A Tale of Two Cities …

The toilets in Maryborough are so much better than the toilets in Maryborough. On the other hand the train station in Maryborough knocks the train station in Maryborough into a cocked hat.

I have good friends at home in Maryborough, Vic who rode their bikes to Maryborough, Qld. Hats off to them, sterling work. They rode from a goldrush town of about 8,000 souls about 1,900km to a goldrush town about three times as large (and wetter and warmer).

Currently putting a smile on many a face in Maryborough, Qld is the Cistern Chapel, public toilets that have been given a bit of a lift …

The railway station though is a superannuated wooden shack from which you can catch a bus to a real station. Whereas in Victoria we have a grand edifice.

Any Victorian Marybourian will tell you that Mark Twain described the place as a train station with town attached (although any Twain scholar will tell you he said no such thing). Queensland Marybourians sometimes say that the plans simply went to the wrong address like half their mail, although I have heard that it was Mumbai that was expecting the plans to be delivered there.

The other big difference is the pronunciation. In Vic we are rather formal and say Maryborough. In Queensland they shorten it to Mary-bra (think Edinburgh).

It has a lovely park by the Mary River in which I saw a Kooka-bra.

Queensland at last …

Another world, beautiful one day perfect the next, where education is so lacking that beer is spelt XXXX and the premier can’t even pronounce her own name. But beautiful nonetheless, even in the rain. First priority in South East Queensland was the endemic Black-breasted Buttonquail. I recruited expert help in the form of Roy Sonnenberg, bird guide extraordinaire. We found many good things …

and not all were birds …

Little Red Flying-fox

but we did not find the Buttonquail. As they feed they clear away the leaf litter leaving cleared circular areas called platelets. Roy regaled me with tales of the many occasions he had watched them at work rapidly churning out platelet after platelet. He found me excellent examples of platelets. The Buttonquails themselves were not to be found.

Good reason to come back.

Byron …

We hit the coast at Byron Bay, the most easterly point of the continent. A lot of the locals lead an unhealthy lifestyle tending to be red in the face and prematurely wrinkled …

Australian Brushturkey

But not everyone is so debauched …

Cooktown…

Was named in honour of Captain James Cook, the explorer who put the east coast of the great southern continent on the map. He was by no means the first European to visit Australia. That honour goes to one Willem Janszoon on the good ship Duyfken in 1606. More of him a little later.

The Dutch had mapped the west coast of Oz pretty thoroughly over the course of a century starting with Dirk Hartog in 1616. Abel Tasman put the southerly limit on the continent with the discovery of Van Dieman’s Land in 1642.

The first Brit to hit the shore was John Brookes who wrecked the Tryall off the WA coast in 1622. Survivors spent a week on the Monte Bello Islands. William Dampier made a far more successful visit in 1699 discovering an excellent site for a bird observatory.

Turn the clock forward to 1770. After making a thorough survey of New Zealand Cook sailed west heading for Van Diemen’s Land the next known spot in the ocean. The weather caused him to take a more northerly route and on 19th April 1770 Lieutenant Zachary Hicks, a Stepney lad, spotted the east coast of Victoria. Like a lot of Victorians since our James then headed north to Queensland. No landings were made in Victoria and only one in New South Wales, at Botany Bay (29th April).

Once in the future Queensland’s waters Cook made 13 more landings. None more important to the success of the voyage than the one at the mouth of the Endeavour River.

On June the 11th Endeavour struck a reef. It took 23 hours to get her off and she was badly holed in the process. A desperate bout of pumping followed until the inflow of water was reduced by passing a sail under the ship’s belly a process known as fothering. The ship could then be kept afloat by use of a single pump until a suitable landing site could be found. On the 17th the ship was beached at the mouth of the Endeavour River. Repairs took 7 weeks.

Relations with the locals were mainly good perhaps because Cook had unwittingly chosen to camp at a traditional meeting place where custom forbade the shedding of blood. Some aboriginal words and names were recorded for posterity. The word kangaroo was borrowed from the Guugu Yimithirr language. Subsequent scholarship has disproved the furphy that it meant “buggered if I know” and suggests that it was the name of a particular species of macropod.

One kangaroo had the misfortune to be shot. It was sketched by Sydney Parkinson then eaten by the officers and gentlemen. That sketch may have been the model for a painting by George Stubbs that was itself the source material for an engraving that appeared in John Hawkesworth’s 1773 book describing the voyage.

Cook and Banks are often credited with being the first to describe a macropod forgetting that Western Australia had been on the map for about 150 years at that time. The honour should go to Francois Pelsaert who described a wallaby from the other side of the continent in 1629.

Returning as promised to Willem Janszoon. In 1606 he sailed eastward in the Arafura Sea and bumped into land that he thought was a southerly extension of New Guinea. It was in fact the west coast of the Cape York Peninsula in the vicinity of present day Weipa. He then sailed south in the Gulf of Carpentaria charting the coast as far as Cape Keerweer. When Cook was at Cooktown he was just 437km as the crow flies from Cape Keerweer and 164 years too late to be the first European to visit Cape York.

Back on the road again …

Cooktown, Queensland …

It was a roundabout route, partly to avoid bad weather, partly for the hell of it.

How bad was the weather? Well here’s a river crossing we decided against …

Thirty three days covering 5 801km in slightly different style than the last grand road trip.

But the cast of characters remains the same.

Along the way we’ve caught up with some lovely people, old friends and new. We’ve also racked up a bird list of 217 species some of which posed for a photo …

Blue-faced Honeyeater

More to come.

Where is Peng Shuai … ?

She has been ranked number one as a doubles player and as high as 14 as a doubles player. She’s not at the Australian Open so it seems a very interesting question. Especially since she has accused China’s former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual misconduct.

Don’t ask the question at the tournament. If you turn up in a “Where’s Peng Shuai” T-shirt Tennis Australia will ask you to take it off.

Controversy on controversy, The Djokovic saga could easily have been avoided if Tennis Australia had said that players had to be vaccinated to play. No fuss, no ambiguity. The notion that professional sports people are so medically compromised that they are unfit for vaccination beggars belief. Instead they chose to look for loopholes. Advised that historic infection would not fit the bill did Tennis Australia suggest “No worries, Novak, just catch it again”?

Looking for Peng Shuai at the open is going to be as successful as looking for any sign of intelligence in the leadership of Tennis Australia.

Hopkins Falls

Over the years this blog has largely been driven along by travel and travel photography. The last couple of years has seen that shrivel because of our great pandemic. The blog has shriveled along with it. There is a limit to how many times you can spin a tale out of spending your two hours outdoor exercise riding your bike in circles. For the moment though country Victoria is off the leash – Victoria is my oyster, can’t leave the state, can’t visit Melbourne. The pearl in my little oyster is Port Fairy and that’s where I am.

I have been riding my bike in circles but at least the circle is a big one. What more could a girl ask for? I like to call the route L’Étape Charles de Gaulle …

Étape Charles de Gaulle

My accommodation here is built from bluestone which is basalt from the Newer Volcanic Province. Port Fairy’s basalt was donated by Mount Rouse 60km to the north. It seems a long way for the lava to flow. Perhaps it could have got further but sizzled to a stop in the sea. There is a closer but older volcano at Tower Hill which I have written about previously <HERE>. Rather than slowly boiling over it went off with a phreatic bang.

Hopkins Falls is about 40km east of Fairy and is another side effect of the newer volcanics. Said to be the widest waterfall in Australia at 90 meters in width it drops about 12 meters off a basalt shelf. It’s been a fairly wet winter. It’s quite a satisfying sight at present …