Climbing Split Rock Laura Queensland

Yes, I have climbed Split Rock. I left Lakeland at 7am so it was not hot when I arrived at Split Rock. I parked the van in my usual shady spot and wearing a hat, yes, I forgot to take a bottle of water, I started the climb. Its 300m to Split Rock and then 50m from gallery to gallery. The steep climb to Split rock was not easy. It would have been harder in the midday sun. There are rocks placed as stepping stones… 100 steps in the first section, and another 100 in the second part and then an almost vertical path to Split Rock. It is spectacular and a beautiful place to be in.

The indigenous paintings were very faint, and said to have been here for 14,000 years. You had to really concentrate to see them. This video shows the paintings

In 1972 the Qld government declared 97,500 hectares of land on Gresley Holding (or Crocodile Station as it is locally known) as an ‘Aboriginal site’ under the ARPA 1967. Visitor access to rock art sites around Laura was regulated by Honorary Wardens and,
from 1973, an Aboriginal Ranger stationed in Laura.

While public visitation to Quinkan lands has been contained by the region’s remoteness, rugged terrain and regulated access to the DLA, there is ample evidence to indicate that roads and tracks pose risks to Quinkan cultural heritage. For example, the Split Rock sites, which are located adjacent to the Peninsula Developmental Road, have already been impacted by road dust and graffiti, as has a story place at the road crossing on the Laura River. At the latter site sections of the engraved pavement were destroyed by explosives during road works in the 1960s , and nearby, at the Old Reserve, Aboriginal burials and birth places were destroyed by the expansion of the Laura rubbish dump

An Army expedition which twice walked the Hell’s Gate track
(west of the Laura River) reported defacement of rock art and removal of historic remains by track users

Festival at Lakeland

There was a Christmas Festival with Carols at 6.30pm held at Lakeland in the area opposite the General store, between the Lakeland Hotel Motel and the Lakeland Rainforest Caravan Park. It was a beautiful grassed area edged with shady trees and the market stalls were lined up along the outer rim. There was an Ice-cream stall, the Progress Association selling fruit, Printed T-shirts, Kathrina giving away Fire Fighting Spirit Books, Handmade jewellery, pot plants and an amazing lady dressed in striped yellow like a bumble bee with the most amazing display of bubbles that I have ever seen…and she was active in the full sun for the entire duration of the markets.

At 5pm. a fantastic Tongan team, workers at the local banana Farm put on this amazing display of Tongan Dancing. They were lively and full of energy and really enjoyed their dancing. Tongans placed money, and maybe notes, into their shirts causing the guys to laugh and giggle, and then a beautiful Tongan lady, covered in oil and flowers, did a dance and collected more money. I wondered whether people would press notes into my T-shirt when I walked around playing the ukulele, but I have to tell you no-one did. I did ask a couple why, and he replied it was because I was not covered in oil.. Good answer, Thank you…I was lucky to have 4 beautiful Japanese girls, also banana workers, join in singing and playing the Piano.. The Ukuleles and guitars sang Christmas Carols at 7pm..and everything was finished by 8.30. It was a well attended event and much enjoyed by the audience who waved electronic candles.

Magpie Geese at Laura

The Magpie GooseAnseranas semipalmata… is widespread throughout coastal northern and eastern Australia. It can be seen from Fitzroy River, Western Australia, through northern Australia to Rockhampton, Queensland, and has been extending its range into coastal New South Wales to the Clarence River and further south.

Large black-and-white waterbird with bulbous lump on the top of its head and striking orange legs and feet. Often seen in very large, noisy flocks. Typically found in and around wetlands, pastures, and orchards across northern Australia. Also perches in trees and on branches. Soft honking calls given frequently, including in flight

Magpie Geese are widespread in northern Australia, where they may congregate in huge flocks, often comprising thousands of birds. They breed in large colonies late in the wet season, with the biggest recorded at Daly River in the Northern Territory — it covered 46 km2. The species was once also widespread in southern Australia, but disappeared from there largely due to the drainage of the wetlands where the birds once bred. 

Large, noisy flocks of up to a few thousand birds congregate to feed on aquatic vegetation. The Magpie Goose is a specialized feeder with wild rice, Oryza, Paspalum, Panicum and spike-rush, Eleocharis, forming the bulk of its diet.

Its interesting that there is little research done into Magpie Geese. I wrote them up 10 years ago and since then there is still no information about its migratory patterns. The magpie geese are now at Laura, in northern Queensland. I last photographed them at Normanton and there is a definite migration pattern They come here in the wet season…

During the breeding season, Magpie Geese build nests in secluded places, usually close to wetlands. The nest is almost single-handedly constructed by the male. It usually consists of a simple unlined cup placed either in a floating platform of trampled reeds or built in tree-tops. Pairs of geese mate for life, but a male may have two females. Two females may occasionally use the same nest to lay the large, oval, off-white coloured eggs. All adults share incubation and care for the young.

Magpie goose has been eaten by Indigenous people in the Territory for thousands of years and is a staple for modern day hunters in the Top End. But the story of how it has been rolled out to some of the best restaurants in the country starts with the chance meeting of a Territory-born football star and a provedore of game meat. At a shed in a small Indigenous community an hour out of Darwin, Motlop and eight other Indigenous people have set up an operation to slaughter, pluck and gut the magpie geese, before sending them south on ice. It is a fairly efficient operation, taking about an hour to process 20 geese.

The only bottleneck is trapping enough geese to meet the demand. Health regulations mean they have to be trapped, not shot. So far, the geese are proving annoyingly smart.

Split Rocks Laura Queensland

About 12km south of Laura look out for the badly signposted turn-off to the Split Rock Gallery, the only rock-art site open to the public without a guide.

The sandstone escarpments here are covered with paintings thought to date back 14,000 years. If there are no tour groups around, it can be quite a surreal experience to walk the path up the hillside in silence, solitude and isolation, before coming upon the various other-worldly ‘galleries’ in the rock faces.

They contain numerous Aboriginal paintings, engravings and hand stencils. Accessible on a 30-minute self-guided walk, there are three sites to visit here, Split Rock Galleries, Flying Fox Art Site and Tall Spirits Art Site.–split-rock-art/

I parked the car in a shady place and walked to the site. I started walking up the track, almost to the top, but the heat was too much and I decided to walk back and return another time, midday not being the best time to climb tracks with no shade. The paintings displayed were colorful and informative and told the story of the two bad Imjim spirits who live in this locality called Timara and Turramulli.

The importance of Laura lies in its remarkable Aboriginal artworks. It is recognised as one of the most important archaeological study sites in Australia. Archaeologists have found evidence that the rock art is at least 15,000 to 30,000 years old.

The area is famous for its strange mythical  figures known as Quinkans. … “Quinkan is an Aboriginal name for the supernatural spirits that live in the surrounding sandstone and are painted in the rock art around Laura. The Quinkans do their work at night.

“Timaras or Tall Spirits are the good spirits. They have long-limbed, thin bodies which provide camouflage among the trees, and also allowing them to quietly withdraw into rock crevices.

“Imjims are the bad spirits and have a distinctive long, bulbous-tipped appendage. They bounce like kangaroos and live like frogs.”

There are literally dozens of Aboriginal art sites in the area. The most popular sites are Yalangi Galleries (a 2 – 3 hour guided walk), Mushroom Rock (2 hours), Giant Horse (3 hours) and the Quinkan Galleries (2-3 hours). Perhaps the most famous of all the galleries is the Giant Horse Gallery which features a horse, a fallen rider and a variety of animals including a sting-ray and bush turkey.

Cooktown Queensland

Home of the Guugu Yimithirr people, the region is known as Gangaar, ‘(Place of the) Rock Crystals’ due to the abundance of quartz in the area. These crystals are an important aspect of Indigenous ceremonies, and there is even evidence of them being traded as far as 300km south of the region.

In more recent history, this township became a place of further preciousness as a port during the Gold Rush. It’s also the place where the Endeavour ran ashore after its hull was grated along the reef, making it Australia’s first non-Indigenous settlement.

You only need to see the kind of boats bobbing around the Endeavour River to know what Cooktown does best. You won’t find luxury liners here – instead, it’s moor-to-moor fishing boats because Cooktown has the fishing scene to warrant it. In fact, it’s a world-class fishing destination known for drawing in keen anglers to their coastal community.

Join in the Gone Fishing guided tour company with your lure, fly or pole and get ready to reel in anything from coral trout, tuna, and mackerel to jacks and trevally. The river is lined with over 25 species of mangrove, so it’s no wonder the fishing is so good here.

I parked at the esplanade opposite the Police station and walked down to the RSL and back along the main road. The parklands are very beautiful. Here you can see the first well, the RSL monument, and the wrecked ship.

I drove down to the esplanade where the road winds down to the end. A self important elderly gentleman in a singlet and shorts, was quick to tell me to move on when I was taking photos. He even brought his car and trailer next to me to yell that I was in his way…so I moved on without taking the photos of the headland and decided this type of local was not worth getting to know. I drove to the RSL for lunch but the restaurant was closed…so I went to the IGA and the library and as it was very, very hot, I bought petrol and decided to return home to Laura.

Cooktown Queensland

About one quarter of the way between Cairns and the tip of Australia, Cooktown is one of the most historically significant sites in the country.

Cooktown, town and port, northeastern QueenslandAustralia. It is situated at the mouth of the Endeavour River on the east coast of Cape York Peninsula, facing the Great Barrier Reef.

Cooktown, Queensland, Australia
Cooktown, Queensland, Australia
Cooktown, Queensland, Australia
Cooktown, Queensland, Australia

The town and nearby Mount Cook (1,415 feet [431 metres]) are named after the British navigator Capt. James Cook, who beached the Endeavour there for repairs in 1770. Cooktown was founded in 1874 during the Palmer River gold rush

Cooktown is of particular interest to botanists since the time of James Cook‘s visit when extensive collections and illustrations were made of local plants. It is situated at the junction of several vegetation zones including tropical rainforest, sclerophyll forests, sandy dunes and lagoons. Vera Scarth-Johnson, a local resident, gave a priceless collection of her botanical illustrations to the people of Cooktown, which are now housed in a dedicated gallery at Nature’s Power House situated in the Botanic Gardens, and features displays of local flora and fauna.

The “Milbi Wall” (or “Story Wall”) marks the place of the first encounter between the British seafarers and the local Aborigines. The Milbi (‘Story’) Wall tells the story of Cooktown and the Endeavour River from the perspective of the Aboriginal people in tiles, and is an outstanding monument to reconciliation. Charlotte Street is the main heritage precinct.

Cooktown is the northern terminus of the Bicentennial Heritage Trail, which, at 5,330 km (3,310 mi), is the longest trail of its type in the world. The southern end of the trail is at Healesville, Victoria, a town 52 kilometres (32 mi) north-east of Melbourne

Black Mountain Rosstown Queensland

 Kalkajaka National Park (CYPAL) contains an imposing mountain range of black granite boulders. These formidable boulders, some the size of houses, stack precariously on one another—appearing to defy both gravity and logic.The wet tropics and drier savanna/woodland regions meet in this park, making it a refuge for wildlife. The extraordinary combination of flora and geomorphology provides a habitat for an unusual range of wildlife, including species that are endemic (entirely confined) to this boulder-jumbled mountain. Kalkajaka (meaning ‘place of spear’), is an important meeting place for the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people and is the source of many Dreaming stories. The mountain is also a feature of local non-Aboriginal folklore.

Read more about the nature, culture and history of Kalkajaka National Park (CYPAL)

The name Kalkajaka literally means ‘the place of the spear’ and was the site of bloody battles between warring ancestral clans and the spirits of the Dreamtime. It’s been dubbed the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ of Queensland, with stories dating from the late 1800s to 1930s of early explorers, horses and whole mobs of cattle disappearing into the labyrinth of rocks, never to be seen again.

There are many sites of cultural Significance on the mountain. These include Kambi, a large rock with a cave where flying-foxes are found; Julbanu, a big grey kangaroo-shaped rock looking toward Cooktown; and Birmba, a stone facing toward Helenvale where sulphur-crested cockatoos are seen. There are places that are taboo at the foot of the mountain range

Marguerite Carstairs

Kalkajaka is known for making loud, explosive noises, which can happen without warning. “You can hear big cracks and explosions. That is the granite, it peels like an onion,” Mr Dear said. “The black colour, which is actually algae covering it, gets very hot and it expands and contracts with the heat of the night and day as well as with thunderstorms and rain and things like that. “So you get these rapid episodes of weathering and ‘pow’, the skin just falls off.”

The granite rock is actually a light grey colour and composed of mineral such as feldspar, mica and hornblende. Kalkajaka’s distinctive dark appearance is due to a film of microscopic blue-green algae growing on the exposed surfaces. Grey patches and boulder fractures indicate ongoing rock disintegration—a process accelerated dramatically when cold rain hits rock, sometimes with explosive results.

The topography of the mountain, with its boulders sitting on top of each other with large gaps in between, could make it a perilous place, Mr Dear said, and may have contributed to disappearances of unlucky explorers in years gone by. “Some of those boulders are actually balanced. You can leap on a boulder the size of a car, and occasionally you can actually feel that boulder move, it’s very unsettling,” he said. “There are big boulders in odd shapes sitting on top of each other. There is a lot of open space to fall down and keep falling, basically.” Adding to the mountain’s unusual features are three endemic species – a skink, gecko and bright yellow frog – found nowhere else in the world. Unique flora also appeared to flourish on Black Mountain…

Despite being a man of science, Mr Dear said he still believed there was something supernatural about Kalkajaka that could not be explained. “I still have a belief that it’s a very powerful place and I can see why some Indigenous people hold it in deep fear, and always in respect,” he said. “I sort of have a rule that I do not upset the mountain. There is something very karmic about that mountain. You need to keep on its good side.”

The blend of rainforest and open forest in the park supports rich birdlife. Overhead, look for black kites Milvus migrans flying leisurely with slow wing-beats and glides.  Above the boulders look for near threatened (rare) Australian swiftlets Aerodramus terraereginae. When in dark caves and crevices these birds use echo-location, emitting sharp clicks and using the echo that bounces back to navigate. In flight they utter shrill cheeping and squealing notes. Australian swiftlets are endemic to Queensland.

Around the base of the mountain are a number of plants normally found in rainforest. Self-mulching ferns, umbrella trees and stinging trees have adapted to these very different conditions. Monsoon forest, technically known as semi-deciduous mesophyll vine forest, grows around the edges of the rock masses. This vegetation is a haven for animals that venture from or to the rocky shelter of the mountain.

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