We took off from Atherton for Cooktown where we hoped to have warmer, drier weather and return to the the coast. That was a mistake! The drive up was very pleasant as the scenery is lovely tropical green and the road was excellent (for Queensland, as we have experienced some shockers) and the burgers at Lakeland Roadhouse were A1.
Evidence of the ferocity of Cyclone Ita which came ashore on Friday 11 April this year is evident from about 45km south of Cooktown. Huge trees uprooted and snapped off, but the vegetation is regenerating quickly – typical of the tropics and fertile soil.
We pulled up at park number 12 in the Big4 ‘van park beside a creek with lovely foliage right at the rear of our caravan. Bliss. As we set up camp it was blowing a gale, 30-40kts and started to drizzle. And overcast. Got the picture? Well, hold that vision for a week with some intermittent heavy rain and you have our experience… Even the locals were whinging! Today is Saturday the 14th and we have been here exactly two weeks – 3 days of that time have been reasonably fine including today, which dawned in glorious sunshine. OK, now we have had our whinge about the weather, the positive things here are many. Once again we have friends Jan & Jamie in town, though they have set up their caravan at their friend Nicko’s place on the outskirts of town – a beautiful home with views to the coast. True tropical surroundings with all it entails including very beautiful butterflies, Australian Brush turkeys (haven’t managed to get a photo yet) and the odd ‘roo. We immersed ourselves in the history of Cooktown. Lieutenant Cook and his crew beached HMB Endeavour in the river mouth in 1770 to repair its hull after running on to the Great Barrier Reef. Guns and anchors have been recovered from the site and are on display at the James Cook Museum, a lovely former RC Convent school dating from the 19th century. As well there are displays of equipment and artifacts from the days when gold was discovered inland at the Palmer River. There is a further museum in the main street (Charlotte St) about the town and its later history which is also interesting. We were here for the reenactment of Cook’s landing, but unfortunately it was pretty well rained out. An abreviated version was run at the ‘boat house’, but everyone got soaked to the skin and the wind was very strong and quite cold. The wet shirt and jocks at the ‘Top Pub’ was also subject to the same or worse conditions so after getting thoroughly wet and cold we pulled the pin before the 10:30pm kick off… The fireworks were also called off. Very sad for the locals who work so hard to pull together this festival each year.
A highlight was going for a joy flight in a Robinson R44 helicopter on one of the clear days and it is to be recommended – you get to see the area the town is located in and the rivers draining the hinterland. Spotted a croc trying to warm up on a sandbar. A low level zip round the coast and we approached Cooktown from the sea. Great views. Nicko took us for a run in his boat up the Endeavour River for some kilometres. Amazing country – very tropical and lush and spotted some more crocs and wildlife. A great experience. Thank you Nicko! Another fun day was a trip out to the Trevathan waterfall – Jamie even went swimming – and then on to the Lion’s Den Hotel. This old pub has at Helenvale has an entertaining history, and the lunch was yummy as well. In fact we have had some excellent food here. Nicko is the local seafood purveyor and we have had some very nice Coral Trout and Red Emperor – we also have some prawns packed in the freezer for further down the track. We seem to be spending a lot of time at the Sovereign hotel – great beer, scotch, Sauv Blanc and meals. We are off tonight for a final posh noshup in their a la carte restaurant… Had a damned fine meal at the River of Gold restaurant as well.
Our little caravan was our water and wind proof home and it did a great job of keeping us comfortable, even on the two days it did not stop raining… In spite of the inclement weather experience we have found Cooktown to be a fun and interesting spot to spend time. Friendly people and beautiful surrounding country. We will be back!
2. We were a bit ho hum about the coffee at the Coffee Works at Mareeba – that happens with a group of tea drinkers – but we LOVED the chocolates and liqueurs, and the museum’s collection of coffee paraphernalia