Five Months Pt 2

These photos were taken between August and October 2011…and I cry…I can’t help it.

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Our first week back in Cooktown. Kieth & Sal from the Sovereign Resort put us up for a week.

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Just before She shaved My head 🙂

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Two of our dear friends showed us the North end track into Walker Bay beach. For those of you used to urban beaches, this spot is 4wd only, you rarely see anyone else, and the beach itself is 30 metres away from this naturally grassy spot. Thickets of beach shrubs & sheoaks break up the breeze. A beautiful place.

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Tinas Nom Nom Paw-Paw (papaya). Beautiful sweet & juicy, tree ripened. You haven’t tasted pawpaw until you’ve eaten it this fresh.

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Being a tourist.

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My baby never was comfortable in front of a camera. She tolerated my requests on rare occasions. I should have kept taking photos of Her, but it was one thing that seriously annoyed her. We didn’t do things that annoyed each other. We could feel each others emotions so acutely that it felt normal being inside each others heads.

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“Don’t take photo of my fat belly.”
“I’m not! I’m taking a picture of Floyd.”
“Sure :)”.

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Tinas foot & Floyd.

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These two photos were taken on the eighth of September 2011. We went back to see Trevathan falls, because last time, there was so much water coming down those falls that we couldn’t get anywhere near them. Imagine at least five metres of water over Tina’s head and roaring through this little gorge.

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That afternoon, back at the camp. On the site of an old tin mine.

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Back home in Cooktown a day later. Going blonde. She found this wig in the ‘lair’. No, She did not wear it outside :).

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“See? They opened my head up from here, right through to here!”
A series of photos Tina wanted for herself, because She couldn’t see Her kick-arse scar :).

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14 September 2011. Snoozing after a short walk. Her energy levels weren’t huge anymore. Well compared to ‘before’. Tina preferred to watch the dogs & us, and the eagles & the beach.
I remember when Tina was leaving Rocky for Cooktown around February 2011. She told me, “I’m going to soak up my children (and her granddaughter-they were all ‘Her’ children).” I would see her staring at them individually, looking at them from every angle. Burning their images into  Her mind.

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27th of September 2011. The side effects of the anti-brain swelling medication was an extreme increase in appetite. Tina went from 58kg in early August, to about 75kg in this pic. I think Her friends up here at some stage thought She must have been getting better. After all, people generally think of cancer as a wasting disease. We generally associate cancer with images of pale, bald, underweight chemotherapy recipients, not fast weight gain.
Brain cancer is insidiously sneaky. This photo was taken not long before Her second series of seizures. It is also the last photo I have of Her on my phone.

I also keep these two close. One was taken some time ago. The other, my daughter took not long after Tina recovered post op.

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I love you my Phoenix. Fly baby.

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Laura and Quinkan Country

Perhaps I was a little misleading (or hasty), or confused when I said I’d put The Greenbus on hold.
What I should have said is, “There will be no more sad here. Only the fun stuff the ‘we’ would have been still exploring and posting about together.” It will be a nice place 🙂
Brad’s Blog will take the weight off this place.

And so…

Tina had a deep love and respect for, and a keen interest in Aboriginal culture and history. Her art was influenced by the mysteries of The Dreaming. One of her favourite non-fiction references was ‘The Archeology of The Dreamtime which compares Dreamtime stories of different country with the archeological evidence of the past. This review give a good overview of the theories put forward.
One of the many areas on our ‘To Do’ list, was to spend some time in Quinkan country.

Laura, the commercial hub of the Quinkan country is only 140km (87m) from Cooktown. For a village with a population of roughly 120 people, Laura contains, and as a community, protects over 30 thousand years of Traditional history, and some 140 years of European settlement.
Laura township was an important link in the Gold trail back in the 1800’s, but more importantly, the country has been a part of the Ang-Gnarra peoples’ culture for thousands of years, and is one of the top ten most culturally significant rock art sites in the world.
Laura also plays host to one of the longest running indigenous festivals in Australia. The Laura Dance Festival is held at the Ang-Gnarra festival grounds, about 15 kilometres from Laura. Every two years, community members and dance troupes from as far away as Woorabinda gather in a celebration and education of dance, culture & history. The festival is also world famous, and attracts tourists from all over the planet.
I’ll give you a list of easy links to more information about Quinkan Country at the end of this post.
Last week, I had the chance to absorb just a miniscule sample of this history. As the year progresses, I will spend more time up in Ang-Gnarra country. For now, here is a small sample of this areas history and beauty.
*Note:* In respect of Ang-Gnarra Aboriginal Corporation, no images of rock art galleries were taken. In future visits, I will ask if I can capture some images for you. In the meantime, the links below have many authorised images of the galleries.

Images around Laura:

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If you head to Laura anytime after this years dry season, you’ll be crossing this bridge on the Peninsula Development Road over the Laura River. This bridge, and a couple of kilometres of dirt are all that is left of the road works between Lakeland and Laura. The original wooden crossing of which I promise a photo of soon,
*EDIT*: Borrowed from an ABC journo’s blog. A future edit will provide links.
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is very, very old & is impassable for most of the wet season. It regularly has metres of water over it.

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The T-junction at Laura. Turn left for Cooktown & South. Turn right to head ‘Up The Cape’.

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All that remains of the old Laura railway station. If you’re into railway history, the Cooktown to Laura line is worth researching.

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Once located at a Police outstation some 24km from Laura, this tiny ‘lock-up’ is now on display at the Laura memorial park. Part of the display reads, ‘…18 natives were once locked in here together…’

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This steam tractor was transported by rail to Laura, intended for use on the goldfields. Upon unloading, it was found to have a broken front axle and was left in town to decay.

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The heath country near the ‘Split Rock’ art site. At this time of year, many native shrubs are flowering.

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An assortment of colour on a rainy afternoon.

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Some of the wild features of this Quinkan Country.

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Touring Around a bit

Hey all
I had the chance to revisit a bit more of my old tramping/walkabout ground yesterday. I had to run a 22 seat Toyota Coaster bus down to Cape Tribulation via the ‘Bloomfield Track’. Once there, I was to swap over into a 9 seat Commuter & bring it back to Cooktown.
Now, back in 1984, after the protests failed & the road was dozed through, I vowed never to drive on it. I would walk it, but as my own personal, weird, damned hippy way, I wasn’t gunna drive it.
Well, now that I’ve broken my personal vow, I have to say that it is a pretty interesting drive.
I must relate a little anecdote. I had 7 passengers. The first was in Cookie. An older lady. Before I got to say good morning, she asked, “Can you tell me why I was told to be here by 06:45 because the bus departs at 7 am & it is now 07:20?”
I replied politely, “I have no idea ma’am. Perhaps there was a miscommunication between myself & the office.”
“I shall find out when I get home” she replied.
Anyway, we headed off to Ayton & Wujal Wujal to pick up the rest of my charges.
The road to Cape Tribulation has some *extremely steep climbs and descents*. For example, on the first ascent, I had to drop from third to second & then within 20 metres, a quick flick of the gear stick down & to the left to grab first before I lost momentum and gave everyone whiplash.
The change went smooth & we climbed the rest of the hill feeling like a space shuttle crew on launch. I guess the steepest sections are about 30 degrees? Thankfully the real steep sections are laid with currogated concrete to prevent drastic erosion & extremely dangerous conditions for the unwary.
One of the decents was so steep that I had my left foot bracing my body & while my right played with the brake. I had to stay in 3rd to balance between the foot brakes & the exhaust brake. But all went smooth as. I gently walked the bus over the creek crossings and cruised at about 50kmh on the straight & clear ridge sections.
We arrived at PK’s at Cape Trib safe & sound. The older lady said as she alighted from the bus, “Thank you very much for your experienced and skillful driving. I’ve had some shocking drivers before.”
So there ya go. I wonder what she’d of thought if she’d known it was the first time I’d driven between Wujal & Cape *before* we left? 🙂
I swapped over & had an empty minibus, so I could stop and check stuff out.
First up, I couldn’t go back to Cape Trib without taking a photo of the beach.

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This is looking North along the beach. Cape Tribulation itself is behind my left shoulder. Literally. You can’t see it. There are a plethora of ‘Cape’ pics around. But this one is a memory:
Thirty years ago this year, I was an 18 year old kid, wandering Far North Queensland, discovering me.
At the Northern end of this beach, almost where that saddle is, was a rough track that went up over the ridge & down, then continued along ridges and coastal flats & mountains, all the way to Wujal Wujal. The track was dozed back, if memory serves, in the late sixties or early seventies. By 1982 the track was no more than a walking track. In places it was almost completely overgrown.
The next few pics are of crossings & hills on the track & some nature
🙂

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Archer Point and some Belly Dancing

I had the opportunity to run down to Archer Point last week.  The Archer Point area has been owned and managed by the Yuku-Baja-Muliku people since 2006. This is a most beautiful piece of country and I will be exploring the area more in the future. I have it on good authority that the old Cedar Bay crew moved there for a while before heading to Portland Roads.
Today (Thursday) has been good, albeit a little sad in one way.
My friend Maddy has scored a job at Yulara (Uluru) as a tour guide. She has worked there before and is really happy with the news. She is due to start sometime in December. Yep, I am so happy for her, but I’ll miss her when she goes. But hey, I’ve never been to Uluru! Now I have an excuse :o)
We had a little celebration at the bowls club, because Jazz was belly dancing there for a Lions Club Christmas do. Three dancers entertained with fans and bells and a snake. Then Jazz got me dancing!
Stop Press.
I just got offered a caretaker position at a guesthouse up on Grassy Hill! My old boss from the mechanic workshop phoned me and offered a self contained unit with free electricity, in return for housekeeping.
I’ll fill you in tomorrow.
Oh, we spent two days at Trevethan Falls, but i didn’t take pics sorry. :n( I added some random pics for fun :o)

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Back to Trevathan

For those of you who have been following our lives in paradise, you may recall an early post about Trevathan Falls. If not, check it out here: http://wp.me/p14WwP-6H

Trevathan Creek and falls are surrounded by a dense rainforest environment. However,once you get about 50 to 100 metres from the creek itself, the country opens up into eucalypt forest. A lot of this land was ripped up for tin mining in years past, but it is slowly repairing.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We spent Wednesday night at the Dragons Lair, enjoying the company and conversation. Of course by 10pm the conversation is oft times reduced to drunken ramblings from ex hippies, new age hippies, fisherman and bar managers.
Dragon loves his pool. So last night (Wednesday…stay on track now), he and four or five of the boys and Maddie (@mycooktown) headed to the West Coast pub for this weeks round of the three pub tournament.
We stayed at the house with Benny who was due to go to sea Thursday morning and tried in vain to get sleep and stay sober.

We crashed about 11:30pm under the side awning, wrapped up in our swag bed, but as usual we rose just before dawn and beat the birds again. Can I seriously suggest to even those of you living in a big city? Wake about half an hour before dawn. Make a tea or coffee or your preferred wake up poison, then open your windows, or find a spot where you can hear the outside world. Forget the radio and TV for an hour and just listen to your world wake up. It is very cathartic.

(Thursday 8 September 2011)
Back to the subject. We received a $200 payment from the govt, so we got fuel and smokes, then we bought groceries to last at least a week. Where to go? Everywhere relatively close to town we’ve shown you. But we really didn’t get to show you Trevathan Falls in the dry season.

Now we’ve made amends. Here are the beautiful, relatively unknown Trevathan Falls. The falls are about 40km South of Cooktown at the end of a 4wd track off the Mt Amos road.

How do I describe this place that will help you see it better than this lowly 3mp phone camera can? My kingdom for a dslr.

As we sit by the huge rock pool opposite the base of the falls, we can see irridescent blue butterflies flitting between the callistemons and native umbrella trees that are flowering 30 metres above us on the cliffs opposite. A multitude of honeyeaters, large and small share the nectar and airspace. The honeyeaters show their preferred flower is the umbrella tree. At least a dozen birds are cavorting among a profusion of bright red flower spikes. However, you can’t hear the birds, nor much else. The song of the waterfall reigns in this small gorge.
Look closely at the foliage directly left of the falls as faced. That is a bottlebrish (callistemon) that has its main trunk near the top of the falls. Over successive wet seasons, the flow of water has shaped some branches so that they cascade some 20 metres down,rather than up the way they’re supposed to. It is quite healthy and is flowering profusely.
I only wish I had a decent dslr and zoom lens to capture its beauty.
Tomorrow we’re driving/walking downstream to find a spot where I had camped nearly 30 years ago. If we find it, we may lob there for a few days. But tonight we’re camped at the same spot we were at back in April and pre-burn. But then, it was wet and we didn’t have pig back then.

Dinner: finely diced bacon pieces, onion, potato, tomato, capsicum, mushrooms, spices and herbs in a broth. Once the broth has simmered for an hour or so, crack in four eggs and stir briskly through the soup. The result is a flavoursome, thick soup that is very moreish.

Its about 6:20pm and the sunset tonight is a mix of bright orange clouds and a pastel blue sky. The orange is turning to a deep pink and then almost purple as I type. This phone won’t do it justice so I won’t take a photo.

Friday morning 9 September 2011

I went for a three kilometre walk downstream this morning. But after 30 years things change. I forget that I lived here not long after the tin miners left. The land has regenerated with the help of people. I felt quite disorientated throughout the 6k round trip.
I got back to camp and Tina wasn’t feeling too good, so we headed back to Cooktown. We’ll go back again and search some more one day. In the meantime, enjoy the random pics. Remember to check for the callistemon and appreciate the type of country that this place is surrounded by.

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Time For A Yarn By The Fire

The billy is on. Pull up a stump and take a load off ya feet. It’s been as slow as a wet week these past few days and I feel like chewing the fat for a while. If you want, I’ll translate that last sentence from Australian to English for you.
‘I’m boiling a pot water for a cup of tea. Find a chair and have a rest, because the past couple of days have dragged on and I would like to talk with you for a while.’

Went back to work on Tuesday after four days off (but broke) and my baby has been crook most of the time. Her neck is giving her bad headaches and making her feel sick…like throwing up sick.
I took today (Thursday) off to stay with her. Poor Tina has been in some pretty bad pain since this morning. We have no pain killing drugs until we go to town tomorrow. She is sleeping now though.
The weather has been typical dry season here. The sou’ east and easterly winds generally blow from  the end of May through to October/November. The winds on the coast get up to 30 knots or more, with an average of 15 knots through those months. Come November, the winds will ease and the temperatures will rise. The humidity will remain as usual, in the high eighty and ninety percent range. It will be tropical. Then the rains will come. Monsoonal torrents will soak the Far North for the better part of six months, isolating towns and properties as The Wet revitalises the landscape.  At the moment we’re lucky to be getting the odd coastal shower to keep the coconuts, our baby tomatoes, Paw-Paws (papaya), passionfruit and chilli bushes thriving.
Yes, we are cultivating.
This may be a sign of our evolving from a nomadic lifestyle to that of a combined hunter/gatherer farmer. But probably not. What will be nice is the thought that in five years or so, someone will turn up here and there will be ‘wild’ paw paw and passionfruit growing next to the coconuts. Maybe future visitors will plant more seeds, or help by replanting seed from the fruits they eat.  We’re planning on growing some fast greens like Bok Choy or Rocket. I’ve also got to catch up with Willie Gordon and ask him about local greens and fruits that are around here. I would prefer to cultivate local native foods than exotics.
We discovered a Mango tree at the Southern end of the beach last  week too. If wasn’t for the profusion of flowers on it, we may have completely missed it. It is well back in the scrubland, about 100 metres from the high tide mark. The tree is surrounded by Wattle, some She-Oak, and other native species that grow in the old, mulch rich former dune zone. Come November it should be laden with juicy, pink/green skinned, orange centred fruits of wonderfullness. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it yet, so I’ll tell you anyway. A few weeks back, a bloke roughly our age, and his presumably youngest boy of about four, came into the camp to say hello. It transpired that this very cool gentleman once had a shack on the beach back in the late eighties to nineties, and planted the majority of the Coconuts that thrive around here. Not only was this a cool bit of local history to have learnt, but it also gave us an idea of how old the local palms are.
We’ve been boiling the billy on the pig a lot. 4:20 is usually the best time for tea and we’ve had a bit lately. 😉
Coffee too. Oh, and we have been cooking bigger and better meals on the pig with one frypan and a big pot. Cheaper than the meals in the previous post. I might relate some recipes in future posts because they are “To die for darlings!”
You might be wondering how we can grow food in sand country near the beach. Well, we found an old scrub turkey nest. Basically a 4 metre by 6 metre mound of well rotted leaf, branch, root and other organic debris. All mixed with some sand to enhance drainage and composted by a dedicated bird a few years back. We collect this from in the bush and use it straight as a potting mix. It’s bloody brilliant stuff. I’ll show you some photos later.
I wanted to tell you a few little snippets of trivia that have been flitting around my head of late. That’s why I boiled the billy in the first place.
Actually, some of it isn’t mere trivia. One factoid is actually a sobering thought for some depression sufferers.

Consider this. Recents studies have shown that sufferers of depression who treat themselves with some thing or method other than prescription anti-deppressants, have a 25% chance of relapsing after ceasing treatment. However, those studied who used chemical anti-deppressants had a 42% relapse rate after ceasing treatment.

I’ve been picking up little bits of information at night when I’m not sleeping. Late night ABC Radio from about 10pm when Tony Delroy has ‘Nightlife’, through to Trevor Chappell at 1am onwards is 3 to 6 hours of brain food.
For example. Stephen Spielberg had a lecturer at uni when he was studying  drama and art. The lecturer’s name was Alan…Anakin. No, I kid you not. Darth Vaders real name Anakin, was Stephens lecturers name.

Peter Wier(sp?) first movie was ‘The Cars That Ate Paris’. You really should check this masterpiece of early Australian  cinema and classic sci-fi. Apparently this movie is widely regarded amongst sci-fi afficionados as a hallmark movie of its genre.

Another presumably tax payer funded study has found that the worlds happiest places to live, also rate in the places with the highest rates of suicide. Eg, Hawaii at number 2 happiest place has the worlds 5th highest suicide rate.

Here’s something that maybe one of you dear readers might find interesting. This a mash up of Captain Cook trivia that I knew as well as some stuff I didn’t know that I heard today when Dr Karl was on the ABC Local Radio.
Cooks ship, the Endeavour, was an ex Coal haulier that once carried loads of the stuff around Great Britain. The bark was renowned for its sturdiness in the wild North Sea. What I learnt was that James Cook chose that particular ship because of its robust reputation. He also picked this ship because of its size. The Endeavour wasn’t so much long as it was wide and spacious. The good Captain knew that the ex coal hauler could easily accommodate food, including livestock, to keep 90 odd men alive for three years.

More on the Endeavour. The United States Space Shuttle Endeavour is named after Captain Cooks vessel. You see, the Endeavour made many journeys in what may as well have been outrr space in her day. Also, one of Cook and the Endeavours primary tasks was to plot the path of Venus for some mathematical equation that would make Gt Britain superior in navigating the oceans or somesuch. Anyway. On her final flight, the shuttle crew spoke to the crew of the Endeavour replica ship that is currently circumnavigating Australia. The echange happened as the shuttle came in over Australia and the Great Barrier Reef.
The shuttle took 8 minutes to cross the Australian continent from the far South West through to the North Eastern tip where the HMB Endeavour replica was located. The same journey will take the ship til next year some time.
Another Endeavour related piece of news. I promise it to be the last in this post. A few posts back I mentioned that the Endeavour replica did come to Cooktown. But the harbour was too shallow for her to moor at the wharf. Plus, the weather was too rough where she had to anchor for the crew to put ashore.
As an indirect result of that circumstance, the government has committed a few million to the Cook Shire (I think) so that the harbour can be deepened. Of course, this will allow the larger cruise ships to berth at the wharf as well. This will enhance tourism, but geeze it’s gunna piss the local fishermen off! Dredging fouls the water for months. It takes a good ‘Wet’ to flush the detritus stirred up by the process. Then the big ships block off the fishing spots on the wharf!

Ok then. What else has happened of note?
I saw a very large Brown snake this afternoon. Jack the Dog and I were heading to the beach and this snake crossed the track roughly ten metres in front of us. My conservative estimate put this big Brown at 1.6 metres long and 2.5 to 3 cm in diameter at its thickest. That’s about 5’6″ and 1 to 1&1/4 inches respectively in imperial scale.
We’ll need to stay aware of snakes here. That’s the third snake I’ve seen around here. So far it’s one Taipan, one Brown, and what I think was a Red Bellied Black snake.
Snake trivia time. The Red bellied Blake snake is as its name describes it. Jet Black, wirh an almost Scarlet underbelly. But it is actually a member of the Brown snake family. The three snakes I have mentioned above are in the top five deadliest snakes in Australia. Now, normally this wouldn’t concern me. Snakes generally avoids humans. We’re instinctively dangerous to them, so they stay away. But they also love rodents.
The rodents love where humans live.
Conflict of interest methinks.
We are controlling unwanted rodents though. Jack the Dog has caught and killed at least four. We’ve drowned three in traps and I’ve caught two by hand. Oh, if someone ever tells you they killed a ‘Yellow- bellied Black snake’, explain to them gently that they just killed a green tree snake. The Northern from of the common Green Tree snake has a very dark back. It’s almost Black. The underside is Yellow. The southern form has a much lighter Green back. They’re also more commonly seen on fences, low tree branches, or in your rafters. If you disturb them when they are on the ground, they tend to flatten their necks to appear bigger than they are. Green Tree snakes are usually quite slender snakes, growing to 3 metres (in our experiences). They are harmless to humans, so please don’t kill them. One last thing about venomous snakes. Don’t rely solely on colour to identify a snake. I have seen Brown snakes, the venomous type, ranging from a dark brown through to fawn. I’ve also seen a brown snake in the wild that was orange. To add to the confusion, I’ve seen photos in snake field guides showing juvenile browns with banding patterns. So I guess if you want to be sure, avoid or at least don’t purposely upset a ground dwelling snake. Chances are around here is that it is venomous. The only pythons I’ve seen are couple of Black-headed Rock Pythons, dead on the highway at the southern entrance to town.
You’d think that we’d be trekking through the local scrub with our hiking boots, thick socks, spats and denim jeans on after the above stories. But no. We still get around in shorts and thongs. We’re just more aware of our surroundings when we do.

(Friday): I’m going to set up a bucket trap for tonight to catch some rodents. Tina was sick still today, so I let her sleep and stayed home again. I have to go to town this afternoon and see the boss. We can’t phone from here because we have no reception. I also need to get the pain meds from the chemist for my Baby.
We’ve had some fairly good rain overnight too. The temps have stayed in the 20’s from my estimate. That’s the poroblem with no reception. No weather reports except for the radio. I need a rain gauge and a thermometer!

Back from town.
I couldn’t find the boss, but I did get groceries. Just the basics. SR flour, sugar, powdered milk, oats, peanut butter and some bread & butter. Bought some discounted garlic steak and turned it into a stew with onion, spud, tomato and some spices. Simmered over the pig for an hour or so until the beef softens.

Saturday
Tina is still basically bedridden. We didn’t go into town today. I started the table work and did some gardening. We did manage a short beach walk, but that made Tinas neck worse.
I’ll have to go to town tomorrow. For nothing else but to see if I still have a job.
Saturday evening. The fire is going. It’s a clear, cool evening. The sea breeze is finding its way through the scrub, giving the wind chimes an excuse to sing. The crickets have started their nightly ritual, trying to find a mate. The ocean is kissing the beach. The moon is almost directly overhead and almost half full. It is casting a nice glow across the ground and on the trees.
Tina has been asleep most of the afternoon. I hope her neck eased a bit for her. In the past three days I realised how lonely it would be here without her. She has slept on and off when she could. But only half hour or hourly. Each time she rolls, the pain wakes her up. As a result, conversation and interaction with her has been fleeting, even though we’re less than a metre apart most of the time.

Righto, that’s enough. Sometimes I can talk underwater with an apple in me mouth.
Photo time!

For your viewing pleasure:

The billy on the boil.
Jack the bodysurfing Dog.
Jack wants to go to the beach.
The baby Tomatoes.
The beginnings of our new table.
The Bamboo is seasoning well.
The back of our pig pen.
The front, with our wood drying fire.
We need firewood.
Late afternoon. Vegie patch at centre, with our ‘Guest House’ in the background. Jack and the pig on the right.

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Of Festivals, Chinamen, Bush Camps and Shells

The Cooktown Discovery Festival has come and gone. Now you’re probably thinking that as ‘New Locals’, we went out madly taking lots of photos and stuff and generally got right into it.

We didn’t.

I worked at the resort hotel cleaning rooms after the tourists left, or serviced their rooms while they were enjoying the festival. I do like tourists and visitors coming to town. They provide an income during the dry season for many people. But crikey! There are so MANY of them! And a select few of them drive like no one else is on the road! I’m also sure some of them consider rear view mirrors as cosmetic accesories too. I’m pretty sure they don’t drive down the main street of their home town at 15 km/h and then STOP in the MIDDLE of the road because they saw an interesting cannon in the park on their left. But then, this is Cooktown and the locals are known to do strange things too…like swim drunk in the middle of a crocodile and Bull shark infested river. But some tourists even walk down the middle of the road and consider it offensive when someone wants to drive where they’re walking! The locals know the diffwrence between the road and the footpath. The road has funny black stuff on it. The side of the road has foot massaging gravel on it and the footpaths have engravings and paintings on them. Just kike all towns do…I think.
But it’s all good. The bonus with this years festival is that apparently it was a lot quieter than last year. Word is the Fun Police banned drinking on the street and other fun, rebellious activities like fire twirling, juggling and planking, so most folk were well behaved. This also meant that the rooms in the resort were far cleaner than last year, so there was no chunder on the floor or used condoms under the beds. Supposedly these thing were a bit of an issue last year.

Tina stayed home. She stressed to me that there was no way that she was going into town to battle a horde of mad tourists on the streets. Nor was she going to be the target of a mass of gung-ho Cairns Police cadets out to earn Brownie points by needlessly pulling over ‘Cookie’ locals in the hope that one of them might be drunk at the wheel. And yes, the imported politzia were all over town like ants on a Red Bull tin. I think some of those tourists may have run afoul of the booze bus that was trucked in just prior to the Discovery Festival.

Speaking of home (or was I?), our first photo is our ‘bush camp’. It’s in the back yard of a mates place. She has a BIG back yard near a beach, so we’re well away from anyone but close enough to town that we can be there in 20 minutes. But it is out of mobile and Interweb range, so our Twitter activity is somewhat less than it was. As have been our web log posts.  The mornings are just too good to miss here. We go to sleep to the sound of the ocean and wake up just before dawn. The skies pre dawn can be any range of colour from a pastel pink to golden yellow. On calm mornings the ocean washes gently against the beach. On a breezy one the Sheoaks compete with the waves as to which can make the coolest noises. Then you get the coconut fronds zipping in the breeze. Speaking of coconuts, here’s a hint. The big green ones have the best and the most juice. They’re also excellent when they’re bright yellow. Righto then, back to the camp. We have a new luxury item. A good friend has loaned us a gas fridge. It’s very useful. It keeps our butter and most importantly, our Coopers beer cold! I think he offered about ten minutes after tasting a hot Coopers Sparkling Ale. You can drink Coopers at room temperature. In relative terms it is far more palatable than a warm XXXX or VB or any other chemically fermented beer. But in the grand scheme of things it is still warm beer, and we all know that only mad dogs and Englishmen drink warm beer. But then I doubt mad dogs would drink it warm either.
So thank you friend who shall not be named for the fridge loan.
We also have a water supply. It consists of half a dozen re-used bottles that hold 25 litres collectively and get refilled at one of those drinking fountains I showed you in an earlier post.
We also get to see a few wallabies, the odd feral pig, some snakes, friendly little rainbow skinks and the odd Sunbird contemplating on whether our camp is a good place to set up a nest. I hope they do because Sunbirds are just too cool.

Chinamen. No, not the backpacker modern Chinese tourist that helps our farmers and our economy by picking bananas and stuff, but the Chinamen that came to Cooktown as a result of the discovery of Gold around the Palmer River in the late 1800’s.
Cooktown has new sculpture/art installation down near the wharf to recognise the huge influence and input that the Chinese had on this town, and the rest of Australia. The next series of pics are of that new display. The seated man represents a new arrival, contemplating his future in this new country. The background pieces represent the gold hunters and the merchants who set up businesses in town and subsequently around the country. ‘Pure Gold Fears No Fire’ and ‘A Person Without A Smiling Face Should Never Open A Shop’ are the inscriptions on the background silhouettes.
Speaking of Chinese. I discovered something that made me feel even closer to this place when we visited the Cooktown museum recently.
Check the next photo out. Willie Forday owned a restaurant in Rockhampton. His house in Rocky had a HUGE back yard that once held a plethora of chook pens. It also had a really., really big kitchen because most of the restaurant meals were prepped at home. I used to live in that house! He was also a prominent businessman in Cooktown many years ago. So prominent that he and his family earned many mentions in the museum. How cool is that? Well, I reckon it’s pretty cool.

Finally, shells. Tina loves to stroll the beach and find cool shells. I do too, but it’s Tinas thing really. I like driftwood. Twisty trippy driftwood. But anyway, the next few pics are of a sample of shells that we’ve gathered, plus the prettiest shell mobile I’ve seen that Tina made one afternoon. We’ve got others too. Tina also finds cool shells at low tide and leaves them on the beach where someone else might find them when the tide is high. Because finding nice shells on the beach makes people feel good in little ways.

Lastly, because I’ve been doing this mobile phone post for nearly three hours now. A few random pics of ship at the wharf and other random pics. The boats are the W Conroy all stainless steel Police catamaran. I didn’t go too close to the police boat lest i be thought to be a terrorist taking recon photos 🙂 The Coral Princess 2 cat was also in town for a day. There’s also a few random pics just because. Some are views of our new ‘back yard’.
Oh, and because I’ve written this on the eve of the total lunar eclipse in Australia, you might see a pic or two of the ‘Red Moon’ that is happening in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Enjoy.
(This post was written between 5:30pm and 8:30pm on Wednesday 15 June 2011 and required 3 Coopers Sparkling Ales to complete).

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The Secret Paradise Part Three

Ok then. I’ve finally managed to get myself organised. Sorry it’s taken so long… but you guys should be used to that by now. ;0)

Now, what were we up to?? Oh yeah, that’s right. ‘Happy Birthday Baby’… quick cook oats and coffee for breakfast… a day of exploring, etc.

We spent a lovely day exploring and re-discovering the bay. After breakfast we walked out onto the beach with our last cup of milky coffee. I swear that next time we go to a place like this, I’ll be a bit better prepared food-wise. I promise NOT to take too much food and not enough milk powder. Never mind… black coffee does not kill you (and besides, we all learn from our silly mistakes). We spent a lazy short time looking downward at pretty shells and washed up coral. Not really much else to say about that, except that it’s become one of my favourite passtimes lately and that I enjoyed it immensely, as always.

After that we took a little wander through the old garden areas. There wasn’t a single fruit tree left in any of them (not that we found anyway), but there were plenty of little pockets of pretty garden ornamentals. Kind of silly really… it re-inforced in me the idea that it was only the food species that National Parks wanted gone from the bay. We also saw our first pig this day, despite having seen lots of track and fresh diggings. It turns out that there are quite a few of them breeding up, getting cheekily un-afraid of humans and living a life of porcine luxury there, thanks to the government’s ban on pig hunting in national parks. Another anomaly, I guess. :0/ When I quizzed Brad on the subject of pigs back when the hippies were there, he told me that he never saw any near the people. I guess you would expect that.

It was good for me to see the remnants of the old hippy digs for the first time, but it was also sad to see all the weeds that have sprung up over the years. I asked Brad later what he thought of the decline of those areas and he told me that it saddened him too. We were both hoping to find something that had re-seeded… a citrus tree, an avocado or paw paw… anything. But this was not to be. The only food that we found were coconuts. Masses and masses of trees of all sizes. Perhaps it was all too hard to pull them all out, perhaps they tried but the trees all regrew, who knows? I’d like to think that it was an homage of sorts to Bill, the old man who was buried in the bay (Brad mentioned him in a previous post, I think). After all, he planted many of them there. Perhaps they left them out of the great respect he obviously deserved. That would be a nice thought. We found his grave, and the meagre remains around what had once been his house. We paid our respects and found a few nice shells down on the beach, which we added to the collection already on his grave. It was nice to see how many people had obviously respected him enough to do the same. From everything I’ve heard about him, he deserved it all.
RIP, Bill.

The houses/huts/shanties that were there back in the day were all torn down, but we did manage to find the remains of several places that had been built on stone foundations. It was good to see and gave us a whisper of the civilisation that once existed there. Mostly though, it was bush and rainforest… and weeds, of course. And there were plenty of miscellaneous little bits and pieces that once belonged in someone’s kitchen or bedroom… a rusty dented kettle, some old chipped cups, a scarf that had been hung in a tree. These things in little bunches near the old house sites suggested that they were carelessly thrown into the bush when the houses were destroyed. Yet another cruel reminder of beaurocratic ‘efficiency’… or perhaps a warning to ‘the ferals’ to keep out. Perhaps I’m a bit cynical, but they could have been collected and disposed of properly if they wanted the land returned to original condition as was stated, methinks.

And after all of that fun we retired back to our little campsite. Dinner was basic but quite yummy… risotto with dried soup vegetables. Again. Easy to carry, easy to cook. And let’s not forget the coconut juice and flesh for dessert.

A really lovely birthday for me, all told. The only thing that would have made it better would have been to have our kids with us. We missed all of you guys heaps, but rest assured that you were all in our thoughts. It made me a little bit sad that I couldn’t hug you strongly to my chest… but then my favourite man smiled at me, kissed me and told me he loves me again.

What a brilliant birthday Baby. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you more than I can say!!

A Short Tour of Charlotte Street Cooktown

Please forgive us for not placing photos in with the text of this post. If you know how hard it is to construct a blog post on a mobile phone, you’ll understand why we don’t. 🙂

Today we bring you a short, incomplete photo tour of Cooktown. We’ll start at the park full of tourist oriented stuff. It’s pretty interesting down that way. 40 000 years of history in a relatively small space. Next, we’ll take a stroll along part of Charlotte Street, now considered the main street of Cooktown. Finally we will have a photo of our mighty metropolis’ main supermarket.

The first photo is the Musical Ship with Captain Cooks monument in the background. The ship was constructed in 2007 by The Queensland Music Festival http://qmf.org.au/content/about-us/ and contains a multitude of percussive instruments for all to play and enjoy.

The next pic is the Cooktown slipway. It has been there forever and is used by locals and others to do hull maintenance on their boats. It’s old, but it works well.

Across the road is the local Cop Shop. Next to that (hidden by the trees) is the Courthouse. The building in the distance is the Seaview motel. The Seaview street side rooms have some of the best sunset views across the Endeavour River.

Next up is the statue of Captain James Cook. This statue was sculpted by Stanley Hammond and donated to the Cooktown community by BP Australia in 1988. The next photo is one of the many cairns around Cooktown. This one marks the spot where Capt. Cook beached the ‘Endeavour’ after holing it on the reef South of here. He spent about two months hanging around while his crew repaired the ship. They were the first British tourists to land here.

The next four photos are of Captain Cooks monument. This edifice was constructed in 1887 by a Brisbane company whose name I can’t recall. It’s on the monument base but I didn’t take a pic. On each of the four sides are drinking fountains shaped in the form of kangaroo and koala heads. I like the dog drinking bowls at the base of the fountains.

The next photo is of the milbi (story) wall. This was designed and constructed by local Bama people as a reconciliation project and was sponsored by the Cook Shire Council. This is a must see when you come to Cooktown. The stories on the wall tell of the history and tribulations of the Traditional Owners of this land. Check this site for more info: http://www.jeffress.net/jamworks/celebration/milbi.html

Next up is a tile from the River Of Life walk. A winding path through the park tells the story of the Endeavour River from many perspectives. This tile tells us of the foods available during the year around this area.

The cannon. Back in 1885 there was some paranoia about a Russian invasion. The Council sent a wire to Brisbane requesting armaments to defend town and country against said invasion. The Government sent them this cannon (made in 1803 in Scotland), 3 cannon balls, 2 rifles and 1 soldier!

The next pic is of the plaque marking the start of the National Horse Trail. The trail starts in Cooktown and continues down the coast, ending at Healesville in Victoria, 70 odd kilometres North of Melbourne. The trail is 5330 kilometres long and is the longest of its type in the world http://www.nationaltrail.com.au/ The trail is only for non motorised transport.

The next pic shows the National Trail cairn with the horse hitching post, plus the cairn in the background commemorating Edmund Kennedy’s exploration. I told you Cooktown has lots of cairns!

Now we’ll stroll further up Charlotte Street.

The first is a view South along the street. Today was a busy day as you can see by the traffic. For tbe curious, the first shop on tbe left is The Lure Shop. On the right is the bowls club.
Next is looking back to the Lure Shop and the RSL museum.
Then we have a water fountain. You’ll find these Furphy made drinking fountains all over town. In keeping with tradition, dogs are also catered for with the bowl at the base.

Next is a shot of the ‘new’ Post Office. I think it was built in 1888 to replace the  ‘old’ one that still stands next door and is the oldest European type building in Cooktown.

Then we have a view North along Charlotte Street. The monument on the left was built around 1886 in rememberance of Mrs Watson, whose husband ignorantly built his house on sacred Aboriginal land on Lizard Island. The Owners of the land attacked her and her Chinese servants. She, her baby and an injured servant escaped the island in a beche de mer boiling vat but sadly died of thirst on another island. Search her name for the full story.

Next up is a view of the Sovereign Resort Hotel and one of the old bank buildings. Most of these buildings were constructed in the early 1880’s when Cooktown was thriving on the back of the Palmer River Gold rush.

Next is Seagrens, then the National Bank building.
Now we get modern for a bit. If you need tyres or some mechanical work, this is the place to look for.
Following that we have The West Coast, or Commercial Hotel. The oldest standing pub in Cooktown.
Then we have The Top Pub. It has had number of names including The Cooktown.

Last but not least is our Supermarket. Yes. We have one. It’s a Cornett’s IGA. Not the biggest one around mind you, but big enough for us.
Cornetts started on Bribie Island years ago. I used to shop at their first Bribie store in the mid eighties. Just thought you’d like to know 🙂 .

Now, I have to tell you about the three pubs in a local sense. Over the years they’ve kind of changed personas. All three have variously been the locals, the fisherman/miners or the ‘tourists’ pubs. Right now the West Coast and the Top Pub are in a state of flux. Both are kind of local and kind of fisho pubs. The Sovereign is a tourist pub but sells good beers on tap. Not just the usual XXXX and Carlton. A lot of locals drink there too. I love all three. They all have their own character and all hold good memories for me from 30 odd years ago. Just thought you’d like to know that too 🙂

Anyway, I hopeyou enjoyed this short tour. I’ll take you around the back streets soon.
P.S. Please forgive any typos. It takes long enough to do this on a small screen keyboard, let alone spell-checking!

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