Category: Walking Trails

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…