Cooktown and the Atherton Tablelands


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We camped on the Daintree River and took in those sweet smelling glorious rainforest surrounds. The bitumen ends here, there was just a trickle of 4WD traffic coming off the dusty Bloomfield Track which then headed downhill a few kms to the ferry crossing across the Daintree River to Cape Tribulation.

With a couple of other well rested tourists we took the early morning low key Eco Tour of the river with a extremely knowledgeable local guide who was deeply respectful of this sensitive environment and the areas indigenous history. Apparently the resident crocodiles had killed a cow the previous evening, which having wandered too close to the river had become mired in mud and therefore easy prey. We were able to observe a couple of satisfied crocs sunning themselves on the river bank. It was lovely to see such magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

We drove back down into Mossman which has a beautiful stand of fern covered rain trees. Then I took the road to Cooktown, via Mt Carbine. Lots of climbing and some very sharp switchbacks that must have hit 15% or more, at least that’s what my legs said! Rolling on to Palmer River and Lakeland, I noticed the difference in the changing countryside. Almost immediately once I was over the top of the Windsor Range, the rainforest gave way to a much drier open woodland; eucalyptus and low scrub replaced the thicket of forest walnuts, maples, grasses and climbing vines.

Roadworks and mining trucks made the going difficult. I rode some sections but enjoyed the luxury of the car as well, saving myself the hassle of camping out. I must be getting soft in my old age.

I did feel excitement and elation riding into Cooktown which has a slightly unkept 1970’s feel about it. Broken down, vacant shops line the potholed Main Street which wasn’t what I was expecting. It was not what you would call over developed. We visited the Captain Cook museum, then the local history museum as well as the numerous monuments none of which were acknowledging or celebrating the original inhabitants.

I was appalled at the casual attitude that seemed to accompany the displacement and destruction of the local indigenous peoples. Many massacres and attacks are meticulously recorded, however, there is no evidence of anybody actually being held responsible or brought to account for them, while the early Christian missionaries would seem to believe it was all Gods will. The affects of institutionalised racism are still painfully evident today. It’s all rather sad really.

Coming back down from Cooktown we decided it would be a good idea to explore the Atherton Tablelands for some bush walking and cycling. a we based ourselves at Malanda in the heart of the rainforest region and within easy cycling distance of a number of small hamlets and towns, each with its own unique appeal: Mareeba, Atherton, Tolga, Yungaburra, Tarzail, Millaa Millaa, Gallo and Herbaton. We enjoyed all the area had to offer.

There were lots of highlights, including seeing a tree kangaroo (Mamu) in the grounds of the Neranda tea plantation, a platypus on the Sth Jonstone river near Malanda falls, the giant Curtain Fig Tree, so many animals, trees, plants, birds, flowers and insects that I had never seen before!

So as not to over the same ground I have previously ridden we will takes different route as we head South in the next few days.

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Categories: Mackay to Daintree 860 kilometers 2014, Solo unsupported Australia toursTags: , , , , , , , ,

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