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Every afternoon, after a long hot day on the boats chipping barnacle encrusted shells, I would walk past the sign welcoming me to Kuri Bay Pearl Farm, the home of Paspaley Pearls.
As I would read the sign, the aches in my shoulders, the stinging slashes on my body from the fireweed, and the arthritic pain from my crippled fingers would melt away.
How lucky I was to be living in such a remote and beautiful area of the world; an area that many tourists would cruise on by in their $1,000 a night fishing vessels to see this hidden gem of the Kimberly region.
I was, instead, paid really good money to live here for up to 5 weeks at a time. 5 weeks of 4am bomb siren rises, cooked breakfast in the mess hall with bleary eyed grumbles from my fellow Pearl chippers, perhaps a dreaded mud walk, and a trip on the boat out to the open sea to pull and chip until the early afternoon (or even get caught in cyclone).
Hikes up above into the bush to explore the Aboriginal cave drawings, taking the boats out to fish the abundant sea life of the nearby bays and coves, exploring the gravestones of nearby islands and peninsulas, swims in the natural springs and visits to nearby waterfalls, jogs along the red dusty earth, holes-in-ones on the makeshift driving range or indoor cricket, followed by a smorgasbord dinner and a few quiet and cheap beers around the bar.
Sometimes that might extend into more of a party around a fire, or on someone’s veranda.
Snakes often slithered across our path or verandah, green tree frogs lived in our toilets, dingos ran and howled about the camp, sharks would visit our boat during the day for scraps, and crocs always lay in waiting for the monthly mud walk to our boats.
We lived in a one room shack off a verandah with about 4 other rooms. It was clean and tidy, yet sparse and bare. Who needs anything else?
My brother, Stilts, and his wife, Chris, lived next door. It was the first time since 95 that we spent a decent amount of time together, and actually experienced both of our passion of travel.
It was Stilts’ stories of Kuri Bay and his encouragement to come and work and earn great money that got me to that wondrous place and helped me to create some of my favourite and wildest memories of this beautiful country of ours.
The nearest road was around 180km away so we would have to catch a sea plane to work from the nearest town of Broome. How cool is that?
The flight would pass over the Buccaneer Archipelago, again a place that people would pay hundreds, if not thousands to see.
It was just part of our regular commute. Our weeks off in Broome meant we could explore more of that fascinating outback coastal town and the surrounding Kimberlys.
Paspaley are the biggest supplier of Pearls in the world and Kuri Bay is one of their biggest and most well-known pearl farms.
So if you have a pearl around your neck or are thinking of buying one, know that perhaps Craig and I had a hand in producing its splendour.
One of our workers was responsible for a farm at Kuri Bay that produced a perfect 20 million dollar pearl. Paspaley weren’t that forthcoming in giving him a percentage of that profit though.
Not only did we get to have a wonderful experience living and working with Stilts and Chris, but we also made a lot of terrific friends. Each person working there had a colorful story to share.My younger sister Jenny joined us for a short time.
We still speak to many of them today, and one special friend to my whole family was tragically taken while traveling Africa, which I wrote about in my post “When travel takes a friend.“
There wouldn’t be many travellers or people in this world who have heard about Kuri Bay. You can’t discover it unless you are a Pearler or cruising around on expensive yachts.
I hope I have helped paint a picture of an exquisite place and allowed you to visit it virtually for a short time.
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