35. Broome, Talk About Outback!

Singapore to Broome is just shy of 1600 nautical miles.

I’m still trying to remember the name of the cargo/passenger ship which I boarded in Singapore for my journey south by southeast, back to Australia.  At some point I’ll remember it, I think.   

With limited room for passengers -similar setup to the first ship I worked on, the Lakemba- there was four of us to a cabin.  I bunked down, relaxing for the next 2 or 3 days.  And so began the continuing journey into my unknown future.  

Relaxing on the Indian Ocean coastline of Western Australia is Broome, over a thousand miles north of Perth.  Once the ship docked late morning at Broome I disembarked.  The weather was on the warmer side of things but I knew I couldn’t spend time sightseeing in this very different place, I had a bus to catch.

Although Broome is a coastal town, as I headed away from the sea, it was like being in a desert which really I didn’t know anything about (my comparison today would be like Palm Springs with sparse comforts), but I’d watched enough westerns to have an idea and I was starting to feel rather hot.  

Remember my last strong impression of Australia was all the big cities like Sydney, Adelaide & Perth and it was all a bit of a blow for me, I must say.  It wasn’t bad mind you but from what I was seeing, I was reminded of a John Wayne cowboy film and I guess I left that gun-slinging adventure back in my boyhood.  

Suddenly it didn’t seem so appealing to me anymore at least not in the same context.  Now as a young adult I think I was just wanting more bustle and bounce in my world at that time.  Of course I was certainly amused at what I was seeing; instead of cars, I saw horses.  

I remember thinking to myself silly comments as I watched the locals come in on horseback to the town for groceries, dinner or what have you and I watched curiously as they’d tie them up to hitching posts; wow they really do that.  Smile.

Yeah maybe the cowboy world wasn’t in the cards for this island boy after all.  I felt parched and dusty just watching these scenes unfold before my eyes, a mind game perhaps because I felt like it was blistering hot; true to a good western!

It was evening when I boarded my train that would carry me to Melbourne.  Here’s another, I can’t remember the name of the city where I caught that train from; good thing I wasn’t walking!  I was thankful that I had sleeper accommodations, even though the space was shared, it was comfortable, semi private and roomy enough for sleeping purposes.

It seemed that whenever I pulled up the shades to view the passing scenery I saw red rocks, little ones, big ones and sometimes very big ones.  Then there were the kangaroos who were jumping around all over the place, mostly in groups.  Anything smaller was a bit difficult for me to pin down as we were moving much too fast.

It was 1½ days on the train by the time we arrived in Alice Springs which turns out to be approximately mid point in the journey.  For some reason that stuck in my mind.  After 1900 miles traveling in a southeast direction from my beginning point and 3 days later, Melbourne greeted me at last.

Ready to really stretch my legs and breathe in some fresh air, I quickly sought out an information counter.  The lady attending to the booth was very friendly and helpful.

Crikey! The whole world is here.” she exclaimed.  She told me I would be quite fortunate if I was to find any accommodations at all, what with the 1956 Summer Olympics here and all.  

And then as though to let me in on a little secret, she suggested I look into the Melbourne YMCA.  She continued, “Listen mate, it’s only bed and breakfast; that’s only if you do get lucky enough.  You’d be smart to grab a taxi and do go straightaway.  Best of luck.”

I was able to catch a taxi and arrived not long after into the heart of the city.  I think the driver said something about being on City Road, knowing I was a foreigner.  Perhaps he thought I should be properly oriented in my directions.  I was hoping for at least the night’s rest at this point; a few more nights being a bonus.

The city was jam-packed with people unlike the sparse locales I had recently experienced.  Big city yes of course but more so crowded now, what with the games and all.

I was very fortunate to have found accommodations at the recommended YMCA.  I was set-up to share a room with a young student.  My bed and breakfast cost me A£3 per week, paid in advance and this YMCA became my home for the next 17 or so days.  

Yes I did try to see some of the games but I quickly learned that I should have purchased tickets ages ago.  I was fortunate enough to catch some of the games and especially the Hockey win by 🇮🇳 over 🇵🇰 when they took the Gold.

I caught these in a local pub on a television set.  That was pretty exciting all the same, knowing I was actually right there … only not there.

In between I had some time to think things over and I figured I would station myself here and then call for Hemma.  Australia.  England.  Either way I would make a go of it.  

And it would still mean I was out of Fiji and we would live our life together, away from interference.

 

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*Had LBM stayed till the 31st of October, he very well may have seen the Duke of Edinburgh arriving that day on the Royal Yacht Britannia.  Stopping off first in Singapore, he too was on his way to Melbourne, in the state of Victoria, to open the Olympic Games of 1956

34. Singapore

Pressure to get along in my quest came to shove, it was October and I now possessed booked passage on an Italian ship (asia.jpg) to … you’re not going to believe it, Singapore.  Didn’t my mausa just invite me on similar journey?    Timing I suppose.

daddy's ship passage 1956 to Singapore BLURI would spend 10 days there and so it was only natural to visit as much as I could.  After this layover I would move along, still forward as far as I was concerned, to Australia.  Broome, Australia to be exact …at least as a starting point.

Parwez back at the Bombay travel agency had arranged my hotel accommodations as well as everything else to do with my itinerary to the very ending point of my travels.  I stayed in a nice and clean of course, 3-story, centrally located hotel in the heart of the city.

I was wide-eyed at the action of the hotel owners; they sent beautiful girls my way meant to escort me around the city, dine with me and keep me company.  Definitely not something I would’ve imagined, in spite of the Bombay parties I attended.

I guess I was still an amateur in the world.  I politely sat with a few of the girls in the hotel snack bar, enjoyed a coffee and a little conversation and I literally left it at that.  This was not for me.  After all I have a wife waiting for me in Fiji.   

Interestingly enough for I don’t wish to judge it as suspicious but to all the letters I wrote to Hemma from India I never, not once, received reply.

Well, anyway here is another part of my 1st encounter with Singapore.  I remember some guys walking around with pythons draped around their necks offering to drape them around any passerby’s neck for a photo opportunity at the rate of a couple of Singapore dollars.  There was always something.

Singapore consisted of many delightful and unusual eateries.  I found my way to an area of the city which was an Indian community.  It has existed since the 1800’s and for a moment there I thought I was back in Bombay.  Anymore I cannot remember what it was called but that’s all right.  

The food was good and you know me by now, that’s what I was looking for.  Oh the coconut-cream cooked curries and the fish dishes were especially yummy!  I don’t know how I remained as skinny as a stick.

I also found myself in a parking lot that was converted for the evening eateries.  Food vendors opened up their cafes after the day’s use of the lots by automobiles and served up the most delicious varieties of Indonesian cuisine.  

Make sure you don’t litter, I was warned by a few helpful people.  There are covered disposal containers for your rubbish when you are through eating.  No one cleans up after you, this you must do and be certain to do it properly, or else!  

Singapore I have to say is refreshingly clean.  Littering in any shape or form is severely punishable by their law … just don’t do it!  It really has got to be the cleanest, used by people, place in the world.  It was without question very beautiful.

I visited a gorgeous place called (if I remember correctly) the Tiger Balm Gardens.  I loved it so much I made a point to return to it again before leaving Singapore.  I called this place the Buddha Gardens due to all the statues depicting various translations of Buddha.

All fun things must come to a halt at some point and besides the next destination was calling.  My travel accommodations would be a bit different this time.  The ship for starters would be more like traveling on the SS Lakemba and my off-point was not so glamorous.

 
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33. Stalemate – a New Game is in Order

One day and much to my surprise, my mausa (maternal uncle) showed up and yes, right here in Bombay!  He came in from Fiji with an associate of his and was just wanting to visit … hmmm.  I couldn’t help but to wonder if my brother had something to do with this.

We spent just about every day together.  We weren’t perfectly alone as this associate (tagalong rather) was always with him.  Jittu would go off and do other things with his family while mausa and I did whatever it was we did, going around here and there, eating this and that and basically sightseeing.  

This associate of his I felt very strongly about.  Though it wasn’t my place to voice my opinion of this person I was not at all pleased with his attendance.  I felt sure he was along for a free ride; not once ever did he offer to pay for anything.  

There was just a certain air about him.  But I never asked my mausa about him because who knows, maybe it was some sort of payback or … well that’s why I won’t assume.  I still didn’t like it.

One day mausa came to my hostel to pick me up as was the usual and we went for lunch.  Afterwards we enjoyed a nice drive, not looking to see anything in particular.  He then told me he did not like Bombay.  He was ready to head towards home going first through Singapore and then Australia.

He said I should go with him as his guest.  I was very happy for that gracious invitation of course but I did not wish to return to Fiji.  I’m supposed to be on my way to London.  I gratefully thanked him for his most generous offer and reminded him that I must make my way to England.

He did understand and just before he left, he pocketed me some money and yes I will admit it was a big help to be sure.  Then he was gone.  

Imagine this: neither myself nor Jittu were locals for one and the population of Bombay, never mind the rest of the Indian subcontinent was already astronomical.  Looking for work, the percentage of competition for any one position was completely overwhelming, Why do you think Jittu and I sold movie tickets?   

After my mausa’s departure, Jittu and I returned to doing whatever it was that we were doing … hanging out in Bombay and ultimately closing our season of friendship.  We went on for a few more weeks.  Jittu gave me his contact information for back home in Africa.  

I had no way of knowing how much longer the Suez Canal would be closed and when would I really be able to afford a flight to London.  These flights’ price tag remained well, sky-high as this was really the only way to England at that time.  I had to make a move though and I knew I must leave India and my bond with Jittu behind.

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With the Suez Canal not reopening until March of 1957, which of course I didn’t know at the time, I would’ve been in India for a few months more and most likely homeless and hungry, not knowing how much longer I could continue selling movie tickets.  I had to make a move.