Our journey to Cooktown began at Undara on Tuesday morning and took us firstly to the town of Mount Garnet. In the early part of the 20th Century my grandfather worked in the Post Office at Mount Garnet and Ravenshoe so it was interesting to see the towns – undoubtedly much different in Grandad’s day. We purchased fuel at Mount Garnet then moved on to Ravenshoe.
At Ravenshoe we went in search of parts for our caravan and found a possible solution. We moved on to Atherton and after visiting a few shops obtained the bits and pieces needed to repair our hot water system. Atherton is a sizable town with some major retailers operating. We went into the Bunnings at Atherton and I think it had the narrowest aisles of any Bunnings store I have ever been in.
The next town on our route was Mareeba (indicated as being the largest town on the Atherton Tablelands) and we decided to stay there for the evening so as to repair the hot water system. We checked in at the Mareeba Rodeo Grounds (http://www.mareebarodeo.com.au/accommodation/) to find hundreds of vans and motor homes on the site – and why wouldn’t there be? For $17.00 per night with power and water supplied a vanner is probably saving anything up to $20.00 per night. The entire facility is operated by volunteers many of them visiting grey nomads themselves. The Rodeo Committee would be doing very well from the travelling caravaners.
That evening a sausage sizzle was held in the Bull Bar at the grounds; I’m not sure who the proceeds were to aid but it was very good value at $2.00 per sausage in a fresh bread roll with onions and gravy. This was also an opportunity to meet other people staying at the grounds and to participate in a very large “happy hour”.
Next morning there was a buzz of excitement in the camp as a number of hot air balloons flew towards the Rodeo Grounds and three of them actually landed (one by one) very near some of the caravans and motor homes. People were out in all manner of attire – pyjamas, dressing gowns, shorts and singlets and the works – all watching the spectacle of the balloons coming back to earth. Two other balloons also landed locally not far from the Rodeo Grounds.
Despite the excitement of the hot air balloons, we were on the road reasonably early heading north toward Mt Molloy, then Mt Carbine (where the transport guys were checking on heavy vehicles and the radio chatter up and down the road passed the information between drivers). Our morning tea stop was at the Palmer River Roadhouse (http://www.tourismcapeyork.com/stay/lakeland_and_laura/accom/palmer-river-roadhouse) where we enjoyed our coffee and biscuits to the background hum of the roadhouse generator.
Originally we had planned to stay at the James Earl Lookout (http://www.caravancaravan.com.au/entity/james-earl-lookout-camping-area/QLD) but our hot water system problems put paid to that plan. We were going to take a look at the rest area as we passed by but it is right at the top of the range and only signed as a scenic lookout – so we passed it by without realising. We had to stop part way down the range for some road works but despite this minor hold up we made good time to Lakeland and then to Cooktown (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooktown,_Queensland) where we arrived just after midday.
We checked into the Cooktown Caravan Park (http://www.cooktowncaravanpark.com/) where we will stay for the duration then went into town in search of lunch. After eating Chinese at the local cafe we took a walk through the town doing the tourist thing and taking many photographs and ended up on Grassy Hill at the lighthouse and Cook’s Lookout.
While we had been at Undara a strong wind had come up and this wind prevailed for the entire drive bringing with it drizzle and light rain in some places – Cooktown was no different and we had to dodge some quite sharp showers as we wandered along the main street of Cooktown. Tonight the wind gusts are still quite strong and are rocking the caravan and rattling the vents over the en suite, so much so that we got out of bed and rolled up the awning to ensure there was no damage.
Thursday morning we drove into town and visited the premises of the Cooktown Historical Society (http://www.cooktownhistory.org.au/). History is not free in Cooktown and we paid a $5.00 (each) entrance fee to view the display. A lot of work has been done in the preparation and presentation of this display and we spent quite some time viewing the exhibits.
Later we visited the Cooktown Botanic Gardens -Natures Powerhouse (http://www.naturespowerhouse.com.au/). This facility combines the botanic gardens, tourist information centre, a gallery and exhibition space and a café. We enjoyed morning tea then had a look at the information centre where we collected some additional brochures for future destinations and then took a walk through the gardens checking out the extensive botanic collection.
We drove past the Cook Shire Council (http://www.cook.qld.gov.au/) headquarters, a quite impressive building, and then visited the James Cook Museum (http://www.nationaltrust.org.au/qld/JamesCooktheEndeavourRiverandCooktown). This museum is operated by the National Trust and is housed in the former St. Mary’s Catholic Convent which was saved from demolition through the National Trust. The museum houses a very extensive display of material and items pertinent to Cook and Cooktown and is very well presented – we thought it well worth the $8.00 (concession) entrance fee that we were charged.
After our dose of history we went in search of the local Laundromat to determine whether the facilities were more adequate than those at the caravan park. We found there are a lot more machines but also a much higher demand for their use from caravaners using the free camping facilities in town (48 hour limit), boaties and other visitors.
While in the vicinity of the wharf we enjoyed a lunch of fish and chips at one of the local establishments. There are lots of businesses in Cooktown and many of these appear to be for sale. The Caravan Park where we are staying is one that is on the market as is the bakery/cafe and a number of other shops and businesses. With the currently prevailing strong southerly wind blowing constantly I can imagine people would tire of life in this area.
Friday morning we were up early and off to the Laundromat near the wharf. When we arrived the place was deserted and we had our choice of several washing machines and two large dryers. We completed the task of washing and drying clothes and returned to the caravan park to give the single washing machine at the park a workout. There is only a single machine at the park but it goes continuously ad must really provide a handsome return on the original investment.
Our short jaunt to the Kalkani Crater at Undara we had a lot of dust in the back of the utility. It frustrates me that all this dust comes in and I would like to curtail it. This morning I explored the possibility of intrusion through the wheel arches and packed the areas under the tie down rails with plastic bags in an effort to minimise the dust intrusion. The next few days on the way to Weipa will test my theory.
This afternoon we drove out to Black Mountain National Park (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Mountain_%28Kalkajaka%29_National_Park) (http://www.nprsr.qld.gov.au/parks/black-mountain/) to take a closer look at these mountainous piles of black rocks. From the scenic lookout these mountains are most imposing and dominate the road which passes through a gap between two of the imposing masses of granite boulders.
Saturday morning we walked into town in search of fresh bread for the next phase of the journey and as we walked we looked at various buildings best seen when on foot rather than when driving by.
We have enjoyed our visit to Cooktown and leave with fond memories of the visit. One thing that will linger with us was the constant wind. A strong wind has blown for the entire time we have been here – the locals say “You should be here in a cyclone!” – NO THANKS I’ll keep well away from such weather.
Tomorrow we will rendezvous with our friends at Lakelands and then proceed on our trip up to the tip of Cape York. Our first priority is Weipa where we will leave the caravans and proceed from there utilising the tents we have brought with us – hope any rain that comes is not too heavy.