Saturday 30 June to Friday 6 July
We have had a wonderful week, covering more than 2000km on a Kalumburu-Broome and return trip and enjoying the company of 3 other teachers and 13 students from Years 8 to 11.
We left early on Saturday morning, expecting a long slow trip South to the Gibb River Road then West to Mt Barnett for an overnight stop. In fact, parts of the road were the best we had ever encountered. The recent rains had smoothed out the corrugations and some grading work had removed the worst of the rock outcrops. We had three drivers with the necessary 4WD qualification and so we set up a 2 hour rotation system. This also allowed us to change cars, which was a good thing because the kids had only brought one tape per car and the music became very repetitive. I’m not sure how the kids manage to sleep in the back of a Troopie pitching and bumping over unsealed roads but they manage. While awake, they never tired of spotting all manner of wildlife and encouraging the drivers to "bump" anything from a brahman bull to a monitor lizard. We encountered a fair bit of mud and slush along the way so the white Troopies were soon a uniform orange. After a lunch stop at the Gibb River crossing, it was on to Mt Barnett to set up camp in the classrooms at Wannanami School.
The next day we pushed on to Broome, much of the journey being quite boring having reached the bitumen some 50kms out of Derby. The camp school at Broome is incredible. Situated right next to the Cable Beach Resort, it commands beautiful views of Cable Beach and has bunk houses and tents well designed for the climate. We had been allocated two large tents and I found myself sleeping on a top bunk in the first time in many years. The food was first class, with varied ample meals, coffee and tea facilities for staff, packed morning teas and lunches every day and friendly staff. The first night was easy, with only Kalumburu and Fitzroy Crossing in camp. The kids occupied themselves with a basketball game while we renewed aquaintances with teachers that we had worked with at Fitzroy. The following morning saw the arrival of kids from La Grange, Wyndham, Oombulgurri and Looma. Broome SHS, St Marys Broome and Kununurra DHS rounded out a big competitive field. With so many schools in camp, meals were staggered and we were unlucky enough to have the 5:45 breakfast slot. This meant getting up in the dark, although being so far East, the sunrise was not too far off.
Day One of sports saw both the boys and girls thrilled with first up wins in basketball. Unfortunately, they were brought down to Earth again with losses in Indoor Soccer. The day was long and hard. Most other schools had enough students to field separate teams for each sport and have plenty of subs. We were forced to play the same teams for basketball and soccer with only one or two subs. By 5pm, the students returned to camp very tired. Some of students were lacking warm clothing, socks and towels so Christine and I snuck away from the sports in the morning to go to St Vincent de Pauls and stock up. They were very good to us once they knew where we were from and we got some much needed clothing very cheaply.
Day Two was a light one for sporting fixtures so we slotted in a walk on the Broome Jetty and a bit of shopping. It was back to St Vinnies for some real bargains. Down in China Town, we broke into small groups and prowled the shops for sports shoes, DVDs, sweets and other items that teenagers everywhere crave. The matches we did play saw some further defeats so talk of finals was on the back burner. After a quick shower and change, we headed out for a meal at the Roebuck Hotel. The kids really enjoyed eating out. Fish, Chips and Salad or Fisherman’s Basket was the main attraction with a couple of jugs of squash. The kids were on their best behaviour and several other diners were complimentary.
Day Three saw the girls soccer team back into finals contention. Playing in finals would mean staying on until after lunch on Thursday and a night drive back across the Gibb so it was with mixed feelings that we watched the girls draw their last game and lose the chance at a finals berth. All teams had performed very well, with a good number of wins against some much bigger schools. It is a hard and tiring week of sport and a great credit to the organisers that everything runs so smoothly. After tea, the kids went off to the pictures. Christine and I dropped them off and took a much needed break to ourselves with a paper to read and a soda water at MacDonalds. As expected, half the kids fell asleep during the movie anyway.
The trip back went very smoothly and we make excellent time, reaching Mt Barnett around 4pm. The weather had improved and the night at Barnett was noticeable warmer than the 5 degrees of the night spent on the way out. The following day, we made excellent time, arriving back in Kalumburu just after lunch. With gear sorted, cars cleaned and students disbursed, it was off to an early night. We had an early morning charter flight booked and most staff were heading off on holidays so there was little in the way of social wind up. One of our fellow Kimberley Cup teachers was driving out the next morning to Broome, going straight back over the ground he had just driven. Distances seem to take on a new meaning up here. As we took off for the return to Kununurra, we both felt pleased that we had once again returned to Kalumburu and had such an enjoyable week with kids we knew from our years here. One gets the feeling that the worst of the days are now thankfully behind Kalumburu and the pain that the community is feeling now is at least the begining of a rebuilding.