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Monday, June 11, 2012

June 10, 2012 - Lizard Island Hike to Cook's Lookout

Today we awoke to beautiful blue skies and water so clear we could trace the anchor chain all the way to the anchor by just looking down from the bow of Destiny. Again the beauty of this place overwhelmed our senses. It is difficult to fathom and even more difficult to articulate. We enjoyed a lazy morning eating homemade yogurt and fresh fruit in the cockpit, sipping coffee and just looking around us and counting our blessings.

view from the boat

We have not had internet or phone service since leaving Port Douglas. Neither of us could pick up a phone signal but if I held my laptop just so, on the starboard side of the boat my broadband stick lit up and I could get 2 out of 5 bars. Not a real good signal, but good enough to pull in emails and get a couple of blog postings uploaded. It was frustrating work and we determined not to let it enslave us.

The resort is visible from here just around the Clam Garden from us, in the next bay, and although it is quite exclusive a little restaurant/bar (pub) at the end of the beach has been established for staff members. It is only open a few nights per week, however, in addition to the BBQ pits & picnic tables along Watson's Bay, it is available to us as casual guests of the island. After all the resort does not own the island. There is also a little gazebo down by the shore where several folks gathered to relax out of the sun. It's really a vey nice setup. Lizard Island is also home to a marine research station located on the other side that accommodates marine biologists from all over the world - but that is a story for tomorrow's adventure. This day we plan to hike to the top of the mount to Cook's Lookout and then tonight dine at the pub with a large contingent of cruisers.

We loaded the backpacks with fresh fruit and water, cameras, bug spray, suntan lotion, tissues and chapstick; grabbed our walking sticks and dinghied to shore. This particular mountain is one that Lieutenant James Cook (not yet Captain) climbed when he found his ship, The Endeavor, surrounded by what appeared to be impassable coral reefs. He arrived here and seeking a break in the barrier reef climbed to the top of the mount where from it's summit he was able to sight a pass only a few miles northeast of this island, which is now named Cook's Pass. I don't know who named the pass but I do know Lt. Cook named Lizard Island because the only life form he found here were lizards. We spied droves of them skittering across our path on the rocky and often very steep and barely navigable track. How he and his men did this hundreds of years ago in the type of shoes they wore and with no discernable path whatsoever is beyond us. It was another of those hikes that really got our hearts pumping. Although hot, a breeze found us from time to time cooling us down to a bearable temperature. We stopped for photos along the way, and when we reached the lower observation point that looks back over the island toward the mainland, we were met with the most stunning panorama.

 It was literally the prettiest view I have seen from such a vantage point. We were blessed with a very clear day, allowing us to see for miles (often there is a marine haze in the air that can obscure everything). We also had a very clear perspective of the resort, the airstrip and the research station far below us. A little farther up is the summit where a large wooden box houses the guest book, sealed within a large plastic container. I signed the book for both of us noting entries made by others from all over the world. Next to that was a very large add-a-rock hill whereupon we each placed a new stone. The view from the summit looked out across the outer barrier reef where we could see the passage that Cook spotted back in 1770. There was just a teeny bit of haze in this direction although we had an unobscured view of many dozens of reefs that comprise the Great Barrier Reef. It was beyond breathtaking! I doubt there is another place from which this view is possible, other than from a low flying aircraft. We sat for a bit, munching on our snacks and remarked to one another that we are so very blessed to experience this because really the only people fortunate enough to come here are either guests and staff of the resort, scientists and volunteers at the research station, and those who arrive by private yacht such as ourselves.

The trip back down was nearly a skid and a trip! Frank is as surefooted as a mountain goat, but I on the other hand have no sense of balance or poise on the downhill trek. There were several patches of loose sand and gravel that had not been apparent on the hike up. They sure were now, and Frank seemingly danced right over them yet somehow my feet found every slippery last one and I nearly broke my neck on the steeper descents. The walking stick that Frank had fashioned for me back at Whitsunday Island was my savior. Part of my problem was that the view was so captivating it was distracting and I was not multitasking very well but we both made it down fine and have some beautiful pictures to show for it.

After getting cleaned up and having a short rest back on Destiny we set off for the "pub" where we met several more cruisers who are headed toward Darwin. Walking up to the little restaurant area I nearly ran into a large monitor lizard just walking around like he was one of us.

Already the various factions are forming into little caucuses. Our Kiwi friends have all sort of gathered among themselves. There is a group of Dutch traveling together, as well as some Swedes and Germans. Some others I'm not sure of, nationality-wise. There are two other American boats, Scholarship and Fearless who we think are traveling together but then we found that the owner of Fearless is actually crewing for the Aussie couple to whom he had recently sold his boat. Alliances are being forged. Frank and I are resisting becoming glued to any particular group. We rather like meeting everyone and remaining friends to anyone from any country. Eventually our table grew to overflowing with over a dozen chattering accents and dialects. We visited with them all and enjoyed a really great evening until the DJ piped the music too loud for us to hear one another. We took this as our cue to get going.

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