Cairns we headed off west by car to the Atherton Tableland, a
high plateau, for a couple of days, the landscape varying from the
typical dry Australian bush to lush forests and uplands.
He created a whole park
around the castle, landscaped the waterfall, filling the pool with
voracious eels, and cleared walks through the impressively tall kauri
trees.Today, although his family no longer own the property, his dream has
been kept intact for us to share.
The local rain forest Aborigines form part of the Paronella
experience, offering Bush Tucker walks and dance exhibitions. Here is our
guide making colours by simply wetting different ochreous rocks and
rubbing them on another stone to create the paint. Chris is receiving the
3-finger stripe which he didn't wash off for several
Cooktown was a
pretty little place and had all the charm of untouched colonial
The weather was wet and
rainy during this part of our trip, as you can see from the photo of
Carelbi at Cooktown below. Walking back down Cooktown's main street
we were caught in a downpour and returned to Carelbi totally
Since meeting in an anchorage called Flinder's Passage, we had been
sailing with Dave and Di on Amoenitas and Andrew, an
Australian solo-sailor on a yacht called Brut. Andrew is from
Melbourne and is more or less halfway through a circumnavigation
We had lots of wind and short lumpy seas on this part of the trip. On
the right is Carelbi doing 8 knots in the typical 25 knot SE trades
and below our friends on Amoenitas.
After Cape York we had
another fast, bumpy passage across the shallow Gulf of Carpentaria. This
little cormorant hitched a lift with us and spent 24 hours sitting
and shitting on our solar panels. He was quite impervious to the
flashlight which shows him sleeping peacefully around midnight. Luckily
his farewell presents cleaned off quite easily with water.
pipeline, stretching away further than one could see brings the
bauxite-bearing soil to the processing plant, photographed on the right.
The art was quite
fascinating, but to appreciate it properly I understand that one needs to
be able to decipher the symbols for tribal totems, family kinship
structures and landscapes portrayed, knowledge not easily acquired by
people passing through as we were.
between Gove and Darwin was singularly without interest, being mainly long
flat beaches fringed by mangrove swamps, and infested by crocodiles. No
towns, no buildings, nothing except impressively endless nature. Each bay
looked like the preceding one, it was not sensible to go ashore and
we all decided to get to Darwin as fast as possible. If ever I have
to spend time in hell as a punishment for my sins in this life, God
will send me to sail the east coast of Australia!
On our second day we
visited Paronella Park, the fantasy of a young Spaniard who had made his
fortune in Australia in the early 1900's. He returned to Spain to collect
a wife and together they built his Spanish castle just south of
Innisfail using the local volcanic stone.
We stopped off for 24 hours in Cooktown. You cannot sail anywhere in
Australia or New Zealand without following in the footsteps of
this incredible man and marvelling at the legacy of all the places named
by him and after him.
Cooktown has not forgotten its Aboriginals, neither past nor present,
and has stones set into pavements and walls commemorating their customs.
The first plaque shows the animals and plants associated with
the months of the year and the second their original hunting
The next point of interest was Cape York, about 500 miles further
north, and the northernmost point of Australia. Despite alarming warnings
about crocodiles: "ACHTUNG!" we read on the signpost, in German we
were told because a German tourist had been dragged to his death in the
vicinity. We have nine German boats on the rally we are taking to
Indonesia and we are told that the intrepid occupants of these boats had a
habit of jumping into the water as they arrived in these crocodile
infested bays, much to the horror of other yachts nearby. Below is the
plaque depicting the various distances to far-flung places such as
London and Paris from Cape York.
Brut used to leave an anchorage an hour before us every day
and sailed his much smaller boat so well it was usually
afternoon before we managed to catch him up.
We made landfall at Gove which is a township built and owned
by Alcan who operate the local bauxite mine. The soil is the deepest
red I have ever seen,and the scale of the operation was quite
Together with Dave and Di from Amoenitas, we were temporarily
adopted by a kind couple who had lived in Gove for fifteen years or more.
Leonie, below left, had been formally adopted into a prominent
Aboriginal family and took us to the workshop and museum of Aboriginal art
in a nearby township.
Most nights found Chris, Andrew and Dave plotting how far we
could get the following day, given the available anchorages and wind
Finally, and with a huge sense of relief, we found ourselves locking
through into Cullen Bay Marina in Darwin, squashed into a 10 metre-wide
space with another boat, about six inches between us and the lock walls.
We all went off to a local restaurant to celebrate and I ate a large
portion of crocodile, my revenge for being imprisoned on the boat by the
continuous presence of these fearsome beasts on our long