I was feeling rather proud of myself after the meticulous planning and preparation it took to get to Cooktown and make the change over to cycling the BNT. Nonetheless, despite my best efforts there were still a few hiccups to be had before we could hit the trail once more. It turned out we were destined to be stuck in Cooktown for 10 days, rather than two as planned.
Firstly, our bike and cargo trailer didn’t arrive until days after we got there. Such is life. There are worse places to be stuck than Cooktown. In fact, what with all the history and stories behind it, Cooktown is a homeschooler’s dream. So we used our ‘week off’ to get out an about and see the sights, and to catch up on schoolwork.
Cooktown is located at the mouth of the Endeavour river in Queensland’s Cape York, where Captain James Cook beached his ship for repairs in 1770. Luckily for Cook and his crew, he happened to land on a strip of land that was deigned neutral territory by local clans, where no fighting or conflict was to be engaged in.
Over the course of the next seven weeks, Banks (the expedition’s scientist) had a literal field day studying the new species and natural wonders of the area. He also recorded over 50 local Guugu Yimithirr words, one of which was ‘gangurru’, when he asked what the strange hopping creatures found in the area were called. Banks recorded the term as ‘kangaroo’ and it has been a part of our everyday Australian vocabulary ever since.
And 246 years later, Eliza and Z’s bike arrived in town! Yay! When it did get here, it took us a whole afternoon to extract it from the multiple boxes, bubble wrap and packaging that it came in. I then had to somehow piece it all together into one functional, lean, mean cycling machine. Which, amazingly, I did! Ha! Take that, Giggly Bike Shop dude!
After asking Z to give our new ‘steed’ a name, she informed me that it would be known as Holly for short, but that its stud name would be ‘ Exquisite Illusion Holstar’. And here she is…..
Next came the trailer. Everything was going great guns and I was on fire- the bike was here and looking AND functioning like a bike, we were in Cooktown, our three bubs were safe, we were almost ready to ride! Alas, disaster struck. And it was in the form of this innocent-looking little piece of metal…
Apparently, this is called a quick-release skewer. It goes through the wheel hub of the bike, attaching the rear wheel to the bike. So far, so good.
Our cargo trailer came also came with a quick release skewer, to attach it the bike. However, because tandem bikes have more spokes and hence a wider wheel hub than standard bikes, the quick release skewer that was supplied with the trailer was too short. Arrggghhh!!! Oh well. Like I said earlier, such is life. First World problems and all…. Luckily, as is often the case, soon as I calmed down and reassured myself that there would be a solution, one magically appeared.
My amazing friend Cathy rang to say she was planning to fly out to Cairns and was willing to be our support vehicle for our first week our so on the bike. Awesomeness! In addition to great company and moral support, this would render the mis-sized quick-release skewer a non-issue, or at least for the first week while we could put our gear in her hire car.
After making a few quick-release-skewer related enquiries around town and being met with black stares, I decided to try further afield. Nothing in Mareeba, Atherton, or any other towns coming up on the trail, but a bike shop in Cairns agreed to post out a gloriously long skewer to Mareeba for us to pick up a week later on our way through. Perfect! Sometimes I wonder at how blessed I am….
Now, we only had to play the waiting game, yet again. So if you are ever stuck in Cooktown waiting for a bike or a quick-release skewer (hey, you never know), here are a few of the things you might like to try…
Climb Up Grassy Hill Lookout
Captain Cook was the first European to climb Grassy Hill, back in 1770 when we was looking for a safe way to navigate around the reefs. Today, it still gives you a fantastic view of the ocean, Endeavour River and surrounding mountains,as well as Cooktown itself.
Visit the James Cook Museum
Both Z and I have been feeling a little museum weary as of late, probably because we visit just about every one that we come across, as well as the fact that the BNT doesn’t always leave a lot of head space for much else. But this place was fascinating. If you are considering paying it a visit, I recommend listening to the history talk before having a wander. Having done a unit on Australian history with my class only las year, I thought I was pretty clued up on that stuff, but there were so many interesting facts that I had never heard about.
Wander around the Cemetery
Nothing like a cemetery to enliven a trip! Sounds a bit morbid, but I love visiting cemeteries. They give you a glimpse into the history, culture and traditions of the people and place like nothing else can. The Cooktown cemetery is especially historic, and has Jewish and Roman Catholic quarters, as well as a Chinese shrine. Z was also pretty keen to hunt for the geocache located here. It took her a bit of convincing that it was highly unlikely to be located under a headstone or on an actual grave!
Have a Swim or three
Due to the rather large, man-eating lizards that abound here, you can’t actually swim in the ocean or rivers. But there are swimming pools everywhere, and heat a-plenty. Where else can you go swimming (and not freeze) in August in Australia?
Visit the Botanic Gardens
The Cooktown Botanical Garden was established in 1878, and commemorates the work of naturalists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander on HMS Endeavour who collected and documented botanical specimens from the district in 1770. Even if you’re not the botanical garden ‘sort’, its worth a look just to see all the weird and wacky tropical plants which most of us rarely set eyes upon.
The Nature’s Powerhouse is an innovative building also located within the grounds, and contains the Vera Scarth-Johnson Gallery. A well-known artist, collector and avid conservationist, Vera was concerned that some of the plants of her beloved Endeavour River were becoming harder to find during the many excursions she made deep into the river basin. Entranced by the beauty of the Endeavour River valley, she became passionate about the need to graphically record the flowering plants found in this unique region before they became endangered.
Vera’s paintings and drawings are extremely detailed, and Z was inspired to try some pen and watercolour drawings of her own. Here is her latest creation…