I’m basking under the sunshine in Cairns in Far North Queensland, Australia, at the moment enjoying a delusional early return to Spring. When I get back down south I will be back there in the close of the Aussie winter months but for now I can pretend it really is Spring.
They gazetted Cairns 1876, so it isn’t very old in Northern Hemisphere terms but that has an upside. Not many have tramped the escarpment on the lookout for golden dust or even the stray nugget, aside from our brief goldrush days of course. This city, for it is a prosperous city now, was named after some bloke who was then Governor of Queensland. It was to serve as a centre for those headed to the Hodgkinson River Gold fields tracking up through the beautiful Barron Gorge. But the Hodgkinson River gold field served the old miners badly as it was not the alluvial gold they sought but a quartz-reefing field where gold was hard won.
The miners instead found a better route to better fields which are a tad further north west from the still remote Port Douglas, gateway to the World Heritage Daintree Rainforest. So the young settlement of a hundred or so years ago better served mostly as a railhead for the shipment of produce from the Atherton tablelands, mining interests and the sugar cane industry.
The now bustling tourist destination sits on flood plains, with the centre mostly parked on mud flats and mangrove swamps, a trap for the witless tourist no less. It does not have those golden beaches many tourists expect to find, but they have made a damn good public swimming pool on the foreshores to compensate. Many find Cairns wharf a popular place to access the Great Barrier Reef from, along with the reef islands, which have a reputation all on their own as the wonderland they are.
But my favourite things about Cairns as I laze around, tapping away at the keyboard and taking long leisurely walks are watching the tropical clouds boil against the escarpment that overlooks the city, and reading the local news rag which often carry the flavour of the tropics in stories about big lazy lizards who frequent the city precincts much to the shock of the tourists. Not to mention the wildlife which is ever-present.
It was however the old gold fields, which drew hoards of thousands from across the world in a century or more passed. The same goldfields that gave birth too and fostered the growth of much of the legend about the wild and ribald gold towns of colonial Australia. There is many a legend attached to the ribaldry of the flash settlements which fed from the precious metal, often hard won by the hard working and hard living miners of these old fields.
China, and Asia have always been a part of Australia’s gold history. Particularly so in the northern fields of Queensland where they had a notable reputation. When this was combined with the fierce reputation of the Quinkan tribal Aboriginal of their Country around Laura where many of the old goldfields sit, there were born many legends. The least of which are the legends surrounding the hauntings of these goldfields. Cannibalism was not unknown by the tribes for many reasons and the Quinkan were viewed as some of the most fierce of these mobs.
Barron Gorge, the golden epicentre north of Cairns is an amazing place where tourists now brave the crocodiles and white water rafting out from Cairns but I often wondered as I watched the hoards and boats arrive down at the bottom of the Barron Gorge, if they even understood that it had been the footsteps of those old miners who had first found their way up the same gorge under immeasurable hardship, 130 or so odd years ago. It is a truly beautiful and unique part of the world.
In the Aboriginal themed stories I have written, the Quinkan can be found in Book 2 in the fictional saga, Sky Song, along with other mobs of the Daintree Rainforest and Cape York region though the legends are revisited in Book 4 Caverns of the Dreamtime. In these stories, each book stands-alone, each presenting a unique insight into Aboriginal culture and Lore, one that is not commonly heard. It is a wonderful history as with much of the Aboriginal Lore and legend and it is not as widely understood as it should be. But it is when you visit the beautiful Barron Gorge that you can appreciate the difficulties that the old miners faced in moving up the escarpment behind Cairns and onto the plateau where much of the gold is found.
The Tropical North of Queensland, better known as ‘Far North Qld’ is truly a wilderness wonderland. Any further north than Port Douglas and you need a forbie if you fancy returning home anytime soon. North of here is the vast Daintree Rainforest, the beautiful wetlands of the Lakes region and the wonderland wilderness that is the Cape York Peninsula. A truly vast playground for the adventurous and well prepared… that is if you want to come back.
Due for release by the end of the year, watch out for “Cape York” in the Around the Campfire Series of travelogues.
Happy reading everyone!
To read more travel tales, or explore the world of the Australian Aboriginal Shaman told in a fictional tale and to discover other works on traveling around Aus. visit my web at http://janhawkins.com.au and check out the discounts available for my readers and friends on ‘Where to find Jans Books’.
The Dreaming Series is also available in e-books from $3.99-$5.99 at Amazon.com in .mobi and at Smashwords.com in other multi formats for e-books.
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- What a week in Cairns… (natfam.wordpress.com)
- Skyrail Rainforest Cableway: View Nature From Above and Within (aussiegators.com)
- The Lure of Gold (janhawkinsau.wordpress.com)
- Kuranda Scenic Railway (cairnslife.wordpress.com)