Our Diary Australia - Part 5

Greetings from Cooktown, FNQ (Far North Queensland for the uninitiated!). It is named in honour of Captain Cook whose ship Endeavour limped here after running aground on the Great Barrier Reef just south of here. If Cook hadn't successfully repaired his ship then Australians would probably be speaking French now!

Cooktown Harbour is small and estuarine - complete with crocodiles. We arrived at low water springs with a blustery NE wind creating a nasty chop. After trying to anchor 3 times (each time ending up on the sandbank!), the local onlookers took pity on us... We are now tied up alongside a fishing boat! We now have sympathy with Captain Cook's plight!

It's been a slow haul along the Queensland coast. We have been day sailing with lots of stops, averaging around 20 miles a day. With over 1,000 miles still to go to Darwin, I think we need to get our skates on - cyclone season is creeping up on us!

Not to bore you with a blow-by-blow account (the photos show a good cross-section of our travels), I thought that I would just put together a synopsis of the top six places we liked:

  1. Bowen - a sleepy little town, waiting for the good times to happen. Lovely beaches, a happy-go-lucky attitude, the mining boom may or may not happen here!
  2. Magnetic Island - good anchorage, unpretentious, lovely walks, a lovely place just to chill -so we did!
  1. Cid Harbour - the best anchorage in the Whitsunday Islands, great walk to the summit, beaches OK, lovely surroundings - we came back here three times on our trip around the Islands.
  2. Cairns - a town, with lots going on and good facilities. Welcoming (we stayed three weeks, mainly to repair our refrigeration), and grew to love the place.
  3. Low Isles - best snorkelling so far - took us back to the islands of the Pacific and Caribbean.
  4. Hinchinbrook - visually a spectacular island, unfortunately most of it is inaccessible. With a little imagination from the Department of Parks and Wildlife this could be turned into a great getaway holiday destination for walks and outdoorsy types.

In general we feel that a bit of tourist development would go a long way and could be done without risk to the environment. There seems to be a policy of herding everyone to the major spots (Whitsunday Island, Airlie Beach and the Cairns-to-Cape Tribulation strip). The rest, it seems, pick up a few crumbs and battle with the environmentalists to develop/expand their facilities. Commercial fishing could also be expanded with better infrastructure at the ports and better use of trains to move freight speedily. (It took a week to get the parts for our fridge from Brisbane to Cairns!) The overriding impression on our slow trip north is that there are thousands of miles of coastline with no signs of human habitation!

Sailing does get you close to the creatures of the deep. Whales and dolphins were common sights - although not very easy to photograph! The Great Barrier Reef snorkelling has been good and the giant clams have been spectacular. We also picked up 4 Remora on our trip. These amazing fish (about 60cm long) have evolved a special gill on the top of their heads, with which they can adhere to moving objects, normally whales and large fish, although the hull of a boat is just as good - as long as you feed them, they will stay with you! We've seen koalas, platypuses, kangaroos-a-plenty and reptiles of various sorts. No sharks or crocs yet! Fishing has not been successful and I am planning a trip to the local bait shop to pick up some tips!

We will be heading north again shortly around Cape York, across the Gulf of Carpentaria and past Arnhem Land - the next major urban area will be Darwin where we are due by 1st December. From here to Darwin (covering tens of thousand square miles) is mainly bush, Aboriginal land, and crocodile country. Mmm interesting!