Monday, April 30, 2012


1994 Replica Endeavour now with Sydney Maritime Museum

In  May of 1770 Captain James Cook midway into his first voyage of discovery and some weeks after entering Stingray Bay, (Botany Bay now) near a spot that would much later become Sydney, sailed further north hugging the east coast of an unknown land known in Britain at the time as Terra Australis.  He eventually sailed his ship, the Endeavour, into a wide and desolate bay midway up what is now Queensland’s Capricorn coast.  He named the inlet Bustard Bay in honour of the splendid meal of bush turkey he and his officers, and botanists Sir Joseph Banks and Dr Daniel Solander shot and later ate that night aboard the Endeavour. 

The meal his hard working crew partook on the same night is not mentioned in his diary though Cook wrote that one sailor caught a dozen small fish, and ‘Here are plenty of small Oysters sticking to the Rocks, Stones, and Mangrove Trees, and some few other shell fish, such as large Muscles, Pearl Oysters, Cockels...’  So I guess the sailors didn’t do all that badly.


Fast forward to the 1980’s, some 200 years after Cook’s voyage, Straddie’s two Loveable Larrikins, plus my Reluctant Traveller have themselves discovered the Town of 1770 and quickly realised the Endeavour’s crew had been onto a good thing when they fished offshore for their evening meal all that long time ago. 

But unlike Cook and the Endeavour, our three intrepid fishermen returned to the same fishing grounds year after year after year, enduring the seven hour road trip from Straddie to 1770 with light hearts and an esky full of stubbies. Their hi-jinks whilst away became legendary, their fishing haul unbelievable.

Of course along with photographic and bragging proof of their catch they brought home the real thing,  lots of dead fish for the folk at home to feast on, but strangely nothing to show their better halves just how beautiful and enticing this fishing village of 1770 really was.

While our men were away on their annual jaunt, we wives were left at home.  1770 was after all a males only destination, their holiday accommodation a rough and ready retreat with few amenities for the gentler sex. 

At least that’s what they told us and naturally we believed them.

FAST FORWARD now to 2012, just last week in fact;  we three wives, Robyn, Karen and Jenny have been granted the rare privilege of accompanying our men folk on their current pilgrimage north.  What’s more this is not going to be an ‘up before dawn and out on the boat fishing’ type of holiday.  This time their rented cottage will be upmarket with all modern cons and our comfort and entertainment will be paramount and uppermost on their minds.  Not a fishing rod in sight.   (I lie, Larrikin Phil did bring a lightweight rod with the sole purpose of catching a flathead.  He didn’t.)

It seems though that age had obviously and finally mellowed our three Larrikins.

This for instance was the amazing view from our rented cottage.  Where the fishing boat in the picture is today, was where Cooks Endeavour anchored back in the year 1770.

Mind you despite their insistence this was to be a restful, relaxing and non rowdy week our Larrikins couldn’t quite banish their ‘hi-jinks’ mode.  Phil (you might remember his part in the ‘meals on wheels’ debacle in the imaginary town of Dunroaming) soon realised the rental house lacked a basic necessity for the drinking of beer, stubbie holders.  A sharp knife, the cardboard carton the bottles came in and a clothes peg soon rectified that problem.

Obviously age is not wearying them...

With such untouched bush and beach some of us took to the walking trails, exploring the history of 1770 and the glorious scenery...

While Larrikin Phil took the opportunity on each car trip to a remote location to throw in a line.  Without success.

Larrikin Phil with the light weight fishing rod – and not a bite....

But to fully appreciate the gigantic scope of all that the Town of 1770 has to offer we signed up for the all day tour around the wide curving bay to the Bustard Heads Lighthouse aboard the pink LARC ...  an American 40 year old light amphibious resupply cargo vessel or LARC (get it?).   The tour would involve crossing the water from 1770  to the long sandy beach of the Eurimbila National Park, crossing four creeks along the way and eventually trundling up to the historic 144 year old Bustard Bay Lighthouse on top of the headland.  (A long journey timewise, the LARC isn’t exactly speedy Gonzales!)

The prime destination of the journey, the historic Bustard Heads Lighthouse didn’t disappoint.  The views alone were worth the trip; blue ocean and passing cargo vessels eastward out to sea, mountain ranges and coastal flats to the west, Gladstone to the north and the Town of 1770 a mere dot in the distance, far to the south.

Lighthouse and keepers cottages as they were some 100 years ago.
Sadly the unoccupied lighthouse keepers cottages had been vandalised some years before, and rebuilt in the 1950’s style; with funding difficult to come by I guess replacing the old with the really original old was out of the question.

We enjoyed the visit and the informative tour given by the current caretakers, but we wives couldn’t help wondering how the original lighthouse keepers of centuries past had coped with the isolation and the raising and caring of their young families.  At one time the two keepers had 11 children resident in the two cottages at the one time. 

The Bustard Heads Lighthouse graveyard showed there had been desperate moments with tragic results.

For us though the return trip along the sandy beach had a few more surprises of a more adventuress nature... sand boarding down a steep sand hill.  I guess you could say it separated the brave four of us from the remaining two scaredey cats.  With my Reluctant Traveller sporting the after effects of a crabbing injury to his leg I felt sure only two of our blokes would take the challenge.

Our three Larrikins surveying the sand hill.

I was wrong.

Larrikin Phil at take off...
Larrikin John – mission accomplished...

And finally my Reluctant Traveller with the gammy leg....

Of we three wives only Jenny was brave enough, or energetic enough to climb the sand hill, but  I missed her ride and you will just have to take my word for it... she made a very elegant descent. 

The six of us and the LARC crew
You might think after 30 odd years we six would have run out of things to talk about, left behind the banter and laughter of earlier days when we all were a lot younger, but you would be wrong. Like the holidays away to Iluka documented in previous blogs, our week away at 1770 was full of fun.  We recalled all the old chestnuts, laughed the days and nights away, accumulating even more tall tales and true to relate at future gatherings.

As my Reluctant Traveller has often said  ... ‘You wouldn’t be dead for quids!’


Robyn Mortimer ©2012