After a sad goodbye to the grandparents, we drove out of Broome and down 90 kilometres of a very bumpy dirt road and then turned off down an even bumpier dirt road, where we drove another 32 kilometres to the Aboriginal-owned land of Middle Lagoon.
By the time we arrived, something was rattling in the car and one of the doors on the back of the trailer had been blown open, the lock busted. Miraculously, nothing had fallen out.
And we were lucky to get a camp spot above the beach with panoramic views of the ocean—the most picturesque site we’ve had. In the evening the kids met up with a dozen other kids and made damns in the sand of the receding tide as the sun set and parents watched from above.
After sunset, a full fat yellow moon rose up over the camp. During home school the next day, K wrote in her journal:
Last night the full moon was so bright we had moon shadows walking to the toilets. We gazed up at the night sky to look for shooting stars. I saw airplanes and the Southern Cross, but no shooting stars. The moon was so bright we did not need a torch or a lantern to guide us!
The next night, after sunset and before moonrise, we turned the lights out and looked again for shooting stars. I showed K the Milky Way. “We’re going to miss this when we go back to Sydney,” she said.
“We can still go camping,” I offered.
“But we won’t see the stars like this,” she said.
And she’s more right than I would’ve suspected. The next day I happened to read an article in The Guardian Weekly about light pollution around the world and learned that “99% of people living in the U.S. and the European Union” can’t see the Milky Way. And, with LEDs, the situation is worsening.
The night sky is the stuff of legends, creation myths, poetry. Milton described the Milky way as “a broad and ample road whose dust is gold, and pavement stars”.
We’re blessed that there are so many spots outside the cities of Australia that are free from light pollution. . . and we’re still waiting for K to catch one of those shooting stars . . .
After Middle Lagoon we drove to Koojaman, another campsite on Aboriginal land.
I’ve been reading a bit of history on this region, the Kimberley, which was the last place in Australia to pay their indigenous employees. Most of the stations here hired Aboriginals for no money, and “paid” them with bread and tea; it wasn’t until the 1960s that they began to receive wages.
These days things have changed. The Bardi and Jawi people have reclaimed some of their land, including both of the places we camped, thanks to the Native Title Act.
K and I took a cultural tour with a local Aboriginal man, Bundy, who told us about one of the stories from Bardi dreamtime, and how it connects to which foods are safe to eat in the bush. Then we went for a walk and sampled berries from various trees, and learned about the medicinal qualities of the bark and leaves of other trees. It was a humbling experience to listen to a man tell us about a culture—his culture—tens of thousands of years old.