Cooktown and Rock Art

Cooktown, Queensland, 17-18 July 2022
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From the bush camp (posts Laura Bush Camp 1 and 2, with much more rock art), we returned to Laura and then to Cooktown.  However, the journey back from the bush camp was quite different for me than the way in.  I was hit by gastro on the last night there.  I have been to several countries including India and Madagasacar where you need to be careful about directly or indirectly consuming water without having problems but it didn’t occur to me I might need to take care within Australia and fulled my camel (backpack water container) with tap water at Laura.  The bouncy and speedy drive in on the tiny four wheel drive was great fun but the journey out was torture and they had to stop several times so I could vomit at the side of the road.  From Laura we went straight to Cooktown and I also stayed in bed for all of the next day.

That next day Jools went out and got some medicine for gastro from the Chemist.  Unfortunately, we later found it produces hallucinations when you are dehydrated, which is what happens with gastro.  I got up during the night for a piss and didn’t turn the light on so as not to disturb Jools.  I then saw dogs and cats in the corners of the room though I knew they were not real.  Walls completely changed in appearance from one look to the next.   The short trip to the toilet became a maze and I became quite disoriented and repeatedly bumped into things.  We were in a split level apartment and I ended up falling down the four steps to the lower level in the dark.  I bruised my left forearm and severely bruised the palm of my left hand.  It took months for my left hand to fully recover but I didn’t hit my head so it could have been much worse.  Also, I am right-handed, otherwise I might not have been able to use the camera.

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Landscape, Macro, Nature, Photography, Queensland, Rock Art, Travel, Wilderness

Mouth of the Endeavour River from Grassy Hill Lookout.

The day after that I was semi-recovered and we went for a short drive in the afternoon.  We did not see much of Queenstown in our time there but at least our accommodation was a good place to recover.

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Grassy Hill Lighthouse from 1886.

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Hibiscus flowers nearby.

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I think this is Finch Bay, not far from Grassy Hill.

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In the late afternoon we visited the bird hide at Keating’s Lagoon.

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These are images from trees in the river along the way.

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I might have been able to get closer images off the path except that the crocodile warning signs made that inadvisable.  More images from here in the next post.

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The following day we joined a rock art tour with Culture Connect and set off along this road.

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We stopped at a river crossing that we later drove through.

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Looking down the river.

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Later, on foot, a stream crossing requiring care when carrying camera gear.

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Rock art.  Kangaroo.

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Lungfish maybe?

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Turtles on the left.

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We walked to another rock art site.

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Crocodile, northern quoll perhaps, cassowary (maybe emu), fish, head of the previous figure.

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Crocodile.

This image and the next one were taken looking upwards in a cramped overhang space that was logistically quite awkward.

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Xanthorrhoea flower cone.

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View from the road on the way out.

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Laura Bush Camp Day 2

 

Near Laura, Queensland, 14 August 2022
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(For the benefit of some Americans who may be reading this, this post has absolutely nothing to do with Laura Bush).

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Landscape, Laura, Macro, Nature, Photography, Queensland, Rock Art, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Gnaingar.

On our way to another rock art site, this is the flowers of Gnaingar, or Eucalyptus Phœnicia, or Scarlet Gum, endemic to the far north of Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia.

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A kangaroo, perhaps.

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Male figure.

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Female figure.

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Main figure a snake, probably dreamtime serpent.

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Fish, perhaps.

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A cave for special female ceremonies.

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Inside, dragonflies on the walls.

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At the next site, perhaps a family group.  Appears to be made by a negative process with removal of colour.

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Two females, one over a long figure perhaps snake, eel or lungfish.

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Here is the site overall.  You can see some of the figures shown above.

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We dropped down to a pool fed by a small waterfall.

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A tree trying to grow in a most surprising place.

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Contorted trunk and roots of a eucalypt beside the pool.

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On the move now.  Taken from a moving four wheel drive vehicle.  There has been some fire stick farming going on to manage the land.  This involves small scale slow cool burns that do not escape to destroy land and wildlife.

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Images on the move.

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Passing a large termite mound.  The black pole with a blue cap is on the vehicle.

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Back to the main rock art site.

I was looking for a different perspective this time.  Most of my shots on the previous day were taken with a very wide angle lens (Fujifilm 8-16mm) whereas most of these were taken with a moderate telephoto (Fujifilm 80mm macro).

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These figures may be very old, maybe 20,000 years.

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The upside-down person represents someone who has transgressed fundamental rules of the society and received serious punishment such as exile or death.

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Given how far north we are, this is probably a cassowary rather than an emu.

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Dingo at the front.

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A wider view with many figures.

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Back at the base now, probably after dinner.  The is a macro landscape with some combination of ground cover, bush and miniature tree.

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Rock Art.

In other words, Art created by the Rock.

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Balanda Rock Painting.

Perhaps reminiscent of the cargo cult of Papua New Guinea, this is designed to encourage the great gyroscopic whirring bird to drop from the sky.

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Night sky from near the tent, a ten second exposure from 5:30am. 

If you are on a PC or Mac, this image will appear very dark against the white page here.  You need to click on it for a larger version to see it properly.

There is also something moving in the sky with a somewhat discontinuous light, perhaps a satellite or a plane.

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Laura Bush Camp Day 1

Near Laura, Queensland, 13 August 2022
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Landscape, Laura, Nature, Photography, Rock Art, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

We got up early in the morning in Laura and set out into the bush with Johnny Murison of Jarramali Rock Art Tours.

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We were zotting along in tiny four wheel drives.  This is the one following us.

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A brief stop along the way.

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No chance of a school bus coming the other way.  We are on Aboriginal land with no permanent habitations out here.

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Sometimes the road was quite good.

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Other times it was a little rougher.

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Definitely four wheel drive country.

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From memory, it took about an hour to drive in.

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Now we have arrived. 

We were sleeping in a tent but there was a communal meeting room and dining room.  This is the view from the veranda.

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A closer view of the left end of the cliffs in front of us.

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Wedge tail eagles appear.

We were sitting down for lunch when a wedge tail eagle flew past the large window, very close, maybe twenty metres away.  Of course I had put the camera away and couldn’t take advantage of that opportunity.  Soon after it was joined by a mate.  They sat in a distant tree for a while and then climbed into the sky.

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This is the best shot I got.  The eagle is a long way away and the resolution is enhanced by software.

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Where the Green Ants Dream (though Hertzog was not in sight).

After lunch we headed for the rock art site.  On the way we encountered this ants nest, up in the tree for safety.

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This appears to be another one, old and abandoned.

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As you can see, we are now at the main rock art site.

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The figures you see can be as old as twenty thousand years old or as recent as the late nineteenth century.

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Here is Johnny explaining the associations and significance of each figure.

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I remember little of what he said so I’ll just leave you to view and wonder.

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The Quinkan rock art galleries are in many locations in Northern Queensland with only a few open to the public.  They are listed by UNESCO as being among the top 10 rock art sites in the world.

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There is some ochre on the rock at the bottom right.

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An ancient engraving of an emu footprint.

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Walking back, a couple of details on cliffs on the far side of the canyon.

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Moonrise at sunset.

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