Walk­ing through the his­tory of Cairns

Walking New Zealand - - Australian Walk -

Though pro­mo­tional pho­tos show Cairns Har­bour full of blue wa­ter, most of the time it is mud­flats. Pho­tog­ra­phers may not be keen on mud­flats, but pel­i­cans love them.

Here they are, five or six of them -pok­ing about for food with their gi­ant pink bills; flut­ter­ing their wings; hav­ing a cross-beaks cud­dle with a mate and look­ing dis­tinctly su­pe­rior to the small­fry seag­ulls nearby.

The spread­ing fig trees and grass be­side the track are peace­ful and rest­ful. I walk out onto a jetty and watch the sea creep­ing up the mud­flats as the tide comes in, slowly turn­ing brown to blue.

But peace was not al­ways the mood in this town. Fur­ther along a dra­matic clock tower topped by the statue of a sol­dier, has names on its plinth to com­mem­o­rate those who died in World War I. The clock shows the time – 4.28am – of the land­ing at Gal­lipoli on 25 April 1915.

Two guns nearby un­der­line the vi­tal part Cairns played in the Pa­cific War of World War II. Cairns was only 1000kms from the bat­tle that raged in the Coral Sea (closer than they were to their state cap­i­tal of Bris­bane).

The United States sta­tioned troops in Cairns, to sup­ply the Pa­cific fleet and the me­mo­rial near the clock tower com­mem­o­rates the special com­mando units of World War II who trained on this site.

I con­tinue un­der the trees, past a colour­ful chil­dren’s play­ground, an ex­er­cise area, a skate park, sev­eral dra­matic art works and a plaque out­lin­ing the United Na­tions Man­i­festo 2000. Not far away are two tall white pil­lars amongst the trees, topped by a model of a Catalina air­craft. This me­mo­rial com­mem­o­rates the RAAF squadrons who flew Catali­nas dur­ing WWII.

I watch the an­tics of an­other group of pel­i­cans and a stork stretch­ing its black-tipped wings. Fin­gers of wa­ter are now edg­ing up the mud­flats which are topped, at this point, with a large curve of sand.

I have now al­most reached the air­port, so time to turn back. The 2.5km

Es­planade could take only 30 to 45 min­utes, but there’s so many in­ter­est­ing points en route that my 90 min­utes is nearer the mark

Above mid­dle: Cairns War Me­mo­rial has a clock mark­ing the time when Aus­tralian troops landed on Gal­lipoli.

Above sec­ond from left: This me­mo­rial com­mem­o­rates the special com­mando units who trained on this site in WWII.

Be­low left: Pel­i­cans lord it over the seag­ulls on the Cairns har­bour as the tide comes in.

Art works above are sit­u­ated in the mid­dle sec­tion of the Es­planade walk.

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