Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Back tracking

The blank blog space between Rose and Steve's visit and Mog and Kal's visit needs filling in - that's the gap that saw me exchange the company of Royden (who flew south for a meeting) for the company of Heather.
They did a direct in-and-outgoing swap-over at Cairns airport, including car keys for Heather's car and the same plane seat - 4A.
As you might have expected, this period was land-based despite the encouragement of nearby boat owners to ``take 'er out while the weather's good.''
Err, no thanks. Ditto for Heather.
We had our `no plan' flexi-plan and our Suzuki Swift hire car that proved perfect for our needs.
The six days turned into a bit of a food-fest as we discovered delicious eateries around Cairns and out in the sticks.
This wasn't deliberate but, God it was good.
Cairns Botanic Gardens boasts some unique plants including this flowering creeper from Java.
If you're visiting Cairns, the Botanic Gardens cafe (the old one in the middle of the gardens) is a gastronomic delight - there's no way you'll come out hungry as the serves are generous+. Mog and Kal will vouch for the waffle desserts.
Then there's the cafe adjacent to the Cairns Arts Centre in town. We tried their entree serves for two separate lunches (sharing four different dishes overall). As well as the presentation being awesome, the flavours were fabulous. I highly recommend the prawns, avocado and chargrilled capsicum with lemon mayonnaise, and the arrancini balls with that spicy beef surprise in the centre. and the ...
Enough already. This is sounding like a Mog Blog.
We also discovered little treasures like the Cairns Museum which is run solely by volunteers and located above a shop in Cairns Square. For $5 we had a beaut couple of hours in the hands of a volunteer (whose name escapes me) whose tactile tour had us playing and working just about everything that moved in the place. It may not appeal to everyone but for the time and our mood it was perfect.
Our furthest day trip was to the Atherton Tablelands. It's a beaut drive winding up through the mountains to Kuranda, across to Mareeba then on to Atherton and through patches of rainforest (on the highest road in Queensland) to Millaa Millaa (our turn around point).
Millaa Millaa has some interesting sculptures including this one of The Reluctant Cow. The expressions on the faces of the farmer, the cow and the dog in this piece are brilliant.
We had planned to take the loop road at Millaa Millaa which takes in three waterfalls however we learned at the Millaa Millaa Museum (again run by volunteers) that the bridge was down so we could visit just the one waterfall.
Millaa Millaa is a tiny, picturesque and well-kept town, but easily missed as it is off the main road. It has the most amazing cafe. Set up in an old shop, the place is beautifully laid out and the coffee and freshly made food delicious. It was a morning tea must.
Millaa Millaa Falls
Thank goodness it and the museum were interesting because the waterfall wasn't. The falls themselves are lovely but the surrounds are largely old concrete paths, new and old toilet blocks facing off across the pool below the waterfall - and one nice walk that takes you along the stream and away from the man-made ugly bits.
Comparing what we saw with a postcard from the museum, I suspect that the landscaping around the pool may have been washed away during the last Wet or maybe the one before that (Yasi?) so maybe it's just a matter of time before the local council pays the area some attention.
Nerada tea rooms with Mt Bartle Frere in the background.
We took an alternate route back towards Atherton to take in the Nerada tea growing plantation. I had no idea that Nerada tea was grown in Australia and even less idea that the Atherton Tablelands can get severe frosts, evidenced by a frost-burnt strip of tea bushes. The view from the tea rooms across the tablelands to Mt Bartle Frere, Queensland's highest peak, was worth the visit. But the lunch menu wasn't up to our expectations so we had a cuppa and left for Malanda. A walk around the town didn't yield much promise until Heather asked a young smartly-dressed woman where she would eat in town. We were directed back up the road to the Dairy Heritage Centre restaurant, part of the Dairy Farmers' milk factory.
What a surprise - a pleasant one. The history of dairying on the Atherton Tablelands is laid out around the restaurant - and the food was fabulous.
Again we ordered entree sized meals. Heather's dish had a dozen prawns. My calamari with mango dressing was mouth-wateringly delicious as well as generous. This would all have been OK had we not ordered a mango smoothie each (where one between us would have sufficed).
We wobbled out of there and set off for the Rocky Creek War Memorial Park to the south. We had passed this on the way up and were curious about the rows of stone blocks across a couple of acres of land while adjacent was a huge paddock for free camping which was being well utilised. The site, complete with around 100 granite obelisks and plaques bearing the names of serving units, is the former WW2 Army Hospital, evidently the largest Army hospital in the southern hemisphere.
Rocky Creek War Memorial Park between Malanda and Atherton.
After a full day out, you'd reckon we'd be putting our feet up on the boat and settling down to a gin and tonic but Cairns Arts Festival was still on and we had booked to go to Grace Knight's concert so it was a quick shower and change back at the marina and we were off to the Tanks Arts Centre at the Botanic Gardens. Dinner did not feature on the evening's agenda!
It was a fabulous concert with an hilarious artist who has the voice of a (raunchy) angel.
The wire sculptures are full of aluminium cans. In Cairns. Get it?
Determined not to miss anything, we spent Heather's last but one day taking in art installations along the Cairns Esplanade before heading off to another festival event, the Last Saturday Book Club where as luck would have it, the first of the three books under discussion was the one we were both reading: Anna Funder's `All That I Am'.
The next day, the airport swapover was reversed with hellos, goodbyes and hugs all round, and our week with Mog and Kal on board began (see last two blog posts).


  1. No wonder that cow's kicked the bucket, it looks like the farmer is up to his shoulder!!

    1. Yeah it does look like that from a distance but a closer look reveals he is giving the cow a push with his shoulder and his arm is visible on the side of the cow. However, first impressions ..... Wonder if it was deliberate?