Saturday, June 26, 2010

Blown away by Cooktown..

Literally ! The whole time I was there, the average wind speed was about 40kms/ hour.

Cooktown is a windy little town of approximately 2,000 people situated at the mouth of the Endeavour River on the eastern coast of Cape York in far north Queensland. It is Australia’s first non-indigenous settlement that was discovered and settled by Captain Cook and his crew in 1770.

I spent the first few days in Cooktown getting down to business and doing the audits of the Balkanu office and the Archer Point Ranger shed. As part of the work I’m doing, I also gave an OH&S presentation overview to the Archer Point Rangers to increase their awareness around personal safety while out in the field. Unfortunately, I was unable to have a session with the Nyungkal Rangers as they were busy hosting the Ranger conference.

The Ranger conference was organised and hosted by the Nyungkal Rangers out on their country at Homerule with the help of Balkanu. The aim of the conference was for Rangers from all over the Cape and even from the Gulf of Carpentaria to get together and talk to each other and share ideas about their lands and its maintenance and conservation.

The conference ran over 4 days. Myself and the other secondees visited on the second day hoping to attend a session on bush foods. Instead, we did better and got a private tour of the country at Shipton’s Flat by one of the Nyungkal senior rangers- Marilyn Wallace. Shipton’s Flat is home to Marilyn who has been living there the ancestral way — far removed from the services and conveniences of modern life. Marilyn took us to the top of Mount Poverty and regaled us with stories of her family and her ancestors. Along the way, she stopped and educated us on the flora and fauna of the country- she showed the wood irons barks that are used in smoking ceremonies and pointed out Brown Orchids that were close to bloom and blue butterflies that fluttered around the tropical trees.

While in Cooktown, I also took the opportunity to visit the James Cook museum and the Old Bank to learn about the history and development of Cooktown over the years. Another tour that was highly recommended was the Aboriginal Rock Art tours run by Willie Gordon. The tour gave us an insight into the Aboriginal culture and Willie passed on the stories behind the Aboriginal rock art in 3 of the caves as he had learnt it from his father many years ago.

Next stop… Coen.

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