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.

Tahquitz Canyon Visitors Centre Tour

After my 4 hours to kill in Palm Springs day, which I might add turned into a pleasant few hours, the next day was our last hours before we flew back to Australia. We decided we would spend this time stretching our legs on one of the hiking trails.

Tahquitz Canyon Trail Visitors Centre

Tahquitz Canyon hiking trail was the best choice for the day, access from Tahquitz Canyon Visitor Centre 500 W Mesquite Palm Springs. After paying the entry fee we were off, I do recommend you sit down for a few minutes and read the guide.

We didn’t… and after returning to our accommodation we discovered we had actually missed some interesting ‘locations of interest’ however it was a last minute decision and this was the end result.

My impression of Tahquitz CanyonHikers on the Tahquitz Canyon Trail

The air was cool and the canyon was in deep shadow looking up on our left we could see the overhanging boulders where we took photos a few days earlier at Josie Johnston Vista Park.

This place has a mystic feel about it and according to the walking guide the entrance to the Tahquitz  Canyon was named more than 3,000 years ago by Evonganet “Great Chief” of the Cahuilla.

The legend associated with this location is quite fascinating and one worth researching before the hike.

If only these rocks could speak…

Josie Johnson Vista Park just beyond the ridge


When walking along this trail you have an over whelming feeling that every rock and boulder could tell their own story. If only these rocks could talk what stories they could tell.

And they do! One in particular along the trail stood out, ‘The Foxes Dress’ the legend tells of a young maiden who had the power to turn herself into the rock that bears her name.

If I had taken the time to read the information before I started the walk I could have immersed myself in its contours and thought of the story about this young maiden, who she was and why she would want to transform herself into a large boulder.

Tahquitz Falls (water falling down)

The highlight of this walking trail is the Tahquitz Falls a beautiful location which probably hasn’t changed for thousands of years. If the Tahquitz Falls could talk what stories they could tell past and present. Everyone is eager to take photos at this site and we weren’t any different.

Gary looking for his reading glasses, below the Tahquitz Waterfall

Hold onto your reading glasses not the camera- good travel advice

If anyone asks you to take a photo of them anywhere… and you wear glasses make sure you wear one of those ‘stringy thingy’ around you neck to stop you losing them.

This happened to my boss, someone asked if he would take their photo while they stood in front of the Tahquitz Falls, he took hold of the camera looked down at the lens settings and his glasses headed south into the fast flowing water never to be seen again.

It was quite a sight to behold, hikers searching down stream for a pair of reading glasses and Gary with his hands and arms in the cold water hoping by some miracle these weren’t the new designer glasses that are lighter than air and they were at the bottom. But alas they had gone forever.

Best advice for the Tahquitz Canyon trail

My best advice if you are visiting the Tahquitz Canyon Visitors Center and you are walking the trail please take note of the following;

  • Take a moment to read the information brochure and familiarize yourself with the ‘locations of interests’ and then take the trail, looking for these sites will only enrich your experience and appreciation on the day.
  • Ranger-led interpretive hike is also a great option, guided tours are usually much more interesting and interactive and so rich in additional information and stories that are never documented in official literature and I am sure this will be the case!

Tahquitz Falls

I just loved Palm Springs.. hope to come back for a visit soon.


See you again…

I Had Fours Hours to Kill in Down Town Palm Springs

We were back in Palm Springs after attending the International Roofing Expo in Las Vegas but unfortunately the night we arrived in Palm Springs there had been torrential rain which killed our plans for the morning hike to go beyond Josie Johnston Vista Park.

Down Town Palm SpringsFour hours to kill in Down Town Palm Springs

If you know in advance that you have free time you can plan, however a couple of hours turned into four.  Shopping has its limits, so I sat down in the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Café and looked out the window and thought of the day I could have had hiking in Palm Springs up on those ridges high above the town.

Sitting drinking my coffee and people watching, I glanced up at the mountain slopes and decided to walk down the end of Tahquitz Canyon Way and see if I could stumble across another hiking trail.

Halfway down the street I looked around, and coming towards me was a group of hikers moving at a furious pace all decked out for a hike including walking poles, within moments they were gone barely checking the traffic as they crossed the road.

The hikers were on a mission

This group was on a mission and I wanted to know where they were going! I yelled out “Is there a hiking trail nearby”? By this time I was running to keep up with them, the young woman at the rear of the group call out “Dad where is this trail’? Dad wasn’t going to stop for anyone.

“Do you want to go for a hike its a thousand foot ascent”? He said. “Yes I would love too but I’m not dressed for the occasion”. With my Wayne Cooper Bag draped over my shoulder I certainly didn’t look the part.

I had a sudden image of me sliding down the muddy trail hanging onto my bag and shopping grabbing hold of rocks and then walking through Palm Springs covered in mud.Museum Trail
So I watch them disappear along Museum Drive.

Decided to follow the hikers

Hiking in Palm Springs wasn’t even an option, but nothing was stopping me from finding out where it was for a future visit. Off I went and managed to see them disappear into a carpark and they were gone.

Arriving at the far corner of the carpark was the sign, the ‘Museum Walking Trail’ what a find another walking trail almost in the shopping centre of Palm Springs this is one of the hiking trails you dream of, you could literally step out of the wilderness and grab a latte at the local Star Bucks or better still a glass of chardonnay and stumble to your luxury accommodation for a nap.

I watched them disappear

Hikers disappear over the ridgeFrom the carpark I could see them climbing the rocky trail, how I wished I was having that experience, this time of the year was perfect the air was cool.

It’s not a pastime you would be contemplating during the hot Palm Springs summer. I watched till they disappear over the ridge still hearing the occasional yells.

Back to the Shops- more time to kill

By now I should have had lunch but that last coffee squashed my appetite, so I continue walking along N Palm Canyon Drive. Just up ahead was an open area with loads of gleaming white marquees, while waiting to cross at the traffic lights I thought it might be one of the many events they seem to host in Palm Springs.

Local Art Market

Art Market Palm SpringsTo my surprise it was a market, not the sort where you can buy an assortment of bric-a-brac or a Farmers Market this market featured only art. Everything from jewellery to paintings, pottery all upper market stuff. The locals were out in force with their dogs, wandering around contemplating which piece of art they would purchase this weekend.

There were a few tourists like myself, bemused by this event the location, the backdrop the brilliance of the marquees against the bright green grass and snow capped mountains was quite captivating.

It was as if a door was momentarily opened to another life and then closed.

Did I buy anything?

Well after coming very close to spending money on a piece of jewellery I probably would never have worn I left to find my boss who had been keeping me waiting all this time. By now it was late afternoon too late for lunch and really too early for dinner.

Art Market Palm Springs

But I wasn’t going to go back to the accommodation, best to have an early tea there is no shortage of options in Palm Springs. Tomorrow I will be leaving to go back to the land of Oz. I did enjoy my 4 hours in down town Palm Springs but just for the record there is so much to do here… check out the hiking trails in  Palm Springs for yourself.

See you on my next walk…

Tahquitz Canyon Walking Trail – Palm Springs

We had a rest day in Palm Springs on the way to Vegas for the International Roofing Expo. Usually we stay around 2 miles from down town Palm Springs. Breakfast is served in the pool area (help your self)and  while having breakfast we have often seen people walking along the ridge way above the motel and wondered how they got up there.Best Western Inn Pool area Palm Springs

This time we are going to find out how to get up to that ridge, the country is beautiful and rugged and the colors soft and delicate, there are rattle snakes and all sorts of critters.

Let alone the loose small rocks and boulders. There must be a walking trail close by.

After Breakfast we were off to find a walking trail

Breakfast over it was time to investigate the local walking trails. No research was undertaken, so along with my companion who incidentally is my boss we decided to start walking along S Belardo Road which runs parallel to the mountains, then onto W Mesquite Ave and headed for the hills.S Belardo Road Palm Springs

At this point we had no idea if there was a trail up to the ridge but we hit the jackpot! There it was!

Tahquitz Canyon Trail

The visitor’s centre was further up the road, but we decided to follow the hikers up the slopes.

Many had walking poles, so perhaps this was an indication of how steep the climb was going to be.

However the climb was relatively easy and the views were spectacular, Palm Springs stretched out like a carpet of Palms and streets.Josie Johnson Vista Park

Josie Johnson Vista Park

The dusty trail continued to climb to Josie Johnson Vista Park, where a number of tables and benches were spread over a small plateau ready for weary hikers to enjoy their refreshments.

How they transported these picnic settings up the slopes was beyond me, but just ahead was an area where you could tie up horses perhaps this was the way.

From this location you can see Tahquitz Canyon below, look carefully and you just might pick out other hikers taking the Tahquitz Canyon Trail to the waterfall.Picnic area at Josie Johnson Vista


We Couldn’t Continue…

The sun was hot even though it was winter and we weren’t prepared for a long hike.

With just a little amount of water in my water bottle, I kept holding a small amount of it in my mouth instead of swallowing it, read it somewhere if you were short on water.

Three hours have now past and we have walked beyond the Best Western Inn, in fact we couldn’t even see the motel because smaller hills hid its location.

The trail meandered into the distance, time to head back. The trail will be conquered on another visit when we are better prepared..

Palm Springs below

If you are visiting Palm Springs take one of the many hiking trails in the area you will not be disappointed…Gary & Nancy Chapman and Gary Hollis

You never know who you will meet on the trail, Gary and Nancy celebrating their wedding anniversary, returning to where they had their honeymoon and Gary in the blue shirt. (my boss)


Do you drink enough water?