed a guided trip along the Gibb River Road and hadn’t been too impressed by their driver/guide. A bit miserable apparently. Unfortunately Heike and Kez were about to undertake the same tour so weren’t too pleased to hear her views, wondering if they’d made the right decision.
With Heike and Kez gone I focussed on trying to sort out the sticky zips on my tent. That damn dust seemed to get into everything and the door zips on the inner tent were reluctant to move properly. I’d bought some zip cleaner/lubricant in a camping shop so I sat on the balcony outside my room and did my best to smooth up the operation. After a few hours I felt I had improved things but only time would tell by how much.
Jo had gone off on a kayaking trip, out to sea to mix it with some turtles. I’d been tempted to go on a whale watching trip but it was just a little too late in the season to be guaranteed a sighting so had held off from that. I went for a walk around the town instead, picking up on some of the local history.
The CBD is also called Chinatown, a reflection of the fact that most businesses were Chinese owned. The exceptions were the big companies that owned the pearl luggers and associated industries. Most of the buildings were the typical corrugated iron constructions that predominated in those parts, including those that housed the rich, European owned businesses. They were just bigger. Those of Chinese occupation often had little touches that told that tale, such as windows or balconies with an eastern style to them. Some inventive means were adopted to provide ventilation too; essential during the very hot summers. A place I really liked the idea of was the outdoor cinema, where film goers would sit in chairs arranged across a roofless auditorium. The cinema was still operating, over 100 years after being built. It’s a shame that I didn’t get around to going there. There was a modern shopping centre too, with a useful selection of shops, including a large supermarket. Out in the public spaces were some statues dedicated to those involved in the pearling industry. Standing by the Runway Café I was fascinated to see a variety of planes flying low overhead as they came in to land at the nearby airport. I think the main street must have lined up with the runway, as well as with the setting sun.
Broome is situated on a peninsular which juts out into the Indian Ocean. Its history is centred on the pearl industry. Since the mid 19th C, oyster shells have been collected from the sea bed and sold around the world. Their value didn’t lie with the pearls that were sometimes found within but with the shells, otherwise known as Mother of Pearl. It was used for all sorts of things – buttons, cutlery handles, ornaments etc. If a pearl was found then that was a bonus. I visited a couple of pearl tour centres while I was there and learned a lot about the old and the current industry.
In the early days divers just held their breath and swam down to the sea bed, felt around with their hands and hoped to bring something up. If they were by an oyster bed then they were successful, if not then they moved on. The divers were usually Aboriginals who had been tempted, but mostly forced, into the work. Some devious and dark dealings were common in those days, not dissimilar to the press gangs that ensnared men for naval duty. Whips and guns were used to round up Aboriginals to do this work. Favourites were the pregnant women, who seemed to be able to hold their breath for the longest. The theory is that pregnancy increases the amount of red blood cells, therefore more oxygen could be delivered to the lungs. Despite the relative inefficiency of this method the profit was huge and the town of Broome was established off the back of it. In its heyday Broome was pretty much the richest town in Australia.
In 1884 the fully enclosed diving suit was developed and was exported to Australia. The Aboriginals refused to use them and that’s where the Japanese came into the picture. They were experienced divers and were happy to risk this new equipment because of the enormous sums of money that could be earned. And that’s how things stayed until WW2. The Japanese were interned and the government decreed that the pearl luggers be destroyed ‘just in case’. After the war the industry picked up again but the demand for MOP had dropped because new materials, such as plastic, were replacing it. But around that time the cultured pearl industry took off. The methods had been worked out in the 1930s but the man who did so, Mr Gregory, was basically run out of town by the vested interests who owned, and got extremely rich from, pearl diving. In the 1970s the diving suit, and its attendant risks, were replaced by fin divers, who could work much more flexibly.
My first trip was out to the area’s biggest pearl farm, Willie Creek Pearls. Since the post war demise of the MOP industry the pearls themselves became the focus of attention. The aforementioned Mr Gregory’s research into culturing the pearls at last came to the fore. Only about one in every 100,000 oyster shells will contain a pearl, nowhere near enough to meet demand. Therefore culturing them is the only way. Here’s what happens.
Pinctada Maxima is the type of oyster used. It grows up to 30cms in diameter – as big as a dinner plate. They are gathered by divers from various locations around the coast and brought to the farm where they are allowed to settle in. They are increasingly produced in hatcheries too, reducing costs. When big enough they are ‘seeded’. A natural pearl usually grows around a grain of sand which has found its way into the oyster shell when it opens for feeding. Normally these grains are removed by a soft shelled crab which lives inside the oyster. In return for shelter it keeps house for the oyster – the perfect symbiotic relationship, I would suggest.
Seeding the oyster involves bringing it into a laboratory on board a ship where a technician inserts a tiny piece of Mississippi Mussel shell into the oyster’s gonad, along with a piece of the mantle tissue. The oyster is placed in a cage on the ocean floor and undergoes a turning process which encourages it to produce the calcium based ‘pearl juice’ that coats the seed and grows the pearl. Importantly, it helps the pearl to become round too. Eventually the oysters are suspended in their cages from lines strung between buoys. It takes two years to grow a pearl and during this time they are x-rayed, to check progress, and regularly cleaned to remove marine fouling organisms from the shells. While the seeding process requires expert technicians, the cleaning work is a typical Woofers’ job. 10-12 hours per day, for weeks at a time, scraping oyster shells with a chisel, if you fancy it.
Oysters can be seeded up to four times and each subsequent seed will be the same size as the pearl that was last grown, thereby providing pearls of different sizes. The success rate of each subsequent seeding operation falls significantly, one of the reasons why larger pearls are so expensive. After the fourth seeding operation the oysters are used to provide Mother Of Pearl for the traditional uses as well as to make paints and make up. If you buy a car with pearlescent paint, that’s where it came from. Each oyster is worth £5,000 to the business so they get well looked after. Even the non-round pearls have a value as they can be fitted into brooches or pendants.
The pearls are assessed for quality, which falls into five different categories: size, lustre, shape, colour and quality of surface. A large pearl, with high levels of quality in all its features could cost £50,000 or more. Cheaper pearls tend to be cultivated in mussel shells in freshwater. The difference between the two is obvious when you see them side by side. If you are ever worried that a pearl may not be natural then rub it against your teeth and you will feel the roughness of the surface of a natural pearl – provided that your teeth are natural too! Lots more info can be found by following the link.
Willie Creek is located at the top end of Cable Beach and we were on the look out for crocs too, although we didn’t see any. Our guide told us that they expected the Wet to arrive early this year as the crocs had stopped laying their eggs early too. It seems all these things tie in together.
The second part of my pearl education was a visit to the Pearl Lugger museum. It was here that I learned about the early days of the industry and the diving history. A group of us were shown into the museum, which had plenty of relics to examine. We had a talk from a guy who told us the tales of how it was and explained the diving process. The divers were almost all Japanese and were extremely well paid. They worked with their own attendant, whose job it was to respond to the signals that came up the rope from the seabed. The divers would give directions as to which way they wanted the boat to move according to where they thought the oysters were. All very difficult considering there was no vision at the 25 metre working depth and the luggers had no engines. The suits they wore were huge, designed for large Europeans, not small Asians. In the winter they wore several layers of best Scottish woollens, toe to neck, also of a European size.It was almost impossible to move and the divers developed a kind of curtsey motion to enable them to reach the seabed. The rest of the crew were Malaysian or Indonesian and the divers tended to give them bonus payments when they’d been successful. They weren’t paid very much and it was important for a diver to have them on his side, especially the guy who worked the hand cranked air pump! Each lugger had two divers, one over each side, with their attendants sitting on a framework suspended over the side. It took them an hour and a half to get ‘suited up’ and they were in the water from dawn until dusk, often more than twelve hours, with a fifteen minute break every three hours. It’s no wonder they suffered from the bends or that they enjoyed their opium.
It was this industry that made Broome the multi-cultural town it became, with Aboriginals, Japanese, Chinese, Malays, Fillipinos and Europeans all living there. It wasn’t always sweetness and light, with friction occasionally arising between the various groups. But up until WW2 things seemed to work. Everything changed completely at that point and the pearling industry was effectively stopped in its tracks. Those Japanese still remaining were interned and the government decreed that the pearl luggers be destroyed in case they fell into the wrong hands. It’s worth pointing out that Indonesia, eventually occupied by the Japanese, isn’t very far away. It took a long time for the industry to recover when hostilities ceased.
On Saturday one of my Aussie mates arrived. Craig works for Telstra, the biggest phone company, installing communications satellite dishes. He travels all round the country, mostly by plane, but also rides a Suzuki DR650, Australia’s most popular trallie. I first met him in Brisbane.
He had hired a scooter for the afternoon so we rode around to a couple of places to see some sights.Gantheaume Point was the first place we went to. Named after a French explorer, it’s home to a lighthouse, very prettily coloured rocks and, seen at very low tides only, dinosaur footprints. Because this was a period of very high tides, there were also very low tides too so they were visible. It was very strange looking at something made by an animal over 65 million years before. Reckoned to be from Sauropods, there’s about ten of them scattered around. The area used to be above sea level, was probably swamp, but had shifted, along with the earth’s surface.
We rode along to the port area and went down onto the beach. There was a marquee set up over on one side and various people arriving. Obviously a celebration and we soon realised it was a wedding. ‘Keep your eyes on the sky’ one of the guests said to us. Sure enough a helicopter soon arrived and delivered the bride and her father to the ceremony. Now that, my friends, is doing it style – Aussie Style. We were suitably impressed.
We socialised over the weekend, between other calls on our time, and I enjoyed a very nice Sunday lunch at Craig’s hotel. Almost too much beef to eat and very reasonably priced.
During the Autumn, Winter and Spring months Western Australia enjoys a natural phenomenon known as the Staircase to the Moon. It’s all about the effect of the light from the rising moon as it shines across the sea. In Broome it can be seen at Town Beach, on the eastern side of the peninsular. During the three days when the full moon coincides with a low tide, this effect is at its most dramatic. It occurs an hour later each day, so I arranged to meet Craig down there on the Monday evening. There’s a leisure area behind the beach which was full of stalls selling clothes, trinkets and food. It being a bank holiday weekend too – a queen was having a birthday somewhere – the place was jumping. We found a spot among the crowd out on the old jetty and waited. We weren’t sure how good it would be because the moonrise, at 18.03, came soon after the 17.40 sunset. We wondered if the sky might be too light. We needn’t have worried. It was wonderful to be able to still see the horizon as the red moon rose up above it. It wasn’t too long before the staircase effect became apparent as the moon got brighter while the last of the daylight faded away. Because the tide was completely out the moonlight could reflect on the wet sand without any waves spoiling the reflections. That’s what makes it so good. It was quite magical, as I hope the photos show.
Craig wasn’t around the next day but I went up there again, just to compare the difference. The moon rose a whole hour later, so it was completely dark this time. Although the light on the water was brighter, quicker, I preferred the previous night because the whole effect was better when the horizon could be seen.
So that was about it for Broome. There were a number of things that I didn’t get to see and places I didn’t get to visit. There really is a lot to do and you tend to do them slowly because it’s so hot. I could easily have spent a few more days there, but I needed to head south, to cooler climes.
The outline plan was to sweep down the west coast from Broome to Perth, calling in at points of interest on the way. There’s plenty to see along that 2,000kms stretch, including some national parks that lie inland. My first port of call was to be Port Hedland, very much a mining orientated town. I knew they ran mine tours from there and I fancied going on one.
It was a long ride, which included an overnight stop. When I pulled into a roadhouse for fuel and coffee at 3pm, there were two bikers there that had already stopped for the night. The heat had beaten them, they said. I could understand what they meant. It was close to 40 C and the heat just seemed to suck the life out of you. I pushed on, aiming for a beach front camp site further down the line. When I got there, and was told they wanted $26 just for me and my tent, I left again. Simply too much for three square metres of grass (possibly) and a shower. Instead I went to a roadhouse about 100kms further south and paid $12, pleased that I hadn’t wasted money or time. Progress was good.
I reached Port Hedland at 10am next day and headed for the visitor centre, where I booked on to the mine tour, at 1pm. With time to spare I went to the nearest camp site and promptly did my ‘What, you must be joking!!’ act when they asked for $46. I thought the other place was bad enough. A 16kms ride out to South Hedland brought me to another camp site, charging a much more reasonable $20. They even threw in a free gale. The wind was so strong I couldn’t put my tent up. I got it half done then had to leave it laying on the ground with my heavy bags on it, holding it down, while I went back for the mine tour. ‘The wind always drops in the evening,’ I kept saying to myself.
The port is used to export various products – salt, cattle, various minerals. But far and away the biggest is iron ore. In the year ending 2014 a total of 370 million tonnes of cargo was exported. 364 million tonnes of that was iron ore. That’s one hell of a lot of horseshoes! The port has been improved in various ways over the years, as you’d expect. It has a ship turning area in the inner port which is 300 metres across. Some of the ships are over 280 metres long. They have 16 tugs with some very skilled crews! There is an island which is used for loading vessels too, giving the port a total of eight ore loading berths. BHP constructed a 1.6km tunnel out to this island, inside of which is a conveyor system for getting the ore to the ships.
The mine tour was fascinating. It didn’t actually involve a mine though. Instead it was a tour round the storage and loading facility, owned by BHP Biliton, which receives the iron ore from their inland mines and loads it onto ships for export. The ore comes in by train, not road, and just never stops arriving. It used to be crushed at the port but following complaints from the town, it is now crushed and graded out at the mine. It is stockpiled and then loaded onto the ships. With the exception of driving the trains and operating the ship loading machinery, the whole site is computerised and operated from Perth, over 1,600kms to the south. It has 98kms of conveyor systems delivering enough ore to fill a 250,000 tonne ship at a rate of 12,500 tonnes per hour. In fact the record throughput in one 24 hour period was over 2,000,000 tonnes. Phew!
The main mining hub is about 420kms from the town and the trains delivering the ore are quite something. There will be up to six American built diesel locomotives, two front, two middle and two rear. Up to 340 wagons, each with 32,000 tonnes of ore. The whole train will be up to 3.3kms long. When it reaches the port the driver stops the train at a particular point and the computer takes charge. It moves the train through an unloading shed where machinery turns three wagons at a time through 180 degrees so the ore falls out into a hopper underneath. Meanwhile the driver goes off and has his lunch, afternoon nap or whatever. The plant has its own maintenance works for the locos and wagons. It’s tempting to think of an operation such as this as a crude, dirty, noisy hell, reminiscent of those old black and white information films depicting heavy industry. Nothing could be further from the truth. Clean and efficient, in fact. One thing I learned, which really drove that home, was that the latest version of the ore wagons had the steel support structure for the sides moved from the outside of the wagon to the inside. The locos use around 5,000 litres of diesel per trip and this improvement in aerodynamics saves the company $1 million per loco per annum. There’s nothing crude about that kind of thinking.
I enjoyed that tour and came away feeling I’d been educated, as well as having had some assumptions kicked into touch. I was impressed.
Before heading back to the camp site to do battle with the wind, I strolled along the water front, watching the loading operations and enjoying the well laid out park and recreation area. Funded by the mining company, of course, as they do for many other town and educational projects.
On the way out of town I stopped to look at the solar salt mine, run by Rio Tinto. It harvests salt from the sea simply by filling pools with sea water and letting the hot sun and wind evaporate the water away. 3.2 million tonnes of salt per annum is the result of this solar powered operation.
Back at the camp site the wind had dropped, as expected, and I was able to win the windy battle. Tomorrow I was heading out to Karijini National Park. Ho hum, another gorge or two to walk along.
A very nice ride along a recently upgraded road got me there mid afternoon. There’s two camp sites in the park and I went to the one near Dales Gorge, planning to head to the Eco Tourist Retreat, on the other side of the park, next day. The park was quite busy as it was the two week mid-term school holidays. It was far too hot to walk so I just took things easy, making plans for an early, heat beating start next day.
By now I had visited several national Parks in various parts of Australia. All of them had different geology and different rock types, although those in North Queensland were a bit short on the rock. Much more given over to sand and with much nicer trees. I’d seen plenty of sandstone, sometimes laced with karst. By now, a fair bit of limestone too. But Karijini and the surrounding area, as you’ve probably guessed, is all about iron. The rock in the gorge I walked through, and round, the next morning, is different to any I’d seen so far. A mixture of red and grey, it tended to be layered in slabs, with sharp cornered faces and angles. Nothing gentle about its appearance at all. These 2.5 billion year old rocks have been lifted by earth movement and cut into by numerous rivers, forming the landscape I walked through. Sometimes the rocks would be laced with soft yellow ochre, looking a bit out of place among the hard, grey iron.
There were deep, cool pools at each end of the gorge and the creek had plenty of water in it. Stepping stones were the order of the day whenever the path crossed over. There were plenty of trees and plants to admire, some of them unique to the area. There were some interesting rock formations too. Hard as it is, even iron ore will eventually erode, or be carried down when the softer rock around it gives way.
It was a steep, rocky climb down into the gorge and an equally steep one back out again, aided by some steel stairs and walkways. The sun’s heat was starting to get itself noticed too. So I was pleased that the walk back along the rim of the gorge wasn’t too difficult or too far.
I packed away my tent and gear and set off to ride to the Eco Tourist Resort. But on the way I stopped off at one of the park’s two water tanks to fill up my water bottles. I was quite surprised by the number of bees and other insects that were buzzing around the damp outlet hose. Closer examination revealed that those ‘other insects’ were rather large hornets. I must confess I’d never seen any before and given that they looked about four times as big as the average wasp, I wondered about the comparative size of their sting. But none of them paid me any attention so I filled up and moved on.
There are four gorges to explore near the Eco Resort so I planned to stay a couple of nights. Having called in at the visitor centre the day before, I rode past it and took to the gravel track that crossed the park. I didn’t like it much. Unusually, it had longitudinal ruts, rather than corrugations, and the gravel was deep in places. I disliked it so much that after 5kms I turned round and went back to the visitor centre, having decided that with it being school holidays I’d better check they actually had room for me. I didn’t want to ride that track if I didn’t need to. That’s how much I disliked it. The guy at the VC rang the resort, where they had plenty of room for one man and his tent. He expressed surprise that I was going along it on a bike but I assured him I’d be OK on my off road bike.
I set off along the track once more, riding steadily at a reduced speed of 40-50kph and trying to stick to the chicken track at the edge. All was well until after about 10kms the front wheel dug into some gravel and I was spat off the bike. This time I landed really badly and as I moved to straighten myself out I realised I had broken my collar bone. I knew the feeling as I had broken the right one about seven years ago. Now I had a matched pair. I didn’t bother trying to get up. It’s a busy track and I knew someone would be along soon to help me. I was right and within a minute or two a couple of fourbys arrived. Some guys picked up my bike and moved it off the track and a family put me in the back of theirs to take me on to the Eco Resort. They were good enough to bring the bags off the back of my bike too. I knew that I’d gone down really hard that time because the straps holding the bags onto the bike had snapped, something that had not happened before. If you’re familiar with ROK Straps you’ll know this is very hard to do.
The nearest town is Tom Price and the people at the Eco Resort called an ambulance and in the meantime gave me iced tea to drink while we watched the AFL final on the TV. It’s a very strange game. There was a doctor staying there who confirmed what I already knew about my collar bone. Dan, the Head Ranger, came by to tell me he’d ridden my bike back to the visitor centre and it was safely locked away, along with me gear. He assured me it could stay there as long as it took me to be well again. Now that was a real weight off my mind. What a top bloke.
The ambulance crew were St John’s volunteers. I suppose I wasn’t too surprised as it seems very common among Aussies to get involved in their local emergency services. In fact, very often volunteers are all there is, with the exception of police. Tiny and Sharon delivered me safely to the hospital, all in good order.
Being a mining town, Tom Prince has a small hospital and they processed me efficiently, if slowly. Eventually the on-call radiologist arrived and I was duly x-rayed. Broken collar bone confirmed and the doctor said it would need pinning. Looking at them I was inclined to agree. It looked a mess. I was given a room to myself where I was able to get a very much needed shower and some food. I had been given a disc with the x-rays on it, in case I wanted to receive some of my treatment in another state.
Clearly, transfers from outlying hospitals to bigger towns and cities are common in Australia. The Royal Flying Doctor Service is heavily involved in this but I had no need of it. With my arm in a sling I was provided with a ticket for Sunday’s QUANTAS flight to Perth and a travel voucher for a taxi from the airport to Royal Perth Hospital. My transport from Tom Price hospital to Paraburdoo, the nearest airport, was left to Gilda, my lovely radiologist who had, coincidentally, just finished her tour of duty at Tom Price and was also flying to Perth. I think I happened to be her last patient there. Perfect timing. All went smoothly and a taxi delivered me to RPH about 7pm where I went through the emergency department’s procedures before finally getting a room.
While I’d been at Tom Price I’d had two phone conversations with the orthopaedic surgeon at RPH, discussing my options. The idea was to be able to pre-plan an operation for Monday. I thought this an excellent idea and it meant that, barring some big emergency, my op was on the list before I even got there. And so it was that on Monday I was screwed and plated back together and was back in my room in time for lunch. Fantastic.
On Tuesday morning the physio came and showed me some gentle exercises I should do and provided me with a sling to wear. The main instruction was not to use the arm for six weeks and no heavy lifting for three months. It’s likely I’ll be OK to ride the bike after six weeks but too much activity before that might separate the screws from the bone. It sounds like some sitting down doing nothing very much is going to be the order of the day. I’m not very good at that!
Once I’d been checked over and given my instructions on how to be a good boy, I was taken down to the transit lounge where my medication was organised and a discharge letter written up for me to take away. Initially they assumed I’d be going to Brisbane, as that’s where my Aussie address is, and therefore didn’t book an outpatient’s appointment in Perth. The ortho doctor had said to come to the clinic in two weeks so I had to tell the doctor in the transit lounge of this so he could arrange it. Once he’d got that right I was free to go. Gilda, my favourite radiologist was staying at her brother’s in Perth for a couple of days before heading off on holiday. There was room for me there too, which gave me time to get something organised for my sojourn in Perth. I rang her, she came to collect me and off we went, me feeling a little strange without my bike, Gilda carrying my bag for me, just to emphasise how helpless I’m going to be for a while.