07 July 2011

27th June 2011 - Atherton

We ended our stay at Wonga Beach with another day of ‘Croc spotting” on the Daintree River. As well as the obligatory big monsters, we also spotted a baby (500mm) croc laying on a branch, plus a big python doing similar. The departure point this time was a pontoon near a boat ramp, and the tour guide told us that they had a ‘big fellow’ that had taken up residence under the pontoon! And this was but metres away from all those fisherfolk guys who were paddling around as they launched or retrieved their boats.

Mossman Gorge was another spot we got to. The only regret we had was that our photographic skills weren’t able to do justice to this amazing tropical river gorge. As you wander through the rainforest, accompanied by the sound of the water flowing and rushing across the boulders and rapids of the river is ..... well, it just is! Numerous places to swim, or just to sit and cogitate or ruminate – Ah! Feel the serenity.

Mossman River

Mossman River (2)

walkway thru rainforset

I’d hazard a guess that most Aussies wouldn’t know how important the events of June and July 1770 were to our history. Well, let me enlighten you.

Capt James Cook had finished his explorations at Botany Bay and was sailing up the coast. Somewhere around the Whitsundays (which he named), he realised that he were hemmed in by a very long and large reef – he continued on, looking for a way out. On 11 June, just off Cape tribulation (which he named because that’s where his ‘tribulations’ began), they struck a reef. Oh! Bugger. After throwing everything that they could, the Endeavour floated free on the high tide, but with severe damage. After temporary repairs, they limped north looking for a safe harbour.

Finding the mouth of a river, they weren’t able to enter because of rough weather. Finally - and this is really important – Cook’s journal says that they were forced to WARP their way into safe anchorage. Thus we have absolute proof that Australia was founded by intergalactic travellers. Logic! Capt Kirk had Warp drive: Capt cook had Warp drive. Capt Kirk commanded the Enterprise: Capt Cook commanded the Endeavour. Capt Kirk explored strange lands with animals and plants never seen before: Capt Cook did the same.

After entering the river, which Cook named the Endeavour (the only Australian river that he named), the ship was careened (beached) while repairs were carried out.
Cook Landed Here

So, what did they eat? Fish. Plus a strange animal that they thought the locals were calling Kangaroo, but in reality, it should have been pronounced Gangurru (Gang,gur,u). So, for 240 years we’ve been calling it by the wrong name.

The view from the hill that Cook climbed to look for a route through the reef, is one of the great sights that Australia has to offer. Looking over the river mouth, as well as out to sea, there are many postcards that capture the view, but actually being there at sunset is to really nail it – a memory.
what cook seen from the hill (without the lighthouse)

Endeavour River entry
Sunset from Grassy Hill

We also did what has become a bit of a ritual for us: we visit the local botanical gardens. Firstly, the size and quality of the gardens was way above the size of the town. Secondly, they solved an issue that I have long wondered about – where do they come from (see photo).
But can we get different flavours?

A week at Cooktown is about right unless you wish to travel up to Cape York – Cooktown is only 9,654,493 corrugations away from the Cape. Another iconic 4x4 track is the Bloomfield. Older folk may recall the 70s when the “hippies, greenies, and anyone else who wanted to strip off all their clothes and chain themselves to trees” fought a long, and ultimately fruitless battle to prevent a road being bashed through the Daintree. The track runs for 70km from Cape Trib to near Cooktown and includes one of the ‘must do’ great challenges for heavily laden 4x4s – the hill! Most need low range to climb it in the dry, and recourse to higher powers and gods to do it in the wet.

The Bloomfield did rejuvenate one marvellous old icon – the Lion’s Den Pub, 20km from Cooktown. Way back in the gold mining days, a bloke started up a pub and a tradition. The miners needed a safe place for their funds – the camps were full of thieves and villains so they took to leaving their money at the pub, and used the corrugated tin walls to keep a tally. These days, if you donate to the local rural fire mob, you can add your name. Amazing result – almost every bit of wall and roof is covered. PS: they serve a great lunch.
Love the attitude

We also met one of the most interesting blokes imaginable. Willi runs Guurrbri rock art tours. The tour includes far far more than just looking at a few bits of rock art – Willi also talks about bush tucker, historical movement of aboriginals, relationships between clans and families, plus the spiritual aspect of aboriginal culture.

The great bit is that Willi will change your views and beliefs about the ‘aboriginal’ question. Regardless of you previous views, Willi won’t challenge you, but he will gently and simply explain a few things, not directly, but by way of comparisons with ..... well, with life. And you will come away with a different understanding.

You will change your thoughts, but won’t be able to explain why – you just will.

Left Cooktown on Sunday for Atherton where it started to rain.

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