Archive for July, 2007

An Aussie barbecue by the Cairns lagoon, and an Aboriginal Flamenco concert

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

It’s been a great day, down at the Esplanade, enjoying a typical Aussie barbie with some friends. Only one regret, you are not allowed to drink beer in public, so we had to help get the saussages down with soft drinks. Anyway, we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless and look forward to getting together again very soon.

As you can see, it was Graham who took care of the barbie, and Lachy and Steve’s main priority was to make sure Graham had all the drinks he wanted. That’s how things work at an Aussie barbecue. One of the guys is in charge of the barbie, the rest of his mates make sure that he’s never short of drinks and conversation. Sometimes one of them may even criticise the way he’s cooking the chops or the saussages and give him advice, but always in good terms. Meanwhile, the SHEILAS are preparing the salads, setting up the table if there’s one, cutting the bread and so on. Sheilas are never even allowed to get near the barbecue, that’s a guy’s job. In other words, roles are strictly established and anybody trying to break the rules may never be invited to a barbecue again. And since I enjoy barbecues, I stack to my role and prepared a delicious green salad, exactly as I was told.

Graham looking very professional cooking the BBQ for everyone, at the Cairns Lagoon.

Of course, I had to put the pic of Lachy wearing my beautiful apron, very Spanish looking thing. It’s a present one of my friends gave me the night before we left Spain. Thanks a lot, Jose. I’m afraid we didn’t take any pics of the lovely ladies, but we’re hoping to get together with Silvia and Nadege, Graham and Lachy’s viwes respectively, very soon again, and then I won’t forget.

Lachy & Steve keeping Graham's company..Lachy looking very comfortable wearing a very Spanish apron.

I got to tell you about the open air concert we went to on Friday evening, after our fantastic day exploring the ATHERTON TABLELANDS region. The concert was held at the Warrina Lakes, in INNISFAIL, a town very well known for producing a large proportion of Australia’s sugar. The town is also home to PARONELLA PARK, and, if you have read previous blogs, you will remember that the park was built by a Spanish migrant, José Paronella. So the theme of the concert was the lives of José Paronella and Joaquín Gómez. Joaquín was a very famouse flamenco guitarist who migrated to Queensland in the late 50´s. But the originality of it all was how a pure flamenco singer, a couple of flamenco guitarists, a didgeridoo player, a violinist and a flautist, in conjunction with a narrator, two female singers and a whole chore of kids in the background, all got together to tell the story of these two Spanish migrants who called Tropical North Queensland home.

The concert started with the sounds of the didgeridoo, while the narrator talked about the beginning of Australia related to the fascinating and ancient ABORIGINAL culture. Then it went on in a very particular way. Flamenco guitars and clapping mixed with lyrics in English. I know that to everybody in Spain mixing flamenco with English lyrics may sound a bit bizarre, but the story, the atmosphere, the lights and the thousands of flying foxes above us made the whole thing very well intervowen and very enjoyable. I must admit the bits I most enjoyed where the ones the pure flamenco singer did, in Spanish. It was a bit as if I was again in Madrid, out with my friends, singing and dancing the night away.

.

In a few hours it will be Monday again, and we’ll be back to work. Stay tunned…

Waterfalls, cheese, chocolate and wine… is this paradise?

Saturday, July 21st, 2007

Some of you might suspect that we’ve been showing an unfair degeree of favouritism towards the ATHERTON TABLELANDS, and you’d be pretty right. The Cairns Highlands - as they’re also known - have always been a personal favourite of mine, and Maria is sharing my enthusiasm for exploring this varied and diverse region.

We are planning a road trip to COOKTOWN, and also an extended tour around the NORTHERN OUTBACK, but when we found ourselves with a free day on Friday, we were off to the Tablelands again. This time, we were bound for the the southern towns of the Tablelands, the rolling green hills, the dairy farms, lush rainforests and waterfalls of MALANDA, MILLAA MILLAA and YUNGABURRA.

Neither member of the expedition was keen to retrace our windy path from three days earlier up the range from Gordonvale, so we followed the Bruce Highway further south to INNISFAIL before turning inland to our first destination, Millaa Millaa. I was especially excited to be visiting the Tablelands’ premier independent dairy; I had read about Mungalli Creek Bio-Dynamic Dairy when I first started researching the region, and since then I have seen their products in shops almost everywhere I go. Our ATHERTON TABLELANDS FOOD TRAIL page has been receiving a great response, but so far about half the venues are coffee plantations or fruit wineries. We were keen to get a dairy on board to provide a better balance.

But Mungalli Creek is more than just a dairy. Set on a ridge with sweeping views to the distant mountains, the working dairy is fronted by their ‘Out Of The Whey’ Teahouse. On entering, we were immediately greeted by the aroma of a medley of farm fresh food baking. Neither of us were hungry, but we couldn’t resist the free ‘cheese sampler’, a selection of their famed cheeses and delicious flavoured quarks. After a chat with Michelle, the owner, we continued on our tour. There was still so much to see.

Maria sampling some of Mungalli Creek Dairy's delicious cheeses. The view from Mungalli Creek Dairy.

This part of the Tablelands is nothing short of spectacular, and it’s no surprise that the local ‘Waterfall Circuit’ is such a popular destination. There are a number of beautiful waterfalls within a fifteen kilometre drive, but we didn’t have time to visit them all. We did stop for a quick photo opportunity at the most famous falls, Millaa Millaa Falls, which are probably the most photographed waterfalls in Tropical North Queensland. You can see why, the setting is nothing short of idyllic.

Maria and me at the gorgeous Millaa Millaa Falls. The wildlife signs are there for a very good reason, and locals don't appreciate them being removed.

At the end of the Waterfall Circuit (or at the beginning if you’re coming the other way) you will find The Falls Teahouse. We dropped in to check it out, and were surprised to learn that they also offer Bed and Breakfast accommodation. We were invited to take a look at the rooms, and both of us were very impressed. The rooms, while fairly simple, were decorated with period furniture and fittings, and had a genuine old world charm. I couldn’t leave without sampling one of their home baked rump steak pies, straight from the oven. Now five bucks might seem like a lot for a humble meat pie, but I guarantee that by the time you finish one, you will wonder how they make it so good for the price. A far cry from the average sloppy mince pie, this fella was packed with huge chunks of lean rump steak.

A little further north on the road to Tarzali, I was delighted to find a new addition for our BIG THINGS page, a gleaming nine metre high fish. This is the entrance to Tarzali Lakes Fishing and Leisure Park, North Queensland’s number oen fishing park. Tarzali lakes is famous for the local freshwater crayfish known as Redclaw, and in fact has produced the two largest Redclaw ever, at 800 and 900 grams! Another interesting discovery at Tarzali lakes is that they offer ‘No see, no fee’ platypus viewing tours. That is to say, if you don’t spot one of the normally elusive monotremes, you don’t pay for the tour. And you can’t get much fairere than that!

In Tarzali, we dropped in to Hillside Eden Gardens, a popular cafe with beautiful tropical gardens. Hillside Eden is becoming an increasingly popular venue for garden weddings, and the owner seemed keen to be part of Cairns Unlimited’s WEDDINGS section.

The big fish at Tarzali Lakes Fishing and Leisure Park. Maria in front of the Curtain Fig Tree.

Just up the road is Australia’s largest tea plantation, where we thoroughly enjoyed a strong cup of Nerada tea in their new tearoom and visitors centre. But there was one other attraction that had my interest. What was missing on our Food Trail page? We had tea plantations, coffee plantations, dairy products, home made icecreams, gelatos and sorbets, fresh seafood, fruit wines and liqueurs…

Neatly trimmed tea plantation, on the Atherton Tablelands. Neatly trimmed tea plantation, on the Atherton Tablelands.

Well, we had been hearing rumours about a newly opened cheese and chocolate factory, and apparently we were headed in the right direction. Gallo Dairyland it’s called, and it wasn’t long before we saw their driveway. Little did we know that we were actually gatecrashing their official opening! But the owner Johnny Gallo didn’t seem to mind. he took the time to chat with us, although we did leave without being invited to sample any of their delicious range of chocolates or cheeses
:(

Next time, Johnny… okay?

We hadn’t intended to drive so far north, but had been lured by the prospect of chocolate. While we were in the neighbourhood, we figured we might as well scoot across to YUNGABURRA and catch up with the folk from Wild Mountain Cellars Winery and Distillery. After all, too much TROPICAL FRUIT WINE is never enough!!

But I can’t spend all day writing about our adventures. It’s time to start planning our next jaunt around the countryside. I’ll sign off with a farewell from Malanda, home to the largest all-timber building in the southern hemisphere, and Australia’s oldest operating picture theatre, complete with canvas ‘potato sack’ seats.

Malanda Hotel, the largest all-timber building in the southern hemisphere. Australia's oldest operating picture theatre, complete with canvas 'potato sack' seats.

Giant snakes, giant peanuts, underground museums, and more fruit wine… all in a day’s work!

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

While we wait for Optus to get their collective head out of their bum and hook us up with the broadband that we applied for almost three weeks ago, we’re taking the opportunity to explore the region a little more, and of course tell the local businesspeople about Cairns Unlimited.

Yesterday’s jaunt took us to the rainforest village of KURANDA, and onwards once again to the very pleasant ATHERTON TABLELANDS. Our focus was on the region’s increasingly popular FOOD AND WINE TOURISM, but we stopped to chat to anyone and everyone who might be interested to advertise on Cairns Unlimited.

Maria made friends with a python at Australia Venom Zoo, in Kuranda, while I found a friend a little further down the road near Tolga, on the way to ATHERTON. Maria says she can notice a family resemblance, whatever that means.

If you’re not familiar with Australia’s mysterious passion for ‘Big Things’, you might want to pay a quick visit to our BIG THINGS page.

Then, in Atherton, we did a little car hunting. Maria found one she liked, but it was a bit understated for my taste. And next thing we knew, we were headed underground!

Our last stop for the day was YUNGABURRA, a lovely little historic village in the central Atherton Tablelands. By that time, it was getting quite cool (the Tablelands are considerably colder than Cairns), many of the businesses had closed for the day, and we were tired. Maria said that Yungaburra was probably the nicest town she has visited so far. Sorry we don’t have any pics, but you can be sure we’ll be back there soon. The drive back to the coast left us both feeling a bit carsick, as we twisted and turned our way down the seemingly neverending mountain range. I’m sure it’s a lovely scenic drive during the daytime, but it’s not a drive we’ll be repeating any time soon.

Back in Cairns, we had one more stop before we could call it a day. At the city’s bustling NIGHT MARKETS, we wanted to have a chat with Kirstie, from Cairns Tropical Wines. Kirstie sells wines from nine of the region’s best TROPICAL FRUIT WINERIES, all in one convenient location, right on Cairns’s busy ESPLANADE. And best of all… you can try before you buy!

So while I was drinking all of Kirstie’s delicious wines, Maria took off for a free hand treatment. i reckon I got the best end of that deal, but she was happy so that’s all that matters…