The bags for our party of four have been delayed in Perth. They’ve put us on the connecting flight with a promise that our bags will arrive on the first flight the next day.
‘About nine o’clock tomorrow morning’ they call after us as we run across the tarmac towards the impatient plane, its engines roaring at us.
At Broome there is a line up of forlorn Brisbane travellers at the service desk. The attendant gives us the impression that this is not an unusual occurrence. He fishes four overnight packs for stranded passengers from a giant cardboard box sitting behind him on the floor. The Brisbane contingent will spend the night in one size fits all QANTAS issue shortie pyjamas.
‘What does your luggage look like?’ The attendant yawns us towards a large poster on the wall with depictions of typical traveller’s bags. They are all coded.
‘Isn’t it all marked and listed in your paperwork?’ Andrea has some expectation that there will be a sophisticated system to this obviously oft repeated event.
We gaze stupidly at the poster.
22A is a duffle type bag; 24 is a medium sized bag with wheels; 25 is a backpack.
‘Ours is a backpack with wheels’ we tell him.
‘Choose the closest match’ he says.
He reads back his inaccurate list: ‘one 22A, one 24, one 25A (small) and one 25B (large).’
‘And a tent in a small bag’ I add. ‘sort of fawn. Khaki.’
‘Two tone’ chips in Denis ‘orange and brown’
‘Makes khaki. If you mix them.’ I laugh at my joke.
He looks at us curiously.
‘And they’re all in the name Peel.’
‘But we’re not all Peels.’
We give him our actual names.
We turn to go, then remember ‘Oh, and when you send them to our accommodation at Moonlight Bay the booking is in the name Lynch.
We leave. It’s a balmy night. You can feel a slight chill in the sea air. June in Broome.
A taxi takes us to our apartment. The driver doesn’t bother to offer to help us with our luggage. It’s 8:30 pm. After nine hours on the road we rip open our QANTAS packs and queue for the shower with our baby tubes of toothpaste and our single shower sachets of shampoo.
Our first experience of Broome is a ten minute walk into what we imagine is the centre of the town. Chinatown, on the waterfront. We can’t quite get our bearings. We pass a noisy cluster of corrugated iron buildings on our way. It’s the only sign of life. Chinatown is dark and largely deserted with no sign of water. It doesn’t feel right. We were expecting the main street of a country town. This feels like a movie set. We manage to find a Thai restaurant opposite a bottle shop. The bottle shop is doing a bit of trade. We have a surprisingly good meal and the first two bottles of wine of the trip. We need them.
Back at Moonlight Bay we’re too whacked to peruse all the brochures strewn on the coffee table and elect to have a QANTAS fashion parade to celebrate our arrival. It’s a pretty ugly affair. Grey cotton elastic waisted shorts and grey t-shirts; tops and bottoms sporting the flying kangaroo in red. Australia is in big trouble if this becomes our national dress.
None of us looks good in grey. No one looks good in grey.