Category: Queensland

Castle Hill

Must Conquer the Hill

TownsvilleCastleHill2012 073For years I have been travelling north to Townsville and every visit I promise myself to check out Castle Hill. (I always called it Telstra Hill for some strange reason)

Anyway Castle hill dominates the Townsville landscape with its pink hues and from some angles it resembles a scene from Jurassic Park with the Palms in the foreground and the hill rising from the ground.

 The view from The Strand…

The best view of Castle Hill on the ground in my opinion is from The Strand at the roundabout looking up Gregory Street this huge pink granite monolith is fascinating and you can’t help but wonder how to get to the top.

Here it reminds me of Palm Springs California where at the end of every street there is a mountain to climb.
After conducting some online research and asking some locals how to access the road, I finally decided at the very least I would drive to the top.

The thought of walking up the hill was very appealing, the weather was cool, but unfortunately this wasn’t a holiday break, I was here on business and couldn’t afford to be tuckered out!

How to get up Castle Hill


View Castle Hill Townsville in a larger map

Take a good look at the map to get your bearings, I drove from The Strand up Gregory Street and turned right onto Castle Hill Road. Walking this bitumen road seems the most popular route.

However be careful of the walkers and runners there is a lot of them. Many seem to be unaware that the road is also for vehicles, there are a number of blind corners and you don’t know what will suddenly appear, cars or pedestrians. Take care!
Townsville Lookout

 

Walking wasn’t an option this visit, the walk is 2.6km up a bitumen Road, the same one you drive up.

There are also a number of trails at various points, one named the ‘Goat Trail’, can’t talk much about this until I walk the walk and then I can talk the talk.

This hill is only few metres short of being classified a mountain.Townsville CastleHill Rail

However I was astounded when I started driving up this narrow road late in the afternoon, the amount of people toting their water bottles starting the 286 metre hill climb was amazing.

Is this what the Townsville locals do?

Every shape, size and age was represented; some running others on bikes and locals taking their dogs seemingly for a late afternoon stroll it was a sight to behold.
Driving up and watching the locals take on the hill, my calf muscles instinctively started to ache, if I had attempted to do this, I would have been in agony and my 1,500 kilometres drive home a torturous end to a business trip.

The view is spectacular…

The views from the top of Castle Hill were magnificent the south side of the hill reminded me a little of Cooktown with the Endeavour River below.
What’s so interesting is the amount of lookouts there are, you envision just one, with spectacular views of Magnetic Island, however there are a number of vantage points, all with a unique vista of the location.

If photography is your thing you must come here, the hill undoubtedly will take on a different appearance at sunrise and sunset.

 Townsville will definitely be on my list of walking destination….

Hopefully next time I write about Townsville I will be recounting my experience of taking on Castle Hill like the locals.

Useful Links about Castle Hill

Townsville City Council

Facts about Castle Hill on Wikipedia

 

 

Finch Bay and the Botanic Gardens Cooktown Australia

Finch&CherryGrassyHilllSept2011Finch Bay Cooktown Australia

After hiking down to Cherry Tree Bay it was time for a break, so we returned to Cook’s Landing Kiosk for lunch and to plan our last afternoon in Cooktown. Because of limited time we decided to drive to Finch Bay instead of walking and then visit The Botanic Gardens.

Finch Bay was first on the agenda, so it was down Walker Street around 2 kilometres from Cooktown, on the way you will see the Botanic Garden on your left continue on and follow the dirt track to Finch Bay.

Finch Bay is apparently Cooktown’s swimming spot although the signage warning of crocodiles was enough to put us off entering the water.

 Signage Reads…..

  • Keep away from the water edge and do not enter the water
  • Take extreme care when launching or retrieving boats
  • Do not clean fish or leave fish waste near the water’s edge
  • Camp well away from the water

The small creek called Alligator Creek convinced us that the hotel swimming pool was a better option, none the less there was a small group having a great old time in the bay.
The beach was beautiful, surrounded by mountains and huge granite rocks on the northern end and rainforest meeting the deep blue Coral Sea.

A huge granite boulder that looks like a beached whale…

Whale Rock Finch Bay

Whale Rock Finch Beach

The massive size of these boulders is not apparent when you first arrive at Finch Bay, you can see them in the distance, it’s not until you make your way up the beach that you realise their immense size.
As we approached the northern end of the beach one of these large granite boulders embedded in the sand, started to resemble a huge beached whale.

Conducting some research later it was learnt this rock was called ‘Whale Rock’. Finch Bay is definitely worth the effort  and one of the things to do in Cooktown.

Cooktown Botanic Gardens

After investigating Finch Bay it was time to stop at Cooktown Botanic Gardens. These gardens were established in 1874 and are amongst the oldest in Australia so I have heard. The Botanic Gardens have the same feel as The Garden of the Sleeping Giant in Fiji, similar flora.
Remnants of the garden’s original design still lingers, this garden laid neglected for over 60 years until 1979 and rediscovered when the site was cleared for an event and it’s former glory was revealed.

The Botanic Gardens feature some sweeping lawns and you can imagine the scene here in the 1880’s with the locals picnicking on these lawn and the ladies with their parasols up shading themselves from the hot tropical northern Queensland sun. Perhaps during picnic conversations during the 1880’s thoughts  drifted to  the tragic circumstances of death or disappearance of Mrs Mary Watson and her son.

Finch&CherryGrassyHilllSept2011 303

Walks on the ‘Welcome to  Cooktown’ tourist map

If you are in Cooktown plan to visit Finch Bay and Cooktown’s Botanic Gardens you can walk to both of them these location, however instead of walking or driving down the dirt track to Finch Bay you can take the scenic track through the Botanic Gardens.
Don’t forget to pickup your ‘Welcome to Cooktown’ tourist map from your accommodation, they are also available at many of the local stores. Cooktown is only a small town; all the walks are outlined including the walk to Mt Cook which unfortunately time didn’t permit us to do.

Botanic Gardens CooktownVisit Cooktown and Cape York Peninsula for more information on this location

Cooktown – Mrs Mary Watson Story

Mary Watson Story

Cooktown - grave yard

This tragic account of Mary Watson a 23 year old with a four month old infant living on Lizard Island in 1879 still echoes in Northern Queensland today.

Visiting the local cemetery and finding Mary Watson’s grave site was one of the activities we had planned to do while visiting Cooktown in far north Queensland.

This is a fascinating placed filled with history of the early pioneer days of Cooktown and the account of Mary Watson still is alive after 132 years, not a long time in the scheme of things.

Part of pioneer folklore…

Mary Watson is part of the pioneer folklore of northern Queensland, a heartbreaking story of a young woman with an infant son living on Lizard Island with her husband Captain Robert Watson a beche-de-mer fisherman and along with some Chinese servants.

The story goes like this….

While Captain Watson was away, mainland Aboriginals came to Lizard Island, a sacred place for local indigenous people and attack the settlement. One of the Chinese servants was killed, there was an uneasy standoff and Mary Watson along with her infant son and the remaining Chinese servant Ah Sam acquired the only available vessel.

This was a huge metal drum used for boiling  beche-de-mer (sea cucumbers) they set sail from Lizard Island 2nd October 1881 unaware that Lizard Island (named by Captain Cook) is the only island in the group with fresh water.

A tragic end

The dishearten result was that the three of them died of thirst; the metal drum discovered a few months later by a passing fishing vessel on 19th January 1882.

The sad picture of the three  fugitives in the metal drum with the infant still at Mary’s breast, along with a diary of her short life on Lizard Island and documentation of their final days, had a huge impact on the local community and unjust reprisals ensued.
The whole account of this tragic event along with the prejudice that existed at the time can be read here in more detail..Mary Watson's grave in Cooktown

Cooktown Cemetery

After a visit to Finch Bay we followed the Tourist Map in search of Mary Watson’s grave.

It took us a while to find the site, the cemetery had a lonely abandoned feel, elaborate headstones adored parts of the graveyard and other sites were just mounds.

A window into the past I believe where there was a time when folks didn’t even have an equal footing in death.

We reach the grave with a puce coloured bougainvillea to the side, the inscription was hard to read, testament to the 130 years since her death.

This is a fascinating place to visit if history is of interest to you..

In addition I am lead to believe that the ruins of the small stone cottage are still visible on Lizard Island, near Mangrove Creek at the southern end of Watson’s Bay.

Maybe one day I will have the privilege of visiting Lizard Island and writing about my visit to this tragic site.

Cooktown to Cape Tribulation – Daintree National Park

Bloomfield Track, CooktownBloomfield Track Cooktown to Daintree National Park

Taking the coastal road to Cooktown is something that I have wanted to do for a long time and the opportunity presented itself in hitching a ride with two equally eager travellers.

First however we travelled the inland route to Cooktown and decided to take the coastal route back to Port Douglas and then on to Cairns.

This is the account of that journey.

I had some preconceived ideas…

The Bloomfield Track

After reading a number of accounts about this stretch of coastal road between Cooktown and Cape Tribulation known as the Bloomfield Track it’s not surprising I had some preconceived ideas of the journey. 

These descriptions had conjured up the following images;

  • 4 Wheel drive only
  • Comments like – the road is off the planet
  • Narrow dirt track barely wide enough for one vehicle
  • Flooded creeks and causeways
  • Steep hill sides
  • Dense rainforest
  • Spectacular vistas of sweeping coastline
  • Crocodile infested rivers
  • Mangroves lining wide rivers systems

These comments clouded my perception of the journey between Cooktown and Cape Tribulation and fabricated romantic images from many movies I had seen about adventures along treacherous coastlines.

Included in this imagery was meandering red dirt tracks hugging hillsides and exposing secluded bays and sweeping coasts, this didn’t exist along this part of the journey.Coastal Road to Cooktown

Should I clarify it by saying the rainforest was so dense you could barely see any water.

In addition there probably are tracks to remote bays and beaches, but we didn’t investigate them we stayed on the Bloomfield Track.

Sweeping Coastline Cape Tribulation

These sweeping coastline views were to be revealed later between Cape Tribulation and the Daintree River.

A section of the road I had travelled on a number of occasions.

In reality the approximate 80km dirt track from the Wujal Wujal turn off on Developmental Road to Cape Tribulation was all the above and more, we travelled in the dry season so the creeks and water causes were not a problem.

However the dips they produced in the roads would be another matter during the wet season when raging torrents of water were rushing across them.

Before you plan on North Queensland travel   Checking the road condition is a must before travelling on this coastal route.

This is wild country and you don’t want to put yourself in physical danger…

Crocodiles basking on the foreshore

We had the privilege of seeing large crocodiles in the wild, basking on the foreshore of mangrove lined estuary a timely warning of the dangers of wandering off the beaten track and taking note of all the warning signs about not getting close to the water’s edge and that included the beach.

Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they are not there!

Condition of the Road during the dry season

The dirt track was in pretty good condition it was wider than we had thought, a couple of section were narrow but most of the track was ample enough for two vehicles and well graded. However in a couple of sectors exposed rocks were visible which added to a bumpy ride.

There were a number of creek crossings but fortunate for us this was the dry season so there was little water except for the crossing just before Cape Tribulation which came up to the wheel axial.

In addition the dirt track had a couple of very steep ascents that kept us on our toes, we could only imagine how slippery it would be if the weather was wet.

Cape Tribulation Beach

Cape Tribulation, Daintree National Park

Secluded bays and deserted beaches, along with sweeping coastline best describes this section of the coastal road from Cooktown to the Cape, not quite in civilisation so to speak but yet luxury rainforest accommodation along with backpacker style lodgings are hidden behind the rainforest canopy lining the road, giving the location a feeling of mystery and isolation.

By this stage we were ready to take a break have a spot of lunch but not before we checked out the beach but again be careful… warning signs of crocs are ever present in the area so please heed them.

The last leg of this coastal route is at the Daintree River Crossing, here is where you pay your fee and travel on the ferry for a couple of minutes till you reach the other side and back on the road to Port Douglas and Cairns.

Before you plan on North Queensland travel – ‘the coastal Road’ check the conditions with the authorities and take note of the advice given.Signage on the road to Cooktown