Thursday 9th May 2013, 11.10am (day 623)
Some historical notes…. Cooktown is, fairly obviously, named for Captain James Cook, and this river for his ship, the Endeavour, which laid up here in 1770 after it was holed on the Great Barrier Reef. Cook and crew spent six weeks here in June and July, repairing the vessel. During this time they also interacted with the local Aboriginals, and became the first Europeans to see the kangaroo — the story that they named this animal after the local word for ‘I don’t know’ is probably apocryphal, but funny anyway.
The world, in general, then forgot about the Cooktown area for 104 years, until gold was discovered nearby in 1874. A year later Cooktown had 65 premises licensed to serve alcohol, and the local Aboriginals, who had been treated rather decently by the crew of the Endeavour, had their lives and culture wrecked for all time.
Cooktown today feels slightly run-down, very frontier; humid as hell, signs warning of crocodile activity in the estuary, more people of Aboriginal descent than I’ve seen anywhere else in Australia, but, on the whole, more agreeable than Byron Bay, at least. There are no surfer dudes and blonde babes in bikinis, but it’s all the better for it. (Did I really say that?)