Archive for July, 2007

A trip to the Southern Atherton Tablelands

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

We woke up this morning, saw what a beautiful day it was going to be and thought: “Let’s get away from the computer and visit the towns in the southern ATHERTON TABLELANDS“. It was a trip we had been meaning to do for many days, but there was always something stopping us from driving there. We’re happy we finally made it as we discovered lots of new and interesting sites.
Our first stop for the day was TOLGA, a town we had visited before, but I have missed the Hand Carved “Heritage in Timber” Poles and I was interested in having a look at them And this is what we found there. Nice, aren’t they?

A view of some of the …. A close snap shot of one of the …. A close snap shot of one of the

Even though we were a bit pressed for time, we couldn’t miss stopping at the HOU WANG CHINESE TEMPLE, in ATHERTON, just a few metres away. Noelene, the Museum’s manager, was very kind to offer us a quick insight into the Chinese people who migrated to Queensland late in the 18th century. It’s a very interesting, and sometimes hard, story. We promise to investigate a bit more and we’ll write about it soon. I’m sure you’ll be as interested as we are.

We were then taken to the actual Chinese Temple, where the Chinese community celebrated their religious ceremonies. We couldn’t have guessed what the Temple had awaiting for us. As soon as Brian, our friendly guide, opened the doors, our mouth opened in disbelief. A beautiful Chinese shrine at the farthest end of the room, surrounded by wonderfully crafted timber ornaments and poles, all of them carved in China and brought to Queensland specially to be donated to this temple. Surely you are thinking that whoever donated the ornaments was a very unselfish person. No worries, we thought so too. But the reality is that it wasn’t such an unselfish act. Whoever donated anything got to have his name carved in the ornament as well, so everybody knew who had donated what and honored them. Not so unselfish after all, was it?

Inside the Chinese Temple, in Atherton, Tropical North Queensland. The building where the Chinese Temple is located, in Atherton.

Apart from the Temple itself, visitors can also see the Community Hall and the kitchen. The kitchen was very interesting, with a display of what the kitchen looked like when the Chinese workers were still using it. And there’s another surprise at the Community Hall, but I’ll leave it for you to discover it when you come to Tropical North Queensland. We don’t want to reveal every little secret this region has to offer, we’d rather you discover them yourself.

Then on to HERBERTON, where Steve wanted to visit a few of the businesses he had been in touch with. Nowadays, Herberton is a little town, but not so long ago it was the richest tin mining field in Australia, with up to 20 pubs at the time. Hard to believe now. However, although Herberton is now a modern town, the old mining town remains at one end of the town, with its streets, houses, etc. The whole town has a very eerie feeling about it, as if the pioneers were still around. We would love to do a tour of the old town, maybe we’ll go back very soon.

One of the houses of the old mining town, in Herberton. The houses at the old mining town, in Herberton, as they were in the pioneering times.

Then on to IRVINEBANK, only 30 kilometres away. However, before Irvinebank there are two sites worth visiting, or at least, taking notice of. One of them is the Pioneer Cemetery and the other one is, well, the Windmill. Nothing unusual, a windmill in a rural area. However, this one is located right in the middle of the roads and vehicles have to actually avoid it. If you don’t believe me, see if for yourself.

The old pioneer cemetery, close to Watsonville, in the Atherton Tablelands. Steve trying to understand the reason why a wind mill is right on the middle of the road.

In Irvinebank we had a look at a few National Trust Heritage Buildings, buildings that date back to the 19th century, when the pioneers were still alive and kicking. Anyone can still see their traces all over the place and it really feels as if they are going to be walking in the streets any minute.

The Loudoun House, in Irvinebank. The School of Art, one of the National Trust Heritage Buildings in Irvinebank, Atherton Tablelands.

Next stop was RAVENSHOE, Queensland’s highest town, proud location of Queensland’s highest pub. Needless to say, we had to check the pub and it felt very high, honestly. Ravenshoe is home to Capella Stream Train, a 1925 vintage steam locomotive that still run tours every Sunday. A shame we didn’t make the trip on a Sunday, it must be a very interesting trip. I guess that’s another reason to drive down to here soon. Also very close to Ravenshoe visitors can find the Wind Farm, Queensland’s largest wind farm, with 20 windmill working non stop. We couldn’t go home without having a close look to them, and this is what we saw.

A beautiful site of the Wind Mill, with the full moon rising behind. The shape of the trees on top of the Wind Mill Hill, in Tropical North Queensland.

Ravenshoe on to INNOT HOT SPRINGS, where locals and tourists alike can enjoy the beneficial waters of the creek. Just one piece of advice: think twice before you decide to try the temperature of the water with your feet. I did and I can tell you my poor feet are still suffering because the water was absolutely boiling. The two couples who were enjoying a hot bath had been wiser and had gone a bit further away from the mouth of the stream, where the water is warmer. And they seemed to be having a very good time…

Ooops, I nearly forgot the highlight of the day for me, the Millstream Waterfalls. They are Australia’s widest single-drop waterfall during the wet season. I think we’re in the dry season now, but they are still impressive, I cannot imagine what they look like when they are at their best.

Steve posing in front of the Millstream Waterfalls, in Tropical North Queensland. The Millstream Waterfalls, near Ravenshoe, during the dry season.

MOUNT GARNET was our last stop for the day, before we made it back home to a delicious pizza and a refreshing bottle of red. Mount Garnet is another old mining town, although, unlike the rest of the towns in the area, Mount Garnet is still home to a mine and gold prospectors and fossickers still make their way down here to try their luck. We haven’t heard of anyone who has become rich these days by finding enough gold, but you never know when it can be your lucky day.

Innot Hot Springs, in the Atherton Tablelands. One of Mount Garnet's murals.

And that’s all for today. We will come back very soon with more interesting updates. See you soon.

The largest three masted schooner in the world

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

The other big news in Cairns this week is the arrival of the Athena, a massive sailing boat. The Athena, 90 metres long with 60 metres masts, is the largest three masted schooner in the world. Here you have two beautiful photos of her (I don’t know why but in English, and also in Spanish, boats, ships, etc, are always related to as females). I guess by looking at the pics you can have an idea of how big it is. In case you still don’t think it’s big, believe us, it is a monster.

Even though we had heard that nobody was allowed to get close to it, we ventured in the Marlin Marina to see how far we could go and, if possible, take a few pics so we could share them with you. And we couldn’t see anybody stopping us from getting close, in fact, there were lots of people taking photos and even chatting to one of the crew who was mopping the floor of the ship while, I guess, the rest of the crew were having fun. Tough life!!!

But she’s beautiful, isn’t she? She belongs to Jim Clark, founder of Netscape and Silicon Graphics and the price to build her was $90 million. What makes the Athena so interesting, apart from her measurements, is that she’s for rent. Anybody can rent her, providing they have US$500,000 a week. Let’s see, that’s AU$600,000 or 360,000 euros a week. We’re thinking about it, but we haven’t decided where to sail her yet, so we’ll drop the subject for the time being. But it has inspired us to build a new page for Cairns Unlimited. Check out our new BOAT HIRE page.

Back home, Steve had a surprise for me, we were going to swap roles and he was going to clean the house while I washed the van. I reckon I did a pretty good job washing the van as Steve didn’t complain at all. And that’t not like him… But since today he didn’t get mad at me while I was driving around Cairns and that he was happy to sunbathe for a while at the ESPLANADE LAGOON, I decided to do it. And here I am, the first time in my live that I have washed a car. Although, now that I think about it, it’s also the only car I have ever owned in my life. Maybe that’s why…

The return of the white whale… Migaloo!

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Well, the big news of the day was the sighting of Migaloo, the world’s only known white humpback whale, off the coast of PORT DOUGLAS on his annual migration from Antarctica. Passengers on a dive boat on the Great Barrier Reef were stunned when they witnessed Migaloo breach the surface close to their craft. Witnesses reported that it was like watching an iceberg rise from the ocean.

Migaloo (which is the Aboriginal word for ‘white fella’) is no stranger to Tropical North Queensland. This is the third year in a row that he has been sighted in the northern waters, but how far north he travels varies each year.

Every winter, about 8000 humpbacks make their way up the east coast of Australia in search of warmer water, and who could blame them? Many linger around the WHITSUNDAY ISLANDS, but they have been sighted as far north as Torres Strait. But Migaloo is the undisputed star, and in one aerial photograph in today’s paper, you could see the 40 tonne giant cruising through the tropical waters, flanked on each side by a smaller whale, and with two dolphins leaping the waves in front of him, almost like a royal cavalcade.

In general, Australia’s humpback whale population is on the climb, after being hunted almost to extinction in the 50’s and 60’s. They have enjoyed protection in the Antarctic since the countries of the International Whaling Commission agreed on a moratorium that halted whaling in 1986. But Japan wants to resume whaling, under the guise of an Antarctic ’scientific research’ program. Ironically, the commission’s governing convention lets each member country issue its scientific permits - including for lethal research.

Japan does not recognise the Australian Antarctic Territory, or its 200-nautical-mile offshore Exclusive Economic Zone. That means, “Australia’s whales” may be in the sights of Japanese harpoons. Over the years, our humpbacks have become accustomed to a human presence in their waters, and in fact are often noted to approach whale watching boats out of curiosity or to ’show off’ to their audience. It is feared that Japanese whalers will first target those whales which are more comfortable around boats; the ‘easy targets’ so to speak.

Cairns Unlimited is not shy to express our disgust for whaling, and we award our first ever big Cairns Unlimited ‘Thumbs Down’ to anyone who would want to kill these magnificent creatures.

Migaloo wasn’t the only BIG THING to arrive in Tropical North Queensland this week. But you’ll have to come back tomorrow to read more…