Monday, 3 September 2012

The Best Little Festival in Oz

Google has reliably informed me that one definition of the word ‘Festival’ is:

1. An often regularly recurring program of cultural performances, exhibitions, or competitions
2. Revelry; conviviality

We are lucky enough to enjoy several outstanding festivals in Tropical North Queensland but the one which stands out to me in terms of ‘revelry and conviviality’ has to be the Wallaby Creek Festival.

This year will be the 11th festival organized by an incredibly dedicated group of volunteers and held in the spectacular surroundings of Home Rule Rainforest Lodge in Rossville at the northern end of the Bloomfield Track.

The festivities will be held over 3 days from 28-30 September in 2012 and it’s no coincidence that this annual explosion of creativity in the rainforest takes place over the September school holidays. 

Wallaby Creek is a family friendly Festival in every sense of the word providing enough arts, crafts and music workshops to keep children engaged but also ensuring that there is a wide selection of live music, performance art, bush poetry and adults workshops to keep the big kids busy all weekend as well. The workshops are great places for the kids to make new friends in a relaxed and safe environment.

Market stalls, food stalls and a bar are dotted around the Festival site and two stages offer an eclectic mix of live music showcasing a mix of local bands and Festival favorites from far and wide.
Camping at Home Rule is included in the price of the tickets and the lush rainforest hides safe swimming in Wallaby Creek as well as a beautiful hike up to Home Rule Falls for those who wish to experience both the natural surroundings as well as the cultural highlights over the weekend.

It is probably this close connection to nature that makes the atmosphere of the Festival so ….. natural. This is not a weekend for airs and graces or contrived nuances it’s the time for everyone whether young or old to just be yourself, cut loose, make new friends and have a damned good party.

See you there!

The full  2012 program can be seen here -

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Priceless Aboriginal Rock Art in Laura

I recently read an article about a five year old child who was opening an art exhibition in New York. Apparently her artwork is ‘abstract expressionist and surrealist’ and people pay thousands of dollars to own her pieces. Good on her and her parents but it does make me wonder about how art is presented and perceived. 

I first visited the Split Rock Aboriginal rock art gallery just outside Laura on a self guided walk. This is incredibly beautiful country and the simplistic paintings seemed to blend seamlessly into the sandstone escarpment. There are information plaques indicating what I was looking at but I was somewhat mystified as to why the extensive collection of Quinkan rock art galleries around Laura have been hailed as among the top ten most significant rock art sites in the world by UNESCO. Admittedly the artists would not have had an extensive selection of painting materials and tools many thousands of years ago but the images were just not speaking to me.

Recognising that perhaps I verge on the side of the philistine where art is concerned it was recommended that I stop being a cheapskate and pay for a guided tour of the Quinkan rock art galleries, then I would enhance my appreciation of the rock art. Fair point as it turned out.
I booked a guided tour of the Mushroom Rock Gallery and the Giant Horse Gallery from the Quinkan Regional and Cultural Centre in Laura and the experience could not be more different from my self guided look at Split Rock. Without an understanding of the relationship between the images, the country, the flora and fauna, the people and the spirits it is impossible to relate to what you are looking at. Listening to your guide explaining the storylines behind the images in the jaw droppingly stunning surroundings of the Giant Horse Gallery was an extremely enlightening experience and I finally ‘got’ why this artwork is so special.
The images had found their voice.

So I would urge anyone visiting Laura to make your first stop the Quinkan and Regional Cultural Centre to gain an insight into Aboriginal Culture, then book one of several tours to the nearby rock art galleries – without the guides the whole experience is completely diminished. In fact with my new found appreciation of art I may even now elevate myself above the level of the philistine.
However I still wouldn’t pay fifteen grand for a scribble by a five year old.
Contact the Quinkan Regional and Cultural Centre for more info on 07 4060 3457
For more info - 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

So why is it called Grassy Hill …..?

Grassy Hill is a must-see destination in Cooktown with stunning views, particularly at sundown when the serpentine bends of the Endeavour River reflect the sunset.
However on 19 June 1770 Captain James Cook obviously did not share this opinion as he wrote in his journal:

 “This afternoon I went upon one of the highest hills over the harbour from which I had a perfect view of the inlet or river and adjacent country which afforded a very indifferent prospect…”

Admittedly he was trying to plot a course of escape after holing his ship the HMB Endeavour on the Great Barrier Reef south of Cooktown, so his lack of appreciation of the stunning views is perhaps understandable.

Before the redevelopment ...

Fast forward to 2012 and although those in favour of a brisk walk can travel by foot to the top of the hill if you so desire, a newly laid bitumen road to the top provides an easier option by car. Although now quite heavily forested, Grassy Hill is so known because local aboriginals used to deliberately burn the forest on the hill to encourage re-growth of vegetation and draw animals to the area for hunting.

In 2011 a redevelopment project of Cooktown’s premier viewpoint has led to improved access, new amenity areas and additional interpretive information for both tourists and residents. Look out for the personalised paving stones lining the disabled ramp access which were a fundraising initiative for the Cooktown Kindy.
The final stages of the redevelopment are nearing completion with a public arts project in the production phase and no doubt a fitting launch party for Cooktown’s favourite landmark will be coming soon.

On a full moon climb to the top of the hill and you will witness the remarkable spectacle of seeing the sun setting and full moon rising – a sight that may even have brought a smile to the lips of the grumpy Captain Cook.
For more information -


Thursday, 24 May 2012

An Epic Road Trip

Any discussion about the ultimate road trip in Australia will eventually include Cape York and the more beers consumed then the more corrugations, the deeper the river crossings, the larger the barramundi and the thicker the bull dust becomes.
But what defines the ultimate road trip and does Cape York really live up to it’s reputation?

There must be a worthy beginning to the trip and to be fair Cape York starts off with a bang. Dive the Great Barrier Reef or hike through the Daintree rainforest before driving up the spectacular Bloomfield Track and you know you have entered a special part of the world.

Take in the pioneering history of Cooktown, connect with different cultures, test your tastebuds, smell new scents, catch a fish for dinner, and witness the raw natural beauty as you head north as far as the road will go.
Escape from your comfort zone, experience novel sleeping arrangements, tackle the off road 4x4 tracks, rejuvenate in the most incredible natural swimming holes under cascading waterfalls and learn to expect the unexpected. And at the end of the day as you sip a beer under the night sky breathe the fresh air of freedom.

By the time you near the northernmost Tip of Australia you realize this is more than a road trip, it has become a pilgrimage to the final destination. The end of this journey is as startling as the beginning and standing next to the most famous sign in Australia inspires a sense of achievement which fuels the bragging stories of the future. 

So are the stories about Cape York all bull? Of course not so head north for the trip of a lifetime and discover for yourself the magic of Cape York Peninsula.

For more travel info on Cape York see

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Captains, Costumes and Cavalcades

For over fifty years the residents of Cooktown have celebrated the landing of Captain Cook on the banks of the Endeavour River in 1770 with an explosion of festivities on the Queen’s birthday weekend.

For many years the Cooktown Discovery Festival held legendary status as one of Australia’s longest and wildest parties with a re-enactment of Cook’s landing playing second fiddle to the serious business of the drinking games and events organized by the town’s pubs.

Nowadays the Festival is a more family friendly affair and the fully costumed re-enactment has been transformed into a fun performance telling the story of the plight of the HMB Endeavour from both an Aboriginal and European perspective. The warm fuzzy feeling generated from watching the actors, and sitting on the same ground that the first reconciliation between the two cultures took place, resonates throughout the weekend.

Of course it wouldn’t be the same Festival without the weird, wonderful and quirky and the 2012 program of events promises plenty of choice. Billy kart races or cane toad races, a grand parade or an obstacle course, movies in the park or a film festival, poets, thesps and live bands, marines with muskets and exploding cannons, belly dancers or Morris dancers, convicts at large and wanton wenches, an Aboriginal corroboree and fireworks – the list goes on. 

So come and experience a blast from the past at the Cooktown Discovery Festival from June 8- 11, discover your history and live for today.

For the full 2012 program and more info -

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Cooktown and Cape York: An Innocent Assault by a Masked Avenger

Cooktown and Cape York: An Innocent Assault by a Masked Avenger: I was attacked on my walk to work this week. I was aware of my assailant who was masked and proudly strutting as part of a pair of obviou...

An Innocent Assault by a Masked Avenger

I was attacked on my walk to work this week. I was aware of my assailant who was masked and proudly strutting as part of a pair of obviously disturbed youths. I tried to avoid eye contact but this did not help. I changed my direction to avoid their personal space but to no avail – the first attack was direct and purposeful aiming for my head, my innocent but provocative actions had obviously pushed them over the edge.

I should have known better really as there are many similar gangs in Cooktown who defend their space without hesitation, it’s just a natural reaction to being born a masked lapwing (also known as the spur-winged plover). The Guugu Yimithirr people call the spur-wing plover Milgaandurr and it is known as the alarm bird. It is a friendly messenger, bringing tidings of births and deaths within families.

To be fair I reckon he or she was bluffing and it was just a warning attack as the swoop over my head only required an instinctive duck not the embarrassment of a prostration on the ground. As a ground nesting bird they are only protecting their nests and they usually produce two chicks which is when they are at their most aggressive. They can also use cunning diversionary tactics to protect their chicks including defending ‘fake’ nests and somewhat amusing distraction tactics like hopping around on one leg to divert attention away from their nest.
It is easy for the unsuspecting passerby to inadvertently impose on a nest, so if you are walking along or mowing the grass and see an agitated plover try to give them a bit of respect.

And if you do come under attack just hope that no one else is watching you make a spectacle of yourself.

Find out more about the Guugu Yimithirr culture HERE