Archive for August, 2007

A trip to Cooktown

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Finally we could break away from the computer and spend a day exploring this beautiful part of the world. Where to today? Well, we went up to COOKTOWN, the city where Captain Cook’s ship, the Endeavour, came to shore in 1770. It is located around five hours away from Cairns, so we decided to have an early start and enjoy our day in this historical town.

Our first stop of the day was this absolutely gorgeous beach along the way. We don’t know the name of the beach, but it didn’t stop us from leaving the car and taking some photos, so we could share with you the beauty of the beaches of Tropical North Queensland. If you don’t believe me, you only have to have a look at the photos and decide for yourself.

This is Palm Cove, a beach north of Cairns, in Tropical North Queensland. Us in Palm Cove, Tropical North Queensland.

From this beach located north of Cairns, between Cairns and PORT DOUGLAS, we drove all the way to Cooktown, only stopping to take photos in a couple of places we found interesting. One of the them is the BLACK MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK. You can read all the information in the link provided, but here you have a couple of interesting facts. As you can see in the photo, Black Mountain National Park contains an imposing mountain range of massive granite boulders. These formidable boulders, some the size of houses, stack precariously on one another — appearing to defy both gravity and logic. There are many legends about this National Park. Many local stories (but few local records) tell of people, as well as horses and whole mobs of cattle disappearing in the labyrinth of rocks, never to be seen again. Beneath the outer boulders lies a maze of passages and chambers - very appealing to explorers of unusual places and those wishing to hide away from pursuers. In the inky dark interior, sheer drops, pockets of bad air or unexpected encounters with snakes or bats could easily cause disorientation, panic or injury to intruders entering that eerie underworld.

Adding to its mystique, pilots report aircraft turbulence (thermal current) over Black Mountain and, observers record loud bangs (cracking rocks) and mournful cries (wind and water moving deep inside).

Even though there’s always a good scientific explanation for these things, I prefer to believe the legend, I find it much more interesting.

This is the route we took, from Cairns to Cooktown, in Tropical North Queensland. Black Mountain National Park, near Cooktown, Far North Queensland.

Cooktown has many different sites, all of which take you back 200 years, when Europeans first came to Australia. Being Cooktown named after Captain Cook, it’s only logical that there are some monuments dedicated to him, up to six. Also visitors can see the MILBI WALL, which is an impressive collage that the Aboriginal people of Cooktown created to express the significance that the first encounter with Europeans had for them. The wall includes stories from the Dreamtime up to present time, mentioning how a few Aborigines had excelled at sports internationally. The most interesting story for me was that of the Normanby Woman, a white woman who lived with an Aboriginal tribe. When the authorities realised, they captured her to bring her back to the white society, but she died soon afterwards, never returning with the Aboriginal people.

Part of the Milbi Wall, with the beautiful blue Coral See behing, in Cooktown. One of the six monuments of Captain Cook that are in Cooktown, Far North Queensland.

But I had to choose which site impressed me the most, it would definetely be Grassy Hill, where the lighthouse is located. The lighthouse itself is pretty small, but the views of the area from the top of the hill are absolutely sensational. One of the photos is taking pointing to the north and the other pointing to the south, but the spot where we took them from is the same. Amazing, isn’t it?

View of Cooktown from Grassy Hill. Another view of Cooktown from Grassy Hill.

The cemetery is also worth visiting, so much history. The Normanby Woman is buried there, but also there are some Jewish tombs as well as Chinese. Over 300 Chinese were buried in this area between 1873 and 1920. Chinese emigrants fear they might day, never to return to the land of their ancestors. Most of those initially buried here were later exhumed and returned to China.

The three characters on the shrien, written in ancient script, read Tjin Ju Tsai - Respect the dead as if they are present.

Chinese Shrine found on Cooktown's cemetery. Monument to Mary Beatrice Watson, in Cooktown, Far North Queensland.

And the monument next to the Chinese shrine is dedicated to Mary Watson, who died of thirst. In case you cannot see it clearly, it is a fountain. The story of Mary Watson is very sad. While her husband was away “on a business trip”, he was a fisherman, Aborigines from the mainland attacked her house in LIZARD ISLAND. Some of the Chinese servants were killed, but she managed to escape with one of the servants and her little kid. They survived for a while on a boiling tank, but finally they all perised due to the lack of fresh water. And this is the reason why a fountain was erected to commemorate her name.

And after spending the whole day in Cooktown visiting all these different sites and monuments, we thought it was about time to head back to Cairns. But on the way, we still had time to take a photo of this impressive “river of rocks”, as I see it. And the photo next to it is just a nice photo of both of us, from the Grassy Hill.

On the road from Cooktown. Us on top of Grassy Hill, Cooktown.

Who remembers Dragon?

Monday, August 27th, 2007

Well, the big new this week - from outside the Cairns Unlimited world - revolves around the horse racing industry. A potentially dangerous case of equine flu has been detected among racehorses in Sydney, and in an event surely unprecedented in Australian history, horse racing has been suspended across the country. The timing could be devastating for the Australian racing industry, right on the eve of the biggest event on the racing calendar - the Spring Racing Carnival, which culminates in the world famous Melbourne Cup.

Still on horse racing, the upcoming Cairns Amateurs Racing Carnival has been at the head of local news for all the wrong reasons. If you’re not familiar with the Cairns Amateurs, here’s a snippet of text I copied from Maria’s amazingly comprehensive TROPICAL NORTH QUEENSLAND EVENTS CALENDAR…

The Cairns Amateurs Racing Carnival is an annual event held around the second Saturday in September. A small meeting in 1959, designed to bring city and country together, has expanded over the years to become one of Australia’s premier Spring horse racing carnivals.The Carnival, held in the tropical North Queensland city of Cairns, focuses around two days of horse racing. It is complemented by a great variety of social activities, some formal and some very informal.Cairns Amateurs has something for everyone: horse racing, fashion, socialising and celebrities. Social events include Members-only and corporate functions over the two days, as well as events and areas for the general public on both race days. The beautiful mild September climate entices large crowds to enjoy the racing and entertainment conducted at the course.

Cairns Amateurs Racing Carnival.

But the thing that has everyone hopping mad this year is the imposed ESKY ban at the event. Heavy handed State Government Liquor Licensing bureaucrats, who can’t stand to see hard working Queenslanders actually out enjoying themselves, have banned the bringing of alcoholic drinks into the event, instead forcing punters to leave their tents and queue up for drinks at the bar. regular racegoers insist that the bar facilities will not be able to cope with the increased numbers, and predict that punters will spend most of their day queued at the bar.

A number of tent bookings have already been cancelled in the wake of the threat, including one booking for 80 people from the staff social club at Irelands car dealership. Liquor Licensing are also proposing to refuse entry to under 18’s. Event organizers say that if an adults-only rule is enforced, it will be the first time in the 49-year history of the Amateurs, which were set up to bring together families from all over the region. Cairns Unlimited wants to know: WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE WHO JUST CAN’T LET US ENJOY OURSELVES? WILL THEY EVER JUST LEAVE US ALONE?

We say that even the phrase ‘ESKY BAN’ is downright un-Australian, and anyone proposing such a thing should be immediately deported. We give heavy handed, spoilsport, party-pooping, bureaucrats the Cairns Unlimited ‘Big Thumbs Down’.

On a far more pleasant note, one member of the Cairns Unlimited team took an enjoyable trip down memory lane last week, when iconic 80’s rock band Dragon came to town. I must admit, i didn’t have huge expectations. After all, these guys must be over 100 years old by now. Well, we jostled with the crowd at the Reef Casino’s Vertigo Bar waiting for the ageing rock legends to make their appearance. The first piece they played was pretty dull and uninspiring, and kind of confirmed my preconceptions that they were indeed over the hill. I looked at my watch.

Dragon, in another time and place.

But that was the last time I looked at my watch. The band immediately launched into one of their greatest hits “Get that Jive”, and after that, they never looked back. When the first few notes of “April Sun in Cuba” belted out, the crowd broke loose and, apart from the rather unusual mix of dancing styles (to say the least) I would have to say that the energy levels almost approached that of a crowd of Spaniards. Maria is free to disagree. All in all, a fantastic concert and a nostalgic reminder of a time of my life when the most important thing in the world was my HQ GST Monaro. I give Dragon the Cairns Unlimited ‘Big Thumbs Up’ and hope they made it back to the retirement village safely.

Dragon, live at Cairns Reef Casino.

Now, what else is new? Maria and I have been doing a little wine sampling over the last week or so. Our friends at DREAMTIMES WINES furnished us with a couple of bottles of their fortified tropical fruit wines; the first a very sweet Passionfruit Port, and the second a semi-sweet Mango Port. Maria has more of a sweet tooth that I do, so the Passionfruit Port was a tad rich for my taste. Having said that, I did take a small glass of it after dinner each night until the bottle was empty! The Mango Port disappeared even faster, and I’m not sure if Maria had the chance to even try it. Looking back, I’m surprised to say that I probably preferred the Passionfruit Port. Although too sweet to drink in large quantities (unless drizzled over ice… now why didn’t I think of that before?) it is the perfect after dinner drink or as an accompaniment to a strong coffee. So while I’m on a roll, I’ll give Dreamtime Wines a Cairns Unlimited ‘Big Thumbs Up’, and then sign off.

If you didn’t know that Tropical North Queensland produced wine, or you’re intrigued by the idea of wines and liqueurs made from tropical fruits such as mangos, lychees and jaboticabas… well, you won’t want to miss our WINERIES page!

Why is Tropical North Queensland so popular as a movie setting?

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

If there’s one thing I don’t miss about Madrid is that it’s very far away from the beach (I miss everything else). But now that we live in CAIRNS we can get up in the morning and decide to go for a swim to one of the CAIRNS NORTHERN BEACHES. We’re discovering one of them on each trip, so it was time to go to KEWARRA BEACH, about 20 kilometres north of Cairns. Kewarra is a small community suburb, with just a few shops and some facilities. Compared to other destinations in Tropical North Queensland, it’s somehow underdeveloped, which is not such a bad thing these days after all, is it?. Here you have a couple of photos we took this morning. Isn’t it a nice place to spend your holidays?

View of Kewarra Beach, in Tropical North Queensland. Kewarra Beach is one of the Cairns Northern Beaches, a beautiful holiday destination in Tropical North Queensland.

Of course, we’re not the only ones who find Tropical North Queensland a paradise. Lately, the area has been used as the setting for a few movies. First it was Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman filming “Australia” in BOWEN. The film is set in the 1930s, and revolves around the relationship between a respectable English aristocrat (Nicole Kidman) and a rough-and-ready cattle drover (Hugh Jackman). The two are caught in World War II bombing raids, which is where Bowen comes in: it’s the stand-in location for Darwin.

And now we have Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg in PORT DOUGLAS, filming a $120 million World War II miniseries, “The Pacific”. Although locals shouldn’t be too excited about having two celebrities in town. Port Douglas has become a popular holiday destination for celebrities and personalities, including actors, politicians and the rich and famous. Even Bill Clinton spent a few days in Port Douglas when he visited Australia, of course, many years ago.

But in the past, other movies have also chosen this area. “The Thin Red Line”, starring actors such as George Clooney, Sean Penn, Adrian Brody and Nick Nolte, was filmed between BRAMSTON BEACH, MOSSMAN, CAPE TRIBULATION, CAIRNS and DAINTREE. DUNK ISLAND’S unspoilt tropical scenery was chosen as the setting for the cinematic version of Norman Lindsay’s “The Age of Consent” in 1968, starring James Mason and Helen Mirren.

So, what are you waiting for to discover what film directors discovered many years ago in Tropical North Queensland?