On the sixth day of our roadtrip, we hit Broome. Broome is what would happen if a consortium of reiki masseurs, interior decorators and personal trainers decided to start their own outback town. It gives every impression of being an upmarket Perth suburb that's somehow been teleported two and a half thousand kilometres north into the middle of nowhere. There are fancy restaurants, chic boutiques and lashings of expensive designer architecture, all in a tiny remote town which, by rights, should be nothing but a few hundred run-down houses, a couple of general stores and lashings of alcohol-fuelled domestic violence.
The weather is lovely, if you are someone who isn't me. It's hotter and more humid than ever, giving spectacular life to plants and insects, and a heavy torpor to Blandwagons. I can raise no more activity than a constant low level stream of moaning and complaint about the heat.
The only relief lies either in airconditioning, of which I have none, or in drinking, which fortunately was more accessible. One of my party introduced me to Matso's boutique brewery, something for which I will be eternally grateful.
I tried three of their beers and loved at least two of them. The first was a mango beer, which combines the fresh mellow flavour of mango with beer, with surprisingly wonderful results. The second was their Monsoonal Blonde, a beer flavoured with a few spices, chief of which being cardamom. It was subtle and completely unexpected, and yet still staying true to the flavour base of the beer.
Then I had the chili beer. Saying that it contained chili is like saying that Vatican City contains the odd Catholic. After two small sips my lips were tingling. After half a dozen sips my whole mouth was on fire. Each subsequent swallow burst into flame somewhere around my adam's apple and grew into a spreading tree of fire throughout my mouth. To quote Ralph Wiggum, “It tastes like burning”... spoken in the same high-pitched, pathetic voice, I might add.
And yet, by the time I'd reached the bottom of my glass, the inferno had simply become a roar of background pain, and I could begin to taste other aspects and undertones of the flavour. I'm not saying I'd necessarily order another glass, but I can appreciate why people with stronger mouths than mine might develop a taste for it.
Like 80 Mile Beach, Broome comes into its own as the sun goes down. Without the savage blast of the sun beating down, it's possible to do things like walk around or speak or blink without risking heat exhaustion and death. The night stays warm, encouraging socialising and activity. It's a shame it doesn't encourage sleep, if you're unlucky enough to be in a tent without a fan or a small iceberg. I got maybe two hours, only managing to drift off in the last hours before the dawn when the temperatures were at their lowest ebb.