Thursday, June 7, 2012


( Provocative Bulldust Diary columnist / illustrator , Peter Burleigh , driving about the wide brown land, expresses more Grey Nomad envy at the pearly gates )

Broome has become more chock-a-block with people than before, ostensibly for the long weekend. The Broome Cup is to be run. We don’t know if it’s a camel or a horse-race. The Nomads are here in their hundreds, maybe thousands, pervasive as cockroaches in a Telstra cable pit. Many wear the checked shorts and Polo shirts we associate with overweight Americans, others, preferring the rugged boundary-rider image, wear raggedy shorts and singlets with obscene messages ("Lie down, I think I love You"). A few have their pets with them. Broome is obviously a shrine on the grey pilgrimage route. The disturbing question is are we observing ourselves?

Interestingly the Nomads herd together in transit camps, and although the only difference between them is that boat people can’t leave, the incidence of brain damage and suicide caused by overcrowding is probably the same. There’s a herd mentality rather than any pioneering spirit; the vans are encapsulated slices of air-conditioned suburban houses.

Surely the point of travelling through the outback is to deliberately not re-create how we live at home - yet people spend up to $250,000 (for the biggest rigs) to have an environment that insulates them against the outdoors, complete with mood lighting, queen-size beds, stoves, refrigerator-freezers, microwave ovens, washing machine, DVD players, flat screen TVs, toasters, Nespresso machines (God, how we wish there was a portable camping version!), automatic satellite-signal-seeking TV dishes, 5.1 surround audio systems and much more.

Even tent-camping purists like us who claim the moral high ground who spend big money on arctic-capable sleeping bags, LCD outdoor lighting, special spine-friendly bedding mats, gas stoves with fold-out toasters, multi-folding tables, collapsible chairs (with beverage holders) and ecologically-sound detergent sit around and talk about "roughing it".Tourism is the blood in Broome’s veins, and so far the town has been resistant to cheap strip development. Although old-time Broomesters might disagree, I reckon Broome may well be an example to follow.