Sunday, June 12, 2011


We have spent the last 5 days here, attending the Discovery Festival which is all about Captain Cook landing here in 1770. He entered the river after his ship, the Endeavor, went up on a reef about 30 miles to the southeast. He spent about 6 weeks here fixing up the hole they had knocked in the Endeavor's hull and then sailed away on their voyage back to England. The river which we anchored on is the Endeavor River and that is me waving from the balcony of the James Cook Museum. The town which now has a population of under 5,000 put on a wonderful show every year reenacting Cook's landing. They showed him coming in on a ship, encountering the indigenous aboriginal peoples, the marines standing guard and firing their authentic rifles, the discovery and the naming of the kangaroo by the white man, having a fight with the locals over a turtle and a reconciliation afterwards.

We encountered this dog just outside the museum with his croc. He was very attached to it and would not let go of it so I could throw it for him. There are warning signs posted on the Cooktown docks about the presence of crocs in the area so needless to say we did not do any swimming. Did you know they even farm crocs here in Aus. They use the meat in restaurants but mostly they are farmed for their skin, which they make belts, boots and fancy bags out of!!!

This is the anchorage on the Endeavor River from the top of Grassy Hill, which members of the crew of the Endeavor climbed to see if they could find a way through the Great Barrier Reef out to open water. Barry and I climbed up it the other day and then continued on down to a secluded beach on the other side of the headland. We met another couple on the way and he clamoured up a tree and lopped down a coconut. Shortly after this was taken we were sitting on a rock swilling down lovely refreshing coconut juice.

Australian's army decommissioned a bunch of Leopard tanks and Cooktown applied to get one. It was recently brought to town and installed on a specially reinforced cement base. The town invited the army band from Townsville to take part in the Discovery Festival and officially dedicate this tank. The band was a great addition to the weekend . They were in a word, terrific. They had such a wide repertoire which included military marches, big band swing numbers, cabaret style music as well as rock and roll tunes. I truly enjoyed listening to their music, in all they appeared 5 times around town and I only heard them repeat about 4 tunes. One of the vocalist had a great line. He had been talking about dedicating the tank and then the band went into a rendition of "The Candyman". After they were done this fella jokes "Nothing says land warfare like The Candyman", it just cracked me up. There was a female sergaent that had a great voice. She did a very nice rendition of Mac The Knife, but it was hard to reconcile this wonderful sultry voice coming from a girl dressed in army khaki with a big thick brown leather belt and polished black army boots.

Cooktown's other claim to fame is the goldfields that were found in the 1870's about 130 km away. At one time there were over 16,000 Chinese people living in the area, working in the goldfields, establishing businesses, and raising market gardens to feed the miners. After the parade was over they unvieled some statues to commemorate their presence in the area.

I had a hard time convincing Barry to stay here to see the festival. He was anxious to make tracks to Darwin, we have only about 3 weeks to sail about 1,400 nm. I think we are both pleased that we stayed and took part in the festival which brought some of Australia's early history alive before our eyes. We were pleased to see the Aborigines take an active part in the festival and have their part explained. Cook landed in an area that traditionally was used to settle disputes between tribes and so there was no attacks upon him or his crew and their visit and their interactions with the Aborigines were peaceful. We have seen very little of the Aboriginie people in the rest of Australia so it was good to encounter it here. They have a large presence in the Northern Territories so we hope to learn more about their culture further north.