x The road is straight and land is dry. It is the dry season but they apparently had a dry wet season so people are beginning to worry about drought again out here. As we push further west the trees give way to grasslands.
If you started school in Queensland in the late 1950s (as I did) then you would have sat at a desk just like this - one equipped with slates and slate pencils. You would almost certainly have carried a school 'port' like that on your back when you walked to school and it would have had a pencil case just like that nestled beside a sponge in a bottle of water and cleaning rag (for wiping your slate) and vegemite sandwiches wrapped in reusable greaseproof paper. You would not have waved a plastic Aussie flag like that but you would have stood on parade each morning and put your hand over your heart as you looked at the flag and recited "I love my God, I serve my Queen and Country, I honour the flag and I shall cheerfully obey my country's laws". Then you would have stood to attention as the national anthem God Save the Queen was played before marching in line to your school room -- I think we were still very regimented from the war years. I had a lovely chat
I picked Gill Street because we had at last left the sea and fish dinners. It is also the main street of the city with many impressive buildings showing the historic wealth of this city. This one made me smile. How long is it since Ansett Airlines closed down? Hey that is another country town symbol for my list -- Target country stores. The Northern Miner lives on ... I saw a copy in one of the cafes.
After a brief sojourn by the sea we headed back inland to the mining city of Charters Towers a major regional centre. As you can see we are back in the dry country. I had wanted to reach here via the inland rather than going back to the sea but there was little to no mobile coverage on the 500km stretch of road and nowhere with reliable supply for us to stay for the night to allow me to do my work. It's the weekend again. I will take you for a walk tomorrow.
The cry went out, there is a cassowary in the camp. I grabbed my camera and ran, only to yet again be disappointed. It's run over the road into the rainforest the man said, flashing the screen of his camera to show me what I had missed. When we were up this way 40 years or so ago I remember we had no trouble at all seeing them. With all the development that has gone on in the intervening years they are now an endangered species.
Too soon we were weaving our way down a winding mountain path through the rainforest and past the banana plantations down to the sea at Mission Beach. If you look closely at the image above you will see a crab. This area is called the Cassowary Coast. If we looked hard would we see the elusive cassowary?
There are rainforest walks with waterfalls and one with this magical curtain fig tree. Blue crater lakes. Small towns, one with a terrific 2nd hand bookshop where I stocked up on reading supplies and even a Royal Hotel! There seems to be no end to the delights of this beautiful region. Royal Hotel, Herberton
Wow what a contrast to the land we have left! Rolling green hills, high blue mountains as a backdrop, diary farms and a patchwork of crops growing in rich red soil. Thick rich yoghurt and creamy cheese. Before I left I asked myself if we would find a place we liked as well as home. Well this sure comes close to stealing my heart.
There was an awesome view coming down the mountain range and we planned to stop at the lookout to photograph it but there were so many caravans already there we couldn't fit so I just grabbed this shot through the windscreen.
The strangest and most unexpected sight along this strip of road is Black Mountain. This photo does not do it justice. It is a mountain of huge black rocks. The explanation on the board beside the road said it was granite that had a unusual jointing pattern which led to fracturing and these eventually broke into boulders. The granite is actually light grey but the rocks are covered with film of lichens and other small plants.
I went down quite close to the waters edge to get the bottom shot and it was only afterward that I realised how foolhardy that may have been ... crocodiles might live in that pond. It just goes to show how easy it is to forget to be croc-aware when it is not something we normally have to do.
It's Sunday and let me take you down Charlotte Street the main street of Cooktown. I chose Charlotte because it is not only the most interesting street in the town but also it is one of my favourite names. I love the tropical colonial style architecture that you see in these north Queensland towns.
We soon arrive at Cooktown the Northern most destination of our tour. What a pretty spot it is by the river and the sea. This is where Captain Cook took refuge to repair his ship the Endeavour after putting a hole in it on the reef back at Cape Tribulation. In the late 1960s they found the anchor and cannons that they jettisoned to stay afloat while they limped to safe harbour. One of the cannons and the anchor are now kept in the museum at Cooktown and in the park there is a monument and a statue of Cook. I loved Cooktown. We are going to linger a while here.
There are precious few stopping off points along this road, so we pulled in at the small community of Lakeland for a rest before moving on again. We didn't see any lakes but the place was full of 4WD vehicles. Talking to the travellers they all seemed to be heading to Laura. It was only afterward I read about the annual rodeo and races at Laura a tiny community a further hundred or so kilometres up the road. It's a shame we missed it. From here the road heads back towards the sea.
There is a road to Cooktown via the coast called the Bloomfield Track but that is reserved for intrepid 4WD types. ( Read Daine's blog post to experience that trip ). For caravanners the inland route which is now bitumen all the way is the recommended option. We set off from the coast heading west climbing along a winding road dense with rainforest, then descending from the forest the vegetation thinned and green pastures returned. Soon we turned north and the scenery changed dramatically we were back to wide open spaces and straight road. Now at heart I am an inlander. While the ocean is nice for a break I find the sea restless and the humidity and dense green vegetation hems me in. So on this day I felt like I was unwinding and there was a big smile on my face as we zipped along the road. What I found particularly fascinating on this road was the close juxtaposition of the coast with the inland. On the eastern side of the road the mountains were clothed in green. To