This week's work trip had me in the North Queensland city of Townsville (or Brownsville as it is disparagingly called) for a few days.
I knew I had a great opportunity to look around the heart of the city while on layover, so I thought I would make the most of my time in town by putting my new Garmin Forerunner 110 GPS watch to the test and doing my best, walk all of the trails on the feature that DOMINATES Townsville's skyline.
Yep, it was to be a fun few days hiking up, down and around Castle Hill !
My initial plan to be up at the top of the hill for sunrise was scuppered by poor planning when I discovered that I had left my headlight at home. This proved a blessing in disguise, as I was bloody tired and enjoyed a sleep in until 7am instead.
Finally heading out I decided to scout around the southern side of the hill rather than taking the ubiquitous "Goat Track" that every man and his dog takes up the face of the hill. No, I would include the Goat Track later in the day.
Leaving from the centre of town, outside the North QLD Cowboys rugby leauge club seemed somehow appropriate. I bet the players know the Castle Hill trails all too well !
There is some interesting architecture in Townsville and just a WARNING , this will be a photo heavy post.
Within just a minutes walk, Castle Hill dominates the skyline. It really is visible from pretty much anywhere in town. The structure on the right-side peak is a World War II observation point(pillbox).
I am soon off the streets and climbing the lower slopes to walk a track the follows an old pipeline around the contour of the hill.
I have seen snakes basking in the sun along this trail before, so I keep my eyes peeled for any that might be soaking up the early rays.
Even from these lowly slopes the view across Townsville to the distant hills is pretty special.
I soon come to an intersection where the trail starts to really climb the hill.
I like the fact that the trail isn't too "tame". Around this side of the hill it is very basic natural rock steps and a scramble up the hillside.
And across the hillside.
Keeping with the spirit of my hike I drop down the Dianella Track to it's starting point in suburbia. Interestingly, it starts on the edge of an old cemetery.
I also see that the mining boom that we have been riding here in Australia for the last 10 years is giving back in a small way to the peeps of Browns...er...Townsville.
1276 steps it will be then ! At least until I get to the road that leads to the peak of Castle Hill. Then there will be countless more...!
The Dianella Trail is one of my favourites as it consists of rough, natural steps and huge slabs of granite where the only way to find the trail is to follow the arrows that are painted on the rock.
Even here, on a quiet midweek morning you will still pass the odd adventurous soul. Good to see it too.
Reaching the roadway you can look back and savour the view that your effort has delivered.
But, there is still hill above to attack. I decided, in my "attack all tracks" challenge to not head straight to the top but to drop down the Goat Track until the Cudtheringa intersection, then head for it's intersection with the road. Then I would start climbing again.
Back onto the access road I dropped down the first track (Erythrina) to the right. It didn't take long to reach the suburbs again where I turned around and climbed back up to the access road.
The view around the northern side of the hill takes in the airport and another cemetery. This one is located just off the end of the runway !
The hill also sees plenty of scrub fire action as evidenced by the many burnt off sections.
The next trail down the hillside that I came to was the West Ridge Track. I had not heard of this one before so dropped down it with great interest.
Withinn a few hundred metres it became even more interesting !
This 2-2.5metre(6-8ft) python was sunning itself across the track. I was trying to give it some scale and that is the shadow of my hand in the bottom of the photo. The snake was about as thick as my arm! He looked pretty doughy but I still gave him a wide berth !
I dropped down to the bottom of this trail, then climbed up again. Yes, giving the snake another wide berth as he was sitting there like he owned the place!
I passed another trail dropping off the side of the hill. This was the Ironbark Trail. My knees were crying enough by this stage and the trail looked pretty steep, so I decided to head up and over the hill for the hotel and some breakfast.
There was still a bit of climbing to go but the reward is the magnificent view. From the very top you are looking across Magnetic Island and out toward the Great Barrier Reef.
Here is the panorama from one of the main lookouts.
The walk down the Goat Track was done gingerly as my knees were really screaming "enough". It felt soo good to sit down to some eggs on toast and coffee while I cooled down.
Suiting up, I was off to work, but ending up in Townsville again later that night I had a plan for tomorrow. It was to contrast the brown with the blue to the east.
If you have made it this far down the page, well done! Phew! Don't be afraid but this post is "to be continued"......