Landmark Birthdays: Part 2

My final landmark birthday fell in the middle of a triple celebratory 6-month holiday, camping around Australia. It was my 49th birthday (my 50th year), my husband had entered his 60s the previous year and it was our 25th wedding anniversary!  We had just sold our Dorrigo property the previous year and were foot-loose and fancy-free again! Originally, we had planned a 3-month trip to Cape York, finishing with Lawn Hill, but we were having such a great time and all our obligations were being met, so we decided to continue travelling around the rest of our amazing continent. The outlay had been relatively small, as we already had an old Toyota 4WD, which we set up with my patchwork drawers in the back to hold all our provisions.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_1436 We bought a heavy-duty canvas tent, which could be erected in 5 minutes flat (and often was!) and a car fridge, but we already had most of the camping equipment, including an inflatable queen-sized mattress and a light bushwalking tent, not to mention Caroline’s favourite travelling companion, the porta-loo, which kept threatening to fall down on her during the trip!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5101 Our youngest daughter, Caroline, who had just left school and was accustomed to joining us on our anniversary camping trips, came with us, as well as her guitar and a mascot called Nomad (as in Grey Nomad!), an Eeyore donkey from Ross’s favourite childhood book, Winnie-the-Pooh! Here is our intrepid adventurer at Cooktown Botanic Garden on the head of ‘Mungurru’, the scrub python, who created the Endeavour River, according to local aboriginal legend. It was carved out of Cooktown Ironwood (Erythrophelum chlorostachys), a very hard wood, from which the aborigines also used to make their spears.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_1838 It was wonderful having our very own travelling minstrel and the perfect way to encourage fellow campers to turn off their radios and listen to some real music! She even entertained a tour group of 18 retirees with Wilderness Challenge’s 4WD safari tour at Jowalbinna on Cape York.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_2687We had some wonderful adventures together from:

Climbing Mt Kootaloo on Dunk Island; visiting relatives and friends in Townsville, Cairns, Herberton and the Daintree; and revisiting Cape Tribulation (see below), where we camped on the beach totally on our own for our honeymoon, all those years ago, and just before the Bloomfield Rd went in- now the place is crawling with tourists ! ;BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_1722Watching a rescue of an injured fisherman by the Royal Flying Doctor Service at Musgrave Station, where the road had to be cleared of cattle before the plane could land; and viewing Eclectus Parrots, Palm Cockatoos, Yellow-bellied Sunbirds, Double-eyed Fig Parrots and butterflies at Iron Range National Park. The photo below shows a male Eclectus Parrot.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_2486Learning to juggle at Moreton Telegraph Station with Smokey, the support team for Michael Mitchell’s ‘Great Australian Cancer Bush Walk’,  retracing Steve Tremont’s footsteps from the tip of Cape York to Wilson’s Promontory, Victoria, along the Great Dividing Range; being attacked by cave bat lice at Captain Billy’s Landing- a very uncomfortable night !; and swimming at Twin Falls;BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_3891Singing and playing guitar with other guests round a campfire at Punsand Camping Resort on the top of Cape York ; Feasting on freshly-caught crab the size of a dinner plate at Jardine’s old homestead site (photo above)  and playing guitar on the very tip of Australia- Caroline actually walked to the cape 3 times- the 2nd time to collect Nomad and the 3rd time her guitar (photo below) !

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Driving part of the Old Telegraph Track past huge termite mounds and bustards to the notorious Gun Shot section, environmental vandalism by 4WD at its worst! To give you a bit of an idea, see : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nF92zaHtnYc. Needless to say, we did NOT attempt it! We drove up to the cape early in the season and I think a lot of our fellow travellers thought that we were a little bit strange, because we weren’t fishermen nor 4WD enthusiasts and we actually enjoyed looking at birds !!! ; crossing flooded streams and having to wade through potentially-infested crocodile waters to check for depth and dangerous potholes !; and exploring ancient aboriginal cave art at Jowalbinna and Laura, including a tour with Steve Tresize. The cave art below was at the Guguyalangi Gallery at Laura. UNESCO rate the Quinkan region as one of the top 10 rock art sites in the world.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_4823And this was all before my birthday! We camped at Old Laura the night before, and my 49th birthday was heralded by a flyover of hundreds of squawking Red-tailed Black Cockatoos! Such delightful raucous party animals!!!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5186BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5250BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5193BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5227BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5204 Ross gave me a tripod for my birthday, but we decided to reserve the official birthday celebrations till the mid-June, when we were spending a week in a house in Cooktown.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5215

I had a makeshift birthday cake- a crustless slice of bread, smeared with Nutella and lit with 3 matches at Kalpowar Crossing, where we set up camp in Lakefield National Park on the banks of the Normanby River.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5288 We met a lovely couple, Ruth and Dave, from Mornington Peninsula, who were in effect having a pre-honeymoon, as they were married the following year. We shared many interests like archaeology, aboriginal cave art and environment and Ruth also sang and played guitar, so we enjoyed listening to duets by Caro and Ruth.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5602BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5582

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Never smile at a crocodile!

We saw a huge freshwater crocodile sunning on the riverbank and loved our birdwatching at all the billabongs and lagoons. The first photo is Lakefield Lagoon and the second photo was taken at Catfish Waterhole.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5524BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5273Here are some of the birds we saw :

Magpie Geese, with goslings, hiding amongst the Lotus leaves at Red Lily Lagoon;BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5494Brolgas feeding on the tubers of sedges;BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5500Green Pygmy Geese displaying iridescent, metallic green feathers;BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5540Comb-crested Jacanas and their babies crossing lilypads;BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5302BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5513White-bellied Sea Eagles (1st photo), Ospreys, Brown Falcons (2nd photo) and Black Kites surveying for prey;BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5556BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5638Stately Straw-necked Ibis nonchalantly strolling by dozing crocodiles;BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5574Sacred (1st and 2nd photos) and Forest Kingfishers (3rd photo) perched on river boughs;BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5321BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5522BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5563Rainbow Bee-eaters, which nest in riverbanks;BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6003Black-fronted Dotterels on the dry bed of the Morehead River;BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5641And Pelicans climbing the thermals high in the sky. For more information on Lakefield National Park, please see : http://www.nprsr.qld.gov.au/parks/rinyirru-lakefield/culture.html.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5689So many birds and an ornithologist’s paradise!!!  But the jewel in the crown was the highly endangered and difficult-to-find Golden-shouldered Parrot. We had tried to find these elusive small parrots at Musgrave Station on our way up and down the cape to no avail ! The manager at Musgrave told us to check out Windmill Creek, where we waited for half an hour- still no luck ! His Auntie Sue (Sue and Tom Shephard, Artemis Station) was the honorary caretaker for these parrots on her property, but she was away at a family funeral! We called in at Lotus Bird Lodge (http://www.lotusbird.com.au/), an expensive resort and prominent birdwatching venue, with over 200 species of birds , whose owner very kindly let us eat our picnic lunch in the cool shade of their verandah and walk around their water-lily billabong.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5788BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5787BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5740BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5849BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5813 We saw huge flocks of Little Corellas, a Black-backed Butcher Bird, a sleepy trio of Papuan Frogmouths (1st photo) and Roger Ramjet, a hand-reared baby Red-winged Parrot (2nd photo).BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5801BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5792 The owner suggested that we drive a further 200m past Windmill Creek and walk in to the termite mounds, in which they make their nests- still no parrots! And then, just as we’d given up and come to terms with never seeing them, we were walking back to the car and down they flew –  a small flock of 8 males and females – grazing on the side of the road, despite all the passing traffic!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5958BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5934BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_5938 So special and a wonderful birthday present (since the birthday was extending over the whole week!), only to be equalled by seeing the first Gouldian Finches of the season (a breeding pair with 2 offspring!) at Mornington Wilderness Resort on the Gibb River Rd, Western Australia later in the year!!! For more information on the Golden-shouldered Parrot, see : http://www.landmanager.org.au/tom-and-sue-shephard-winners-queensland-landcare-conservation-award-2007  and    https://www.ehp.qld.gov.au/wildlife/threatened-species/endangered/endangered-animals/goldenshouldered_parrot.html. Another good site, which also covers Eclectus and Palm Cockatoos, as well as Gouldian Finches is : http://aviculturalsocietynsw.org/_articles/Golden-shoulderedParrot2015.htm#.VzQ1beS2oxI

We had a wonderful week in Cooktown- one of my favourite tropical towns! Here is a link to their tourism site: http://tropicalnorthqueensland.org.au/destination/cooktown/.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_1768 It started with the Queen’s Birthday Weekend, which is also the annual Discovery Festival, a series of events held to commemorate Captain Cook’s landing here back in 1770, though really it was to celebrate my birthday!!!  We knew that there would be lots of visitors to town with the camping grounds fully-booked, so we had pre-booked a house underneath Mt Cook for a week, while we waited for the Lizard Island seaplane to be repaired. The weekend started with a 7.30am Can-Can workshop with a troupe called Sassy Catz from Cairns (https://www.facebook.com/Sassy-Catz-Dance-Troupe-266763093482332/). The dancers were fabulous and their costumes very cute and colourful.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdDSCF0403BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdDSCF0417 Because Caroline and I were the only participants, apart from the organizer, they invited us to join them in the Grand Parade through the main street in town. What they neglected to tell us was that they were at the front of the parade, just behind the boys in white, the Barrier Reef Jazz Band, who played totally inappropriate music, to which it was impossible to dance! Afterwards, we had a guided tour of Cooktown Cemetery , where we saw Mary Watson’s grave and learned about the Normanby woman, a fair-skinned woman living amongst aborigines in 1873. We also had a guided tour of the Cooktown Botanical Gardens.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6193BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6176The re-enactment on the Sunday was held in Bicentennial Park on the Endeavour River at the exact spot Cook landed in 1770 to repair his ship after damage on the reefs off Cape Tribulation.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6239BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6250 The cannon, sent to Cooktown in 1880 as a response to a request for military backup against a threatened Russian invasion (!), was fired, then we attended the hilarious Lion’s Club Billy Goat Derby. It was held on a steep street, cushioned at the bottom with hay bales.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6259 Forty intrepid contestants raced a variety of highly creative, home-made carts from bath tubs to Captain Pugwash’s bright pink boat on wheels, driven by a polar bear ‘Bundy Bear’;  a bicycle affair; and the cockatoo-decorated ‘Indigenous Warrior”.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6274BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6273BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6264 We were also very impressed by the Stepping Out sponsor maidens, who negotiated the steep slope in their high heels with great style!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6269We watched the wonderful Hopevale Aboriginal Dancers perform in the Cooktown Botanical gardens and finished the day with a lovely sensual dance by the Shee Sha Belly Dancers, their pastel gauzy veils swaying in the warm breeze and finally, a spectacular fireworks display reflected in the river. I think that it is almost the best fireworks I have ever seen – forget Sydney !!!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6281 Another day, we walked from the Botanic Gardens to Cherry Tree Bay and then up to Grassy Hill, the perfect place to watch the sun setting over the Endeavour River and the Coral Sea.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6346Then, it was time for my official birthday celebration. I reopened a wrapped tripod, as well as a blue polka-dot chiffon skirt, some earrings made out of red seeds, a book on Pioneer Women by  Susanna de Vries and an illustrated music score of a song, written by Caroline, about our trip. Birthday breakfast was delicious pancakes with tropical fruit.

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BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6369 Dave and Ruth, our friends from Lakefield National Park, called in for a birthday lunch- we’d bumped into them unexpectedly when shopping on our arrival in Cooktown. They came bearing bread rolls, tomatoes, blue cheese and chocolates. It was so good to see them and hear all their news. We caught up with them later again in Kakadu National Park, again by accident, and later had a planned rendez-vous in Darwin. We also visited them in their home on the Mornington Peninsula a number of times during our stay  in Victoria.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6376After they left, we drove down to the stunningly beautiful Archer Point , 15 km south of Cooktown, to watch the visiting tall ship replica ‘Duyfken’, sailing south. Such a magical spot in the golden light of the late afternoon sun! The colours were spectacular- red grass,  gold and green mangroves and blue, blue mountains plunging into the sea.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6379BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6389BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6396BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6455 We celebrated my birthday in style at the magnificent Shadows Restaurant in the shadow of Mt. Cook. A superb menu, but so difficult to choose as every meal was divine!  I had an entrée of prawn spring rolls, a coral trout with tartare sauce for mains and a coconut and rum crème brulée for dessert- heaven!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6512BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6502BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6510BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6500While I won’t recount the whole trip, there were two more birthday highlights : a walk up Mt Cook the next day and then our long-awaited weekend on Lizard Island.  I lost so much weight on that trip through hiking up every high point in the heat and sweating it off! For the first time in my life, I had a waist! It was fantastic! I think I need another trip to the tropics!!! Even though it was Winter, I still needed 6 cold showers a day to cope with the heat!!!  We also used the local pool every day – in fact, we were invited to join the local aquarobics group!

Before we left Cooktown, we climbed to the summit of Mt. Cook (431m). The circuit track is 6 km long and takes 3 hours.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6531 We climbed up through open forest with ancient Palm Cycads and Zamia ferns, Kapok Trees and Native Cypress to a rainforest full of Cordylines, Elkhorns, thickets of lethal Lawyer Vines and colourful rainforest fruits on the forest floor. The 2nd photo is the Zamia Fern, Bowenia spectabilis, one of the world’s smallest cycads.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6638BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6562 And then to the summit with its wind-sheared vegetation (including Umbrella Trees and Oak-leafed Fern) and spectacular, extensive views over Walker Bay and Archer Point to the reef, Quarantine Bay and the mouth of the mighty Annan River.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6615BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6625BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6612 We saw Orange-footed Scrub Fowls, Wompoo Fruit Doves, Rose-crowned Fruit Doves and an Osprey soaring in the thermals. Cooktown is very windy, with the trade winds blowing constantly from May to September.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6609BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6557And finally, Lizard Island – what a spot to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary!  We had initially booked a seaplane from Cooktown to Lizard Island, which had the added advantage of landing on the water, right next to the National Park campsite, but unfortunately mechanical problems meant we had to abandon that plan and drive back to Cairns on the Friday to take a flight to Lizard Island,  270 Km to the north, with Hinterland Air instead.  Because of the exorbitant price of the new tickets, we left Caro with friends in Cairns. This is our first sighting of Lizard Island from the air.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6881That Saturday was the best day for flying over the Great Barrier Reef in months and we had fantastic views over the coast, patch and ribbon reefs and atolls. Captain Cook was amazing navigating through all those reefs!  We could even see the high sand dunes of Cape Flattery  to the north in the distance.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6859BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6865BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6890 We shared the tiny 6-seater plane with the pilot and the island nurse in the front seats and another couple, who obviously had a much bigger income and were staying at Lizard Island Resort ( roughly $2000 per night). See: http://www.lizardisland.com.au/About.aspx.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6904BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6905BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7029 We, on the other hand, were paying $4.50 per night in the National Parks campsite on the far northern (left in photo below) corner of Watson’s Bay and we got the entire campsite to ourselves. Now that’s what I call true exclusivity!!! For a map of the island and details about the walks and the island, see: http://www.nprsr.qld.gov.au/parks/lizard-island/about.html.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6901BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7003BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7447BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6982It felt like a long walk from the airport, even though it is only 685m, but we had to carry everything in. We took the 30 minute Pandanus Track over Chinaman’s Ridge, past Pandanus Palms and through a Paperbark forest, over a Mangrove boardwalk and past the ruins of Mary Watson’s Cottage to the sparkling white sands and aqua waters of Watson’s Bay.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6919BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6950BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6963 Mary Watson (21), whose grave we saw in Cooktown, died with her baby son in tragic circumstances in 1881. She was married to a bêche-de-mer fisherman, who was often away and she used to walk up to the highest point of the island, Cooks Look, to watch for his return. Unbeknown to her, the latter was an important ceremonial aboriginal site, where young boys were initiated. A group of Dingaal people came to investigate smoke on Lizard Island and killed one of the two Chinese servants, wounding the other, and a terrified Mary set sail in one of the bêche-de-mer boiling tanks with her infant son and the injured servant. They all died of dehydration within 8 days on the waterless Howick No. 5  island. You can read her diary entries on :http://www.cooktownandcapeyork.com/do/history/mary_watson. Below are photos of an aboriginal midden and the ruins of Mary’s cottage.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7499BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6948BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6978After a long walk up to the end of the beach and past Mary’s old well, we arrived at the camp site to meet its resident silver gull (photo above) and a couple of yachties, Guy and Annika, from ‘Street Legal’, who had been sailing round the world for 10 years and were halfway through their trip! They explained the etiquette of the camp treasure chest ‘Pandora’s Box’, hidden in a wooden barrel at the back of the campground and inscribed with the message : ‘Who be ye that disturbs my slumber, tell me your story and pay my price’! The rule is that if you open the box, you must put some treasure in. The box was already filled with silver goblets, candlesticks and necklaces. Obviously, yachties have plenty of loot to spare, but as light-weight campers, who had to lug everything in and out, we were stumped for a few days as to what we could possibly contribute! The solution dawned on us at the last panicky hour! It was obvious!!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6975BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7467BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6977For our whole stay, clean water had been a major issue! We were collecting water from Mary’s well, but hated the taste of our purifying tablets, so had been boiling the water instead.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7356 Unfortunately, we had neglected to bring in our empty 10 litre water flagons- a big mistake (!) , but we did have our washing up sink, so Ross would trek to the well a few times a day, then return, awkwardly carrying the heavy square tub, filled with water, in front of him. The only receptacles we had to store the purified water were 2 demi-litre bottles of Rosé, which we had drunk on our first night. So, when we were pressed to come up with a treasure, it was as plain as the nose on our face! Water is one of the most precious commodities in the world, especially when scarce, so we filled those two  little bottles with our valuable water and put them in the chest, along with an inspired ditty in the log book explaining the logic, which you can read at the end of this post!! You can see our little bottle on the left of this photo!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7468We had a wonderful weekend on Lizard Island. In Watson’s Bay, we snorkelled over beds of giant green, blue and purple velvety clams (Tridacna gigas), each measuring up to 1.2 m across and weighing up to 230 kg. There were also 8 species of solitary corals (including a blue one) ; 350 species of hard corals; Feather Stars; Sea Pens; Sponges; and a wide variety of colourful fish : Black-and-white Damsels, Yellow Butterfly Fish, Six-barred Wrasse and Parrot Fish. It looked like an underwater forest! Unfortunately, I lost my snorkel on the last day somewhere along the way! Lizard Island is renowned for its fringing reef (photos 1 and 3) and its clam gardens (photo 2).BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7017BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7336BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7350We made friends with the yachties, who were heading for Darwin in July to form a safety convoy before sailing to Indonesia and risking the pirate threat. ‘Kalida’ belonged to a lovely couple, Alison and David, who were home-educating their children, and we also met a charming Norwegian couple called Rune and Eden. The yachties and campers naturally bond together, because both are prohibited from the resort, except for the staff bar. The yachties had commandeered a National Park table and set it up on the beach as a drinks venue for The Lizard Island Yacht Club, where we were invited the first night. We checked out the staff bar on the second night!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7056BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6962Lizard Island was declared a National Park (1013 ha) in 1939, with the addition of other islands in 1987. While known as Jiigurru by the Dingaal people, Captain Cook called it Lizard Island after the goannas, including the Yellow-spotted Monitor (Varanus panoptes).and Gould’s Sand Monitor (Varanus gouldii), which he saw on the island.  Unfortunately we didn’t see any, though we saw plenty of burrows in the sand!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7307BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7358  It is a dry island rather than a tropical one- 60 per cent of the island is grassland. The sheltered south-west side of the island supports an open woodland of Eucalypts, Acacias, Tibouchinas (photo 4), Brachychiton and Kapok trees (photo 3).BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7308BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7105BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7296BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7177

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Umbrella Tree

We walked up huge granite boulders to Cooks Look (359m), so called because this is where Captain Cook looked to find a way through the reefs in 1770. The 2.25 km walk takes 2-3 hours.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7011BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7126 We saw Yellow-bellied Sunbirds, Fruit Doves, Rainbow Bee-eaters and huge bumblebees, but no lizards!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7317BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7353  The summit was covered with beautiful heathland, stunted eucalypts, umbrella trees, orchids and ferns. We met a couple of dive instructors, who amazingly knew all about Dorrigo – it transpired that the couple, who managed  the research station for the Winter/ Spring months, Bob and Tania Lamb, spent the rest of the year in Coffs Harbour and we had mutual friends from Dorrigo! Unfortunately, they are no longer there.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7184BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7183BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7189There were fabulous views over the entire island of Watson’s Bay, Lizard Island Resort, the airstrip and Blue Lagoon.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7151BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7162BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7083BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7153BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7320BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7134On our third and last day, we packed up, dumped our bags at the airport and walked across to Blue Lagoon and the Lizard Island Research Station.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7503

It was established in 1973 by the Australian Museum and conducts research on the coral reef, as well as hosting academics and researchers and educating visiting school and university students. These are good sites to visit : http://australianmuseum.net.au/lizard-island-research-station  and http://australianmuseum.net.au/uploads/documents/31852/newsletter%202013%20web.pdf, as well as an informative introductory video at : http://australianmuseum.net.au/movie/introduction-lizard-island. While we were there, some Texan university students arrived back after scuba-diving (1st photo). The 2nd photo is the station’s research vessel.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7511BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6946 Tania (far right in 1st photo) gave us a guided tour of the station with our yachtie friends. We saw a PhD project on the effects of global warming on foraminifera, nudibranches and hard coral, but there are so many more research projects.  From research conducted at Lizard Island, up to 100 scientific publications are produced each year.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7513BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7526BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7532BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7549

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Crown of Thorns Starfish and coral reef destroyer!

The yachtie kids loved the tanks of marine creatures, including a Decorator Crab, whose shell was covered with lots of little pieces of Chux.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7563BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7558 It was a fascinating place and if we ever want to return to Lizard Island, there are volunteer opportunities, where board is free in return for cleaning and maintenance duties: see http://australianmuseum.net.au/volunteering-on-lizard-island-research-station and http://australianmuseum.net.au/station-volunteer-program. If you are a qualified divemaster, you can be a research volunteer- see :  http://australianmuseum.net.au/volunteer-research-assistance.

After our visit, we walked to the beautiful Blue Lagoon and Trawler Bay.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7655BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7626BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7618BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7590BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7648

Then sadly returned to the airfield and flew back to Cairns.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7661BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7667And that was the end of Landmark Birthday No. 3 !  We continued on our Round Australia trip till mid-October with so many amazing adventures and experiences, but that’s a story for future posts!!!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7407

Here is the Lizard Island poem as promised:

 

Lizard Island Ode by a Pair of Very Merry Campers!

We flew from Cairns on a gorgeous day,

Then hauled our packs to Watson’s Bay

And pitched our tent at the camping stove,

Where we soon discovered this treasure trove,

Full of jewels and trinkets gold

And other treasures to behold!

What could we humble camper pair

Possibly add to enrich such fare?!

 

We pondered on this for three days

While snorkelling, walk-ling…never to laze

Beside the beach or read a book-

We even climbed up to Cook’s Look!

But, whenever we ever got a free spell,

We had to go off to the well!

Collecting water was arduous work!

An essential duty we could not shirk!!!

 

We carted and boiled in tiny lots,

Because we’d forgotten the ten- litre bots!

The Aquatabs were horrible!

The water tasted like a pool!

…The final night! And still no clue!

To help us , we imbibed a few!

We needed treasure beyond compare

To match up to these baubles fair!

Then, FINALLY, we had some luck!

Another swig- a brainwave struck!

The treasure that we strove to find

Was under our noses! We’d been so blind!!!

 

The most precious treasure of the lot

Was what we had in each tiny pot!

So, we’ve packaged it in a Rosé bot

And added it to this priceless lot!

The next poor sod with a raging thirst

Will surely open our treasure first!

And please excuse this AWFUL rhyme!

It’s ‘cos we’ve guzzled too much wine!!!

Sapphire Dreaming

The Far South Coast of NSW, from Bermagui to Eden, is known as the Sapphire Coast and it is easy to see why, when you view that blue, blue sea with rolling green farmland running straight down to the beach and discover hidden gems like Hidden Valley, which lies just to the north of Bunga Head and Aragunnu, which I covered in a previous post ‘Summer Dreaming’, and which is also part of Mimosa Rocks National Park.BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.24.44This magical stretch of coastline from Goalen Head in the north to Bunga Head in the south, can be accessed via Hergenhans Rd, 2.8 km off the Tathra-Bermagui Rd. We first visited this area last May and were blown away by the spectacular beauty of the place. The track through the paddock leads down to Bunga Beach and a small creek, which leads back to Bunga Lagoon.BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.39.36BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.40.49BlogSapphire dreamg20%ReszdIMG_8742BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.45.48Across the creek is a large rocky outcrop, which serves as a wonderful vantage point from which to plan your explorations. To the north, Goalen Head (1st and 2nd photo below) and the south, Bunga Head (3rd and 4th photo below).BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.49.54BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.50.14BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.50.43BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.46.19We  started by walking down Bunga Beach South to Hidden Valley and Bunga Head, then returned along an old farm track to Bunga Beach North and Goalen Head.

Bunga Beach South is a sandy beach 1.3km long, and is a breeding site of Hooded Plovers (Thinornis rubricollis). We saw a National Park sign the other day, which said there were less than 50 Hooded Plovers left in NSW! Here are a few photos of our journey down the beach. The rocks and their weathering patterns were amazing!BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.16.34BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.14.04BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.16.10BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.14.41BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.13.38BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.17.01BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.19.41BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.23.54BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.29.40BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.36.32BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.42.07The Southern end of the beach is 370m long and  has a small creek at its northern end, which feeds into Hidden Valley. Bunga Head lies to the south with its hexagonal columns and dramatic cliffs.BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.59.00BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.49.11BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.50.09BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.54.59BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.51.39Hidden Valley is well-named, as it is tucked in behind the northern side of Bunga Head and can only be accessed on foot via an old farm track through regenerating bushland from the Bunga South car park at the end of Hergenhans Rd or via Bunga Beach South. There is an informal old track (3km) over the 127m high Bunga Head, but it is not easy to find and is not promoted by NPWS, due to cultural sensitivitiesBlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 13.01.06BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 13.09.47Hidden Valley was an old farm and its old sheds, toilet and rainwater tank still remain. Past clearing, grazing, fencing and the establishment of exotic pastures, earthen dams and vehicle tracks have destroyed much of the natural ecology and left the area with weeds like Kikuyu, fireweed, blackberries and Arum lilies.BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 13.04.11BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 13.06.56The 105 ha property was gazetted in 1994 under the Coastal Lands Protection Scheme, which was established by the NSW Government in 1973 to purchase coastal freehold properties with significant cultural or natural heritage values. Gradually, the area is being revegetated by native coastal banksias (photo above) and coast wattles. There are also a few remnant Forest Red Gums (Eucalyptus tereticornis ), which used to cover much of the area originally, and a few Cabbage Palms (Livistona australis), representing this species’ southernmost limit in NSW.BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 13.07.43BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 13.31.11We are really looking forward to camping here in Summer. There is a large grassed area and a wood barbecue and the beach below is 250m wide and protected by both headlands from the southerly and northerly winds. Apparently, you can catch bream, flathead, salmon, mulloway and gummy sharks.

After taking the inland route back to our starting point, we then set out to explore Bunga Beach North and Goalen Head.

Bunga Beach North is 200m long and has a cleared grassy slope behind and a rocky reef in the centre. It too has black rounded volcanic boulders. The small creek, which leads to Bunga Lagoon, is usually blocked at its mouth, unless there has been good rain. Bunga Lagoon is home to many local and visiting birds.BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.45.07BlogSapphire dreamg20%ReszdIMG_8795Goalen Head is composed of highly folded and faulted sedimentary rocks like slate, siltstone, shale and greywacke laid down during the Ordovician Period (which was 430-490 Million years ago). During this time, volcanic gabbro rock intruded into the sedimentary layers.The aborigines used the gabbro for tool production.BlogSapphire dreamg20%ReszdIMG_8747BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.44.12BlogSapphire dreamg20%ReszdIMG_8748BlogSapphire dreamg20%ReszdIMG_8788Today, this gabbro is covered by deep fertile well-drained chocolate soils on the crests and slopes, well-drained loams near bedrock outcrops and poorly drained black earth in the drainage lines.

The original native vegetation communities are thought to have included :

  • Bega Dry Grass Forest
  • Coastal Scrub
  • Bunga Head Rain Forest
  • Coastal Warm Temperate Rainforest
  • Dune Dry Shrub Forest and
  • Coastal Foothills Dry Shrub Forest.

Sadly, none of these original communities remain, due to extensive clearing and grazing, though there are still some remnant Forest Red Gums (Eucalyptus tereticornis). Regrowth thickets of Coastal Banksia and Coast Wattle are reestablishing along the seaward edge of the headland, but the area is predominantly grassy : dense swards of Themeda Grassland, dominated by Kangaroo Grass (Themeda australis) and introduced Kikuyu Grass (Pennisetum clandenstinum). This grassland is highly disturbed, but still significant, due to the restricted distribution of this community in the region.BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.43.50BlogSapphire dreamg20%ReszdIMG_8750We have seen many kangaroos grazing (top photo above), but apparently the Eastern Ground Parrot also feeds on the Goalen Head Grasslands, as do rabbits and the odd deer. There are also numerous weeds including fireweed, blackberry, sea spurge and sea rocket.

Goalen Head was also an old property, which was purchased under the Coastal Lands Protection Scheme. The 104 ha farm (Murrah, Goalen Head) was gazetted in 2001 and added a further 3km of coastline to the National Park.BlogSapphire dreamg20%ReszdIMG_8786BlogSapphire dreamg20%ReszdIMG_8782From the headland, there are excellent views north to Murrah Beach ( 1st photo above) and south to Bunga Head (2nd photo above). Murrah Beach is 12 km south of Bermagui, but has very difficult access, due to the closure of the road by the owners of the private property, through which it passes. It backs onto Murrah Lagoon, a 110 ha body of shallow water, fed by the Murrah River, and has much bird life and fish, including bream, whiting, flathead, redfin, leatherjackets, mulloway and the odd gummy shark. It sounds like a really interesting spot to explore, but the only access appears to be by walking north along the coast from Goalen Head. We started to attempt this on our second visit to the area, but it is quite a long walk and really requires a whole day itself. Another hidden treasure, another day, another story …!!!

PS. The featured image on this post was a pod of more than 20 dolphins off Goalen Head.BlogBdayblessgs40%ReszdIMG_8771