Flinders Street Station, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Thursday, July 11, 2013


It is nice to stay put for two nights in the one place when touring by bus. We were in a very comfortable resort in Cooktown in FNQ (Far North Queensland).
Our balcony overlooked the pool area.

Our driver took us to meet a local aboriginal guide. We followed his 4 wheel drive into the forest. He pulled up at a clearing where we set off on foot to learn about the land.

Willy Gordon, our guide was a most interesting person to listen to. He is a well educated man with an astounding knowledge of both the white man's world and his aboriginal heritage. He also had a great sense of humour. He is an elder of the people who are the caretakers of this land.

He explained many customs and showed us how the bush is the aborigine's supermarket. Not only for edible fruits, berries, leaves and roots but also for medicine and cleaning products.
Willy gave our friend Mary a handful of leaves and added a little water and told her to rub her hands together until the leaves disintegrated. Then she showed us her hands and how the mixture had turned into a creamy soap. After she washed it off her hands were soft and clean. It was like a defoliant.
We followed a bush track over rocks and under trees. It was beautiful country. Willy took us into a cave where there were aboriginal  paintings from tens of thousands of years ago.
There were many many pictures on the walls and the ceiling. There were newer pictures on top of older ones. They are hard to see in the photo. Willy explained the stories behind the pictures.

 After two informative hours we returned to the clearing for morning tea, which the driver had organised while we were away. It was a magic view looking over Willy's people's land. The aboriginal people have a very close relationship with the land especially the land of their tribe. They had lived off the land for 40,000 years without damaging it at all in that time. We can't say the same about the last 200 years of white settlement.

We said good-bye to Willy of Guurrbi Tours and headed back to town. On the way we called into the historical cemetery, where there were many interesting graves including a Chinese Shrine. The one I found the most interesting was this one of the Normanby Woman. The plaque reads:

who was buried in the vicinity of this ground in 1886.
No one knows where she came from...or who she was...she took this secret with her .
She was an European woman brought up by the Normanby Aboriginal Tribe.
She was captured by the European authorities and brought to civilisation in which she could not survive.
Back in Cooktown we had a picnic lunch on the banks of the Endeavour River, where Bill found a musical boat in the park. He was happily playing a tune on the pipes.

 After lunch we visited the James Cook Museum, housed in the stunningly restored 19th century convent. We saw photos of how derelict it was before restoration. A lot of work was done to restore it.

Inside was an amazing collection of items for such a small town, but with Captain James Cook camping on the shores of the river for seven weeks to repair his ship in 1770, there is a lot of history here. He named the river after his ship "Endeavour". When his ship was holed on the Great Barrier Reef, he threw over board this canon and anchor to lighten the ship. It wasn't until recently that divers found these relics.

 After the museum we then visited the Botanical Gardens full of beautiful tropical plants and huge paper bark Melaleuca trees.

Needless to say it was early to bed after a delicious meal at the "Sovereign Resort" Cooktown.


  1. how beautiful that bushland view/scenery and the museum is a lovely building also

  2. i like the photo of your guide, and i would love to visit that bush super market and wash my hands...

  3. We have so much to learn from people who have lived off the land for so many years. An informative as well as picturesque day.

  4. so true about our 'civilized' ways. we always ruin so much. would love a tour like that.

  5. Diane , another great tour! A neat way to learn about the land! The cave is cool , I would love to see it in person! Wonderful photos, thanks for sharing your trip!

  6. That was a full day! Your guide to the caves and aboriginal lands was a great one .. it is too bad we (it is the same over here as you know) didn't take conservation lessons from the original peoples.

    Loved everything about your day (although I don't know if we would have had the stamina for it all at once!()

  7. The convent has a similar design to one that used to be in Narrogin, WA where my mother was educated. Sadly, that one hasn't been restored and last I saw was used by the council, IIRC.

  8. Diane I always have a great time coming here and reading about your travels. A super post, very, very interesting!

  9. Gee you have seen some interesting places and things! That grave is interesting isn't it? And the Endevor anchor and gun! Wow! Proper Aussie history there!

  10. Interesting story about the poor Normanby Woman. How terrifying for her! The big melaleuca tree has such character. Do they smell like tea tree oil?

  11. Wow---what an interesting post. They certainly made the tour so interesting --as you had something to do most all of the time. Loved your resort where you stayed. Gorgeous... AND--hearing about the the land and how the bush is the aborigine's supermarket had to have been SO interesting.... Bet you enjoyed the museum also.. WOW--what a great trip you had.


  12. He looks like a good guide.
    Nice to see the scenery up that way.

  13. I remember of our visit to Australia, we also had an Aboriginal guide who showed us around in a garden and demonstrated all the plants you could use for all kind of things. Their knowledge of nature is amazing.
    Interesting tour, I love to follow your story.

  14. Wonderful to have a guide with such a wealth of knowledge .... you're a long way north Diane .... I've only been as far up as Mosman and that was so lush and tropical.

  15. What a fascinating journey you are having. thanks for inviting us along.

  16. Hard to imagine that these paintings are so old. Nothing man made exists from that period.


  17. What a fabulous outing you had to Willy's country. That's a stunning view out over the hills.

    How amazing is the story of the Normanby Woman! I suppose that's a mystery that will never be solved.

    The Botanical Gardens looked fabulous. I'll have to put Cooktown on my must see list, as I've never been there, would you believe it!!!

  18. Oh how hubby would love this walk learning so much about the land....

  19. So much to see and learn! I'd like some of those "soap" leaves. Captain Cook's cannon and anchor are rather fascinating too. I wonder what the former residents of the convent would think? Maybe they'd be fascinated too.

  20. Another wonderful place to visit, what a great trip you had.

  21. I am enchanted with the cave paintings. I would love to see those in person. All of the scenery is just gorgeous. You got some great shots Diane.

    That is an interesting story about the Normanby Woman. Just enough information to make me really curious about her story.

  22. What a beautiful spot and it sounds like an educational tour as well. I would love to know what I can eat and not eat in the bush, it would make my shopping days so much cheaper!! Have a good weekend, Diane

  23. Leaves that turn to soap, the rock paintings, the view out over the land, and the way the aboriginal people have cared for this land, the botanic garden... all of it amazing. This has really been a fantastic trip!

  24. It is amazing to see the respect that native peoples have for the land. Our Native American tribes are the same way. We could certainly learn a great deal from them.