Friday, 27 February 2015

Cooktown & The Atherton Tablelands

Cooktown is a small town approx 300 km north of Cairns via the Mulligan Hwy & is the nothernmost town on the east coast of Queensland.
It is located at the bottom edge of Cape York Peninsula & on the mouth of the Endeavour River where James Cook beached his ship the Endeavour for repairs in 1770.
Cooktown was founded in 1873 as a supply port for the goldfields along the Palmer River. Prior to this it was called Cook's Town until 1874.
After replenishing the fridge & pantry we headed to the lookout @ Grassy Hill......what magnificent views we had - 360* views around us

There's so much to see around town, with so much history if you're interested in that sort of thing........
this pic is of the boat ramp on the Endeavour River. This is where Cook beached his HM Bark Endeavour in 1770 for his month long repairs after tearing the hull on the Great barrier Reef.

As we walked southwards between the road & the River, we came across lots of commemorative monuments for James Cook's landing in 1770.
There's also a Cairn to Edmund Kennedy, who landed at Rockingham Bay in 1840 on an expedition to explore Cape York & was fatally speared late that year.

Cook's bronze statue stands in Bicentennial Park. This site is also the annual re enactment of Cooks landing

The Musical Ship is a playground for kids & big kids

The Cannon, cast in 1803 is still fired on the Queens Birthday w/e in June  was given to protect Cooktown from a Russian Invasion.

This is 1 of several wells around town.

By  the mid 1870's Cook's Town was booming with hundreds of wood & iron buildings.
Stores, licensed pubs, banks were alongside brothels, shanties & gambling dens as she grew with >15,000 miners going to / from Palmer River. 10,000 of them were Chinese.

The old Post Office was erected 1887 is now The History Centre with interpretive displays from the Cooktown Historical Society's Archives & Research Centre.

The chinese played an important part during the gold rush era of the 1880's .
Many more commemorative displays can be seen in the Museum with a rood dedicated to the Chinese.

This hotel stood the cyclonic winds of  Ita that whipped through Cooktown in March 2014.
Built in 1875, it was 1 of several in town during the gold rush era.

West Coast Hotel was a survivor of the gold rush days, built in 1874, but lost the top 1/2 during cyclone Ita. The bottle drive through is still operational. I'm unsure if the top 1/2 will be restored.
There is also the Railway Station, old bank buildings, Jacky Jacky store & many more monuments along this historical street.

We visited James Cook Museum. Originally a Sisters of Mercy convent school built in 1889 , it is now home to one of the best regional museums in Australia & now owned by the National Trust of Queensland.
Both floors were full of artefacts from Cooktown & her districts history.

I took loads of photos, too many to bore you with here. There was also diary extracts, stories from local Aboriginal Elders, The Palmer River Gold Rush & a room dedicated to Chinese presence.   These 3 are part of the large collection in commemoration to James Cooks landing in Cooktown.

A wooden replica of the HM Bark Endeavour.

The Anchor from HM Bark Endeavour
The Cannon from Cooks Bark Endeavour.

One of the birding sites I wanted to do was through the Botanical Gardens. The gardens were quite pretty with plenty of evidence of Cyclone Ita damage. These tall eucalyptus trees are a few of several that took a battering with their leaves being stripped.

My walk ended @ Finch Bay, 1 of just a couple of places to go for a swim at the beach. It's only a small area. finch Bay can also be reached by a road that passes the Botanical Gardens.

We had a day outing to south of Cooktown. Driving along the Mulligan Hwy, we drive through Black Mountain's quite an interesting set of small mountains & hills on both sides of the road for a few kms.

There are pull over sections on the road with interpretive signs that say......

360 million years ago a mass of molten rock (magma) solidified deep below the Earths surface. Several rose to the surface in pointed formations. Over time, the clay soils eroded away to expose the hardened & fractured granite rocks. Beneath the surface is still solid. On the outside are rectangular
blocks that are slowly eroding to give slightly rounded edges.

The Granite rocks, many the size of houses,  are actually light grey in colour, but lichens cover the blocks giving it a unique Black appearance - hence the name of Black Mountain.

Most of the green plants going up the slopes are Fig trees (seeds dropped in bird poo) that can extend their roots deep to where moisture & nutrients are. The surrounding plants & trees are rainforest plants that grow on decomposing leaf litter.

 We took a turn off the hwy to head towards the Bloomfield Track.

Road maintenance crews were working on a few parts of the track grading & retaining hill sides.
A new bridge was under construction & near completion across the Bloomfield River @ Wujal Wujal an aboriginal community.

Our 50 km drive through this pristine rainforest ,The Daintree NP,  & world heritage listed was just beautiful, although we only drove part of the Bloomfield Track (which is a coastal, 4 WD only & more direct route to Cape Tribulation) to get to our destination for the day.....much controversy occurred when building this track.

Bloomfield Falls would be an absolute spectacle during the wet season with a 40 m drop.
As it was early July there was still plenty of water flowing over the falls.
Getting to the falls during the wet season would be quite challenging as the road is only of dirt surface & would be dangerously slippery with the road being closed at up to a fortnight at a time by landslides & flooded creeks.

We passed the iconic Lions Den Hotel on our way through to Bloomfield Falls & decided to stop for lunch on the way back. Built in 1875 this pub is a great stop over for the night in the adjoining camp ground or just if passing through, drop in for a meal.
 Inside is a mini museum of artefacts......................

 We soaked up the atmosphere sitting outside under the shade sails & thoroughly enjoyed our burger lunch washed down with cooling drinks.

We enjoyed an evening meal out at the Fishermans Warf cafe as the sun went down over the Endeavour River.
We actually spent a few hundred $$ in town at various ground, groceries, fuel,
an eat out dinner x 2 (we rewarded ourselves after spending 5 weeks travelling the Cape York)
& a much needed mechanical service on the 4 WD.

After 5 days in Cooktown, we headed south towards the Tablelands.
We pass through the Annan Gorge on our way south

Views to the Tablelands.

We pass some interesting things when driving.....though it was still several days away, the Mareeba Rodeo was attracting riders from far & wide......seen somewhere between Cooktown & Mt Molloy.

From Mt Molloy we head east again about 20 kms towards Mossman........we've been along this road before about 6 wks earlier.
By now many of you will have noted that I'm a keen bird watcher.....our next 2 nights will be spent here at a pretty piece of paradise set aside purely nature lovers.......the lodge & camp ground is set amongst some rainforest which becomes the bigger picture at the foothills of Mt Lewis.
More pristine rainforest with birds up there that are a must to add to a birders life list......

Of course not all of the area is rainforest, but once would have been rainforest before farming.

Besides being a keen birder, I also like to get some special photos of my growing bird files there are some great pics & some ordinary are a few of some better ones......
I put my name to a few as I uploaded those ones to a website for bird lists.....

Grey Fantail.....northern sub species

Noisy Pitta can also be seen down the east coast of Australia rainforests.

Spotted Catbirds weren't shy in the orchard at the back of Kingfisher Park Lodge

The drive up to the rainforests of Mt Lewis rewarded me with about 4 endemic birds for that particular area.

We moved on to Mareeba after a couple of days @ Kingfish Park Lodge.
The Mareeba Wetlands are also a birders must visit place.

A Golden-headed Cisticola can be found over the east coast & northern parts of Australia, non breeding version here.

Unfortunately the Gouldian Finch are rare in the wild in Qld....there may be small pockets of them on some cattle stations in the far north of the state, but in accessible to most birders.
Recent science research says that it's the practice of controlled fire burning before the dry season sets in as being the culprit for their demise....these pretty birds were caged & breeding @ the Mareeba Wetlands.
Gouldian finches can  mostly be seen in the wild in parts of the NT far west parts near the border.

 Whilst still on birds, this Barking Owl was in a tree not 20 m from our van spot in Mareeba......
I could hear it's "barking" calls being made from just before dusk & through out the night.

The Nankeen Kestrel hovers over fields looking for rodents.

Sitting on the western side of the Great Dividing Range, Mareeba is the biggest town on the northern section of the Atherton Tablelands.
Kuranda & Cairns are just a 1 hrs drive  away, crossing the mountainous Great Dividing Range &  "down the mountain" to Cairns.......
Because of the fertile volcanic soils around the Tablelands, Mareeba established itself as the Coffee growing capital of Australia.
I believe I probably contributed to the gain of a kg or 3 whilst visiting the Coffee Works :-)
An all day & next day return entry fee gave us samples of dozens of different brews of coffee, along with the myriads of chocolate also there to be sampled :-)
There's also a cafe with all the scrumptious deserts & savoury meals that can be enjoyed.....& a souvenir gift  shop for tourists to take goodies home for family & friends.

 The coffee Works has a large museum of coffee machines......dozens of old international machines dating back to the early 1900's that have been a collection of the business owner......
here's a sample of just a few.....

Then there were dozens of cabinet displays of different shapes & sized coffee pots, coffee cups etc....

The introduction of multi coffee  dispenser changed the industry.....still an early model

There's 2 other local distilleries......1 of which is The Golden Drop Winery - tasty wines made from mangoes......I'd already purchased a bottle from the markets @ Kuranda 2 months earlier & was consumed long ago.
We didn't visit Mt Uncle distillery for tastings of Rum, Whiskey, Vodka & Gin.

The sunsets on the Tablelands were quite pretty as seen from our caravan park spot.

Rather than hitching up & taking the caravan the 135kms to Chillagoe, we chose to get up really early for the 1.5 hr drive to be there for the 8.30 am opening of the Hub information centre to get our tickets for our guided tours of the Chillagoe Caves.
This was to be a 6 - 7 hr event to visit 3 of the most popular caves - 2 in the morning & another after lunch.

We were taken on a tour of the top 2 of these caves in the morning.............

A short walk up the hill to the caves gives us a spectacular view of the surrounding country.
The landscape around Chillagoe began to form about 400 million years ago, when limestone was deposited as calcarious mud & coral reefs of the bed of a shallow sea. Caverns & passages are created by the dissolving from the acids in water, with calcium building up as  stalactites, stalagmites & flowstones deposited by waters filtering through the rock.

There are also several bat species that roost & breed in the dark caves.

Balancing Rock is near 1 of the caves draws attraction to try & move it......

We spent an hr in Donna cave & after morning tea, a 45 min visit to Trezkinn Cave.

Falling like a curtain folds.

Inside Trezkinn Cave were more amazing features.

Some of those formations took 80 million years to grow.

We had a 1.5 hr lunch break, with an early lunch of a hamburger at the local cafe come service station, we then decided to visit Chillagoe's other attraction the old State Smelter Works.
Built in the early 1900's the smelter lasted less than 5 decades to produce 60,000 tons of Copper, 50,000 tons of Lead & 6,500,000 ounces of Silver. Coal, Tin Gold & Marble were also mined.
The operation was unprofitable & closed in the 1940's.
The operation did have many feats of ingenuity though its engineering.

The place appears to have that baron feel about it....I can't imagine the hardships during the summer months when temps would have soured to over 40* C, living in leaky "houses" made of timber & iron. A rail line was built from Mareeba to Chillagoe to transport the ore.

Our 3rd cave tour started @ 1.30pm. It wasn't quite as spectacular as the caves we visited that morning, but still had special features.

A broken column that is again growing with the ever so slow drip of water

There were a few little surprises like this fellow that must love the dark confines of the caves.

I think "she" has a tear drop under her eye :-)

The Savannahlander Rail is 1 of a 2 iconic tourist rails still in operation for tourists leaving Cairns, passing through Mareeba & on to Forsyth. tourists can then take tours of Undarra Lava Tubes from there......more on the Undarra Lava Tubes in the next chapter. The other tourist rail is the Gulflander, going out through Croyden to Normanton in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

We moved just 34 kms further up the hills of the Tableland to base ourselves for the next 4 nights about 1/2 way between Atherton & Yungaburra - the southern tip of Lake Tinaroo.
The Atherton Tableland is a fertile plateau which is part of the Great Dividing Range with an elevation of 500 m - 1,280 m is very suitable for dairy farming.
Many crops are also grown from the highly fertile soils. as a result from volcanic eruptions some 1 - 4 million years ago.
We are now about 730 m above sea level where the air is much cooler.

We didn't waste time in playing the tourist as The Tablelands has loads to offer. I also had loads of bird watching to get through as well as the Tableland contains several small remnants of the rainforest which once covered it, many of which are now protected in National Parks.
I achieved 11 of the 12 endemic species of birds on the area of Atherton Tableland through to Mt Lewis.

Just how tall can they be ???

The next morning we walked 4.5 kms around Lake Barrine, taking about 5 hrs as I bird watched along the way.
The lake is in the Crater lakes NP & we again experienced more beautiful rainforest.

The lake was formed over 17.000 yrs ago when a large volcano erupted, leaving a crater, that filled with fresh water to create the lake. There's a cafe overlooking the lake were nourishments can be purchased.

After lunch we visited the Cathedral Fig tree not far from Lake Barrine.

There's a Cathedral like entry with this Fig Tree.

It took approximately 1.5 hrs to drive around Lake Tinaroo. some of the back roads were dirt forest tracks for logging of pine trees. Some of the views were quite beautiful as we passed a few camp grounds that had to be pre booked.
It was school holidays & the camp grounds were quite busy with families. Water craft are allowed on the dam.

This carpet python was sunning itself on the other side of the road, probably spread 1/2 way across the road.
So as not to be a road fatality, we pulled over & removed it just as cars coming from the other direction approached.

One of my must visit sites for birding was Mt Hypipamee where I should find 3 of my wanted birds.
On that day I only found 1 of them & had rod take me back the next day so I could locate the other 2.
(I'd been told by a birder that she'd seen both Bower Birds the previous day in a fruiting bush next to the car park. I was to find said birds under a large fruiting tree along the walk when I flushed both off the rainforest floor :-)  )

For the tourist, Mt Hypipamee also has a volcanic crater, known as The Crater as a huge diatreme located SE of Herberton. The crater is 61 m in diameter & 82 m deep formed by a huge Gas explosion.

It always amazes me how trees can grow out of rock walls.

These clusters of flowers & fruit are called Cauliflory - formed on many of the rainforest trees including Yellow Mahogany, Bumpy Satinash & various figs. The fruit & flowers provide food for forest birds, insects & mammals.

whilst driving around the Tableland we were to enjoy many scenes like this one. This is the Millaa Millaa lookout...spectacular views of the surrounding region. You can see how hilly the Tablelands really is despite it being a "plateau" on the Great Dividing Range.

Some humour was created by local women of the town of Millaa Millaa to attract visitors to their town...........

This farmers hand almost looks like it shouldn't be in somewhere until you take a closer look :-)

From Millaa Millaa we took a 15 km Falls Circuit with a series of about 4 water falls.
The 1st & most spectacular along this route was the Millaa Millaa falls.

Next was Zillie falls.

Followed by Ellinjaa Falls

Malanda Falls finishes the falls circuit. This 1 has been "pooled" for families to take a swim in.

We visited the Gallo Dairyland where we enjoyed a "naughty" cake for afternoon tea. Out the back was the milking sheds where visitors can watch the cows moving onto a turn table where suction cups are attached to each udder teat for the afternoon milking.
The fact sheet took some interest whilst we waited for our afternoon treat.

Much later we called into Yungaburra & walked around the small business part of the town.
There are a few heritage listed buildings around town, including this old pub.

 In the street next to our caravan park were many large house blocks. Many of the blocks had beautiful gardens with loads of bird life using the flowering trees & bushes.
This bushs flower took my attention......although I don't know its name .....

A White-cheeked Honeyeater.

An Olive - backed Sunbird.

On our last day on the Tableland, I had Rod take me back to Mt Hypipamee in the morning where I spotted the 2 Bowerbirds I had on my wanted list.
After lunch in the car park, we headed off to Lake Eacham. The rainforest surrounding the lake & the roads leading into & out were really beautiful. Lake Eacham itself is another crater lake with pristine blue water where people love to go to for a swim, BBQ in the many picnic spots or jsut soak up the rainforest with walks. Much wildlife can be seen in this & the other rainforests in the district.

Rod used his camera occasionally & took this pic of me doing some bird spotting per usual.....on 1 of the outings on Atherton Tableland.

I mentioned earlier that the soils of Atherton Tableland were fertile......the birds love it too......many crops harbour rodents......I saw 100's of black kites circling the area 1 afternoon.

The farmers must hate birds as their newly planted fields are invaded by literally hundreds of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, Brolgas, Sarus Cranes & Ibis.
There's probably 500 Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos on that field. I loved the spectacle, but do feel sorry for the farmers.........

No comments:

Post a Comment