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, heading further and further away from the sea, it was like being in a desert which I knew nothing about. My comparison today would be like Palm Springs with sparse comforts. By this time I had watched enough westerns to have an idea of what I thought I should see 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 but from what I was seeing, I was reminded of a John Wayne cowboy film; 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 was feeling the blistering heat; 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.
*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