FNQ Safari Day 9 – Taipans and death adders on Mt Cook

Day 9 of our trip was our last day in Cooktown. A pre-breakfast walk down by the harbour prepared our legs for the ascent of Mount Cook, about 2km south of the town. We thought we’d plan ahead and attempt to have dinner again at the River of Gold Motel who really do the best coral trout. Riding past the motel we noticed a sign saying that the restaurant was fully booked out already. Luckily Mick the owner drove up (we met him on Monday evening) and, after a quick chat about how good we found the food on Monday and tales of our fishing expedition with Cody, Mick said he’d see what he could do. A couple of minutes later he rang me up – we would be squeezed in. No probs! Excellent!

We rode the bikes about 1km to the start of the walking track at the base of Mt Cook and parked them in the front garden of a very friendly local lady who makes sculptures out of waste concrete and plaster. She had a very impressive dragon and a giant dwarf! and told us about the crocodile she made for display next to the town’s art gallery.

As we left on our walk she said “Watch out for snakes! Especially taipans and death adders”. Damn, we had long pants and hiking boots back at the guest house but hadn’t thought of wearing them. This was winter after all. But winter in the tropics means snakes! Suitably forewarned but dressed in shorts and joggers we headed off up the track and before long we encountered a local girl on her way down from her daily walk up Mount Cook. She said she’d seen 3 snakes that morning as she does most mornings. Great!

Climbing up past the first lookout the track changed from a wide clear track to a narrow leaf littered one that wound through the jungle and provided plenty of hiding spots for those snakes. We met a few other people on the way up and didn’t see any other critters apart from a few lizards. Reaching the top after about 80 minutes walking Sigi suddenly noticed a black/grey snake about 2 metres from her. Quick check on the Iphone and Wikipedia indicated it was probably a death adder. Not to be trifled with. We made a bit of noise and it shot off. We also looked up a picture of a taipan just so we knew what they look like. Heading back down the hill I was soon startled by what looked pretty much like a taipan about 1.5m long shooting off the track into the undergrowth. Making lots of stamping and clapping noises we passed and were happily making good progress when about 5 minutes later another similar looking snake about the same size shot off the track in front of me. We were all eyes and ears from then on but happily didn’t encounter any more on the rest of the walk.

Collecting the bikes we headed back into town to the historic society where a lady gave an interesting talk about the gold rush days in Cooktown and we inspected the displays. We had wanted to go to the James Cook museum as well but that’s shut for renovations apparently.

Our tour of the town continued at the cemetery that houses many graves from the 19th and 20th centuries with clearly demarcated areas for presbyterian, catholic, jewish, and Chinese. Some were particularly tragic like the couple who lost 3 of their children as infants and a Mrs Watson who, along with her infant and a Chinese worker, died of thirst at sea after escaping from being attacked on Lizard Island following a misunderstanding with the local indigenous people.

There’s a memorial to her in the main street. Cooktown has lots of history and is well worth a visit for a few days. We’d gladly come back again as it’s such a friendly place. Oh and we finished off the day by having some more of that freshly caught local coral trout at the River of Gold Motel, expertly cooked by Mick’s wife Lee.

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