The Wandering Tops

The Wandering Tops

26 September, 2016


Had planned to stay a night at Bustard Downs on way to Cooktown however on arrival the gate was shut - they were closed for 3 weeks, this was around the school holiday period.  So change of plan and stayed at Mt Carbine in the caravan park which had a very interesting drive through private properties to the entrance of the Park.  Quite an explicit sign at the last private property that his driveway was not the entrance to the Caravan Park and f**k off! Once settled in the park we had a very interesting talk by the manager, Robert, who presented a large selection of stone from various mines in the area and gave a detail run down on mining in the area. We also meet Eddie who was staying next to us and was keen to have a chat. Turns out he established the Birdsville Post Office back in the 1970's and lived there for 5 years. Just marvelous the people you meet travelling.

Next day we stopped off at Lakeland where we had coffee and skyped Todd and Tennelle (in Kelowna, Canada - had a lovely catch up). White settlement in this area began with the Palmer River Gold Rush of 1873 and the establishment of a large cattle property known as Butchers Hill to supply meat to the goldfields. We continued to our housesit approx 5 kms from Cooktown and met Brett, Kylie and their kids Cody and Imogen together with our charges for the next 3 weeks, Taz (staffy cross), Shelby (staffy), Chopper (fox terrior) and Casper (Burmese cat). Was able to park the van right next to the house so at night could just walk out the back patio and not have to look out for snakes!

The family left the next day and after getting acquainted with our 'new friends' drove into Cooktown and up to Grassy Hill Lookout for a panoramic view of Cooktown, the Endeavour River and Coral Sea.  James Cook climbed the hill on several occasions to view the surrounding reefs enabling him to navigate a safe passage out after repairing his ship.  After collecting our mail, drove back 'home' and was greeted by the neighbours dog Shaddow (6 month old Rottweiler) who visited regularly for a play.

Cooktown from Grassy Hill Lookout

Relaxing with Taz in the foreground, Shelby and Chopper on my lap.

During our stay we planned a couple of days home then a day or half day out which worked well as we had a good look around the area.  The animals also enjoyed plenty of attention and soon seemed to accept and enjoy our company!!!

Cooktown has so much history and once again a visit to the tourist info centre and gathering of brochures enabled us to walk around town with knowledge of what we were looking at.  Some of the interesting buildings included the Post Office which was erected in 1887, Jackey Jackey Store built in 1886 as a general store and living quarters and was part of a flourishing trade between New Guinea, Cooktown and the southern markets.  Sovereign Resort Hotel was built in 1874 and was one of the first double storey buildings in Cooktown - it was partially destroyed during a cyclone in 1949 and attracted the nickname 'the half Sovereign'.  The West Coast Hotel built in 1874, Cooktown Railway Station (Cooktown-Laura Railway - 67 mile line operated from 1885-1961) was moved in 1965 and now houses the Cooktown Creative Arts Association.  The Cooktown Hotel, formerly the Commercial Hotel was built in 1875 and the Cooktown History Centre and James Cook Museum (refer next blog for information).

James Cook Statue donated to the people of Cooktown by BP situated in Bicentennial Park -the bronze statue is the work of the Australian sculpture Stanley Hammond..  The Park is where the annual re-enactment of Cook's landing in 1770 is held.  

The Cook Monument, dating from 1887, commemorates Cook's Landing in 1770

The Cannon was brought to Cooktown in 1885 - the Council sent a wire to the Premier in Brisbane requesting he supply arms, ammunition and competent officer to take charge against a threat of Russian invasion.  The cannon (cast in Scotland in 1803), 3 cannonballs, 2 rifles and 1 officer were sent.  The cannon is still fired each year at the Cooktown Discovery Festival in June and on special occasions.

The Musical Ship - a musical playgound

Drove out to Archer Point which is 20kms south of Cooktown and at low tide you can walk out to the reef - but have to beware of crocodiles and stingers!! No way would we walk out there!  Just happy to take in spectacular views from the lighthouse.

Light House at Archer Point

Hels pointing to Walker Point north from Archer Point
One of the benefits of house sitting was able to watch the AFL Grand Final, NRL Grand Final and Bathurst on a big screen TV sitting in a recliner - what a way to go!!  Also had plenty of entertainment from the dogs and cat - in particular watching the cat and little foxy play fight.  Most times the cat always came out in front and the dog was looking to escape outside for a rest!  Each Saturday there is a market held in the Lion's Park - not a lot of stalls when we were there but some nice fresh produce to purchase.  Think in the high season they would have a few more stalls.  Tried our first Jack Fruit which we thought tasted like pineapple/mango mix.

One of our days out included driving to Laura via Battle Camp Road where we visited Endeavour Falls, Isabella Falls, Lake Emma and Old Laura Homestead.  Had lunch at Laura Pub (interesting to say the least).  Historic Laura was an important supply centre for the Palmer River Gold Rush towns of Palmerville and Maytown in the 1870's and once the terminus for the Cooktown-Laura Railway. Finished off a great day with an icecream at Lakeland before heading home and being greeted by 3 dogs and a cat - what a bonus no-one was missing!!!.

Endeavour Falls - no swimming in these falls as home to a crocodile

Isabella Falls

Lake Emma in Lakefield National Park
The licence to occupy the initial 50 square miles of Laura Station was obtained by two Irish immigrants in 1879 for eight pounds and fifteen shillings. Remote cattle stations were economically disadvantaged by the climate, distance from markets and supply centres and the resulting high transport costs - however the availability of Aboriginal station hands to work the stock ensured the industry remained competitive. Because harsh, seasonal weather often isolated the station from the coast for months, the community at Laura homestead had to be virtually self sufficient.  The meathouse, workshed, Aboriginal station hands accommodation, blacksmith's shop and saddlery surrounding the homestead were 'backed up at the rear by a well assorted fruit garden'  The old homestead was last occupied in 1966 and was aquired by the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service when they bought Lakefield in 1978 for a National Park.

Old Laura Homestead

The truck in the foreground was brought new in 1940s for the station. 

When we stayed at Mt Carbine, Robert gave us a mud map to visit the Trevathan Falls which is near Mt Forrest - you turn off the Thomas Point Road.  We found the dirt road in was easy going and using the mud map had no difficulty in finding these beautiful falls.  I could not resist having a dip and whilst refreshing at start was pleasant to swim around.  With no one else for quite a while it was a special spot to take in the serenity.  On our return 'home', called into Black Mountains which is a special story place for the Kuku Yalanji people.  It's a marking point for the end of the World Heritage Rainforest into the dry.  Also called into the Annan River to spot the local croc but he was not to be seen.

Trevathan Falls

Trevathan Falls from Hels observation point.

Didn't even venture down to get the toes wet!

Another day out was a drive down the Bloomfield Track passing through Rossville which is a small rainforest community, Ayton, crossed the Woobadda Creek over an interesting bridge, to Donovan Point (Cape Tribulation) where we had a walk to the sea although we did not get all the way as it was the tide was a long way out. Turned around at this point and travelled back to Lion's Den Hotel (built in 1875), where we stopped for lunch.  The signatures on the wall of the Pub stem from an early tradition when some miners began leaving their pay packets at the public house, writing how much money they had spent, or still had.  We had visited the Lion's Den in 1988 and found things had changed a bit but still had a great visit.  On our return 'home' called into the Annan River to see the local croc and was just about to leave when Hels sighted the big guy - great end to another wonderful day.

Donovan Point - long, long, long way out to the sea

Yep, the Lions Den

Was a bit late for lunch but still had pizza and a coldie.

Inside the bar area, lots of writing and stickers over the walls

Visited Cooktown Cemetery which is the final resting place for people of many nationalities, religions and cultures that lived in this remote pioneering town with the oldest graves dating back to 1874,  Many headstones show the diversity of architectural styles using a wide range of materials. Virtually no Chinese or Aboriginal graves are marked despite many burials of both races being recorded.  There is a Chinese Shrine and also a "Rebels Corner"  which took Helen's fancy!

Catholic Area of the cemetery

Chinese Shrine, over 300
Chinese are berried in the Cape York area during the Gold rush period.

This is known as 'Rebels Corner' - note the unopened VB cans!

Annan River

Finally saw the local croc - approx 4 metres long

15 September, 2016

Back to Mareeba

We left Mareeba and drove to Koah, about half way between Karanda and Mareeba where we stayed with friends Ruth and Rod for a couple of weeks.

A great property which they don't mind sharing with friends

Lovely garden

Swimming pool for those hot days

Friendly Curlew - Jemimah
During our time we visited the Mareeba Markets which is a large market with a good selection of stalls.

Mareeba Markets

My new hat from the markets, helps to thicken my hair - just wonderful!!
Had a great smorgasbord dinner at Cedar Lodge - great food with dining area positioned in a rain forest environment.

We arranged lunch at Mount Uncle Distillery with friends Michael, Jody, Mike & Chris and after an enjoyable lunch walked over to the Distillery where Rum tasting commenced.  I was driving so could only participate in a couple of tasters and with Mike not liking Rum, it was left to Michael to finish the tasting!!  Being a passenger certainly has its advantages.

Lunch at Mt Uncle 

Girls checking out the tadpoles in the pond

Nice gardens around the distillery
Mike & Chris returned to Lake Tinnaroo and we took Michael & Jodie to the Fig Tree (Clohessy National Park).  We had been there many years ago but really enjoyed revisiting, especially as we had the place to ourselves.

Nice board walk through the rain forest at Clohessy NP

Clohessy Fig Tree

On one of our trips to Mareeba had to be mindful of cyclists as the Annual Cardiac Challenge from Cairns to Cooktown some 333 km was in progress - got a bit tricky as road was not very wide in parts!

From here we headed to Cooktown for our house sitting stint.

01 September, 2016

Port Douglas

From Mareeba we drove to Mt Molloy via Biboohra then onto Pt Douglas where we stayed at Glengarry Holiday Park, approx 7km from Pt Douglas - had a great site with plenty of room.  This was also close enough to Pt Douglas for me to have a morning bike ride each day into Pt Douglas.

Lookout over Pt Douglas and town beach

Ros, a very good friend of ours from Adelaide, was having her 60th Birthday at Pt Douglas and seeing we were nearby, Hels and I decided to drop in and surprise her.

Happy Birthday young Rossy

From Left to right - Hels, Lance. Sandy, Ros and 2 beers Phil!!

On the morning of her birthday we personally delivered a bottle of champagne plus balloon to the reception at Peppers Beach Club. Ros got the surprise of her life when we arrived  -. hubby Phil and friends Sandy & Lance also got a great surprise. We had a great catch up in their very luxurious apartment and didn't say no to a swim in the pool.

I had to sneek the octupus from Lance!

For a couple of days they were booked up on various tours so Helen and I did our own thing.  Drove out to Mossman, Wonga Beach & Daintree.  Drove out to the CREB track where I was keen to tackle again however Helen seemed to tense up at the thought of that adventure in 1988!!!  Had lunch at Daintree where we observed a Sunbird building a new nest before heading to Daintree River Cruises where we decided to go on a tour (Solar Whisper Wildlife Cruise).  Hopped on a Solar Electric boat and toured up the Daintree River sighting quite a few crocodiles and a few birds including large egret, kingfisher and heron.  The tour guide was fantastic and provided a lot of interesting facts regarding the crocodiles and life on the river - thoroughly enjoyed the hour tour.

Sunbird at the cafe

Ready to cross the Daintree River where the CREB track starts at the gates

Difference of opinions

Aboard the Solar Whisper tour boat

This is 'Scarface' the dominant male in the area

The next day we went into Pt Douglas and walked along the Reef Marina, had lunch at The Tin Shed, drove up to the Lookout and drove down the main street - very touristy (that is their major industry). Caught up with Ros, Phil, Sandy & Lance the following day for lovely breakfast and the girls did a bit of window shopping.

Girls on a mission to the shops

Hels doing a bit of modelling

I offered to take Ros, Phil, Sandy and Lance to Mossman Gorge for an afternoon drive.  Hels stayed back in their luxury apartment as there was not enough room in the car and I think she had a most relaxing afternoon by the pool!

The walkway thru the Gorge is made from recycled material and make for an easy walk.

Mossman Gorge, we had lost Lance!

Is that Tarzan or Lance? (trying to impress the youngsters)

This lizard was pointed out by the bus driver - forgot what type it is. 

Ros thoroughly enjoyed her afternoon and loved the scenery and walk into Mossman Gorge. Back to the apartments for BBQ tea with a few reds and great company.

On our last day met the others at the Sunday Markets which were great to walk around before biding farewell and returning back to the van and get ready to leave the next morning.