Posts Tagged ‘Markets’

Yorkeys Knob, Lake Placid, and Yungaburra Markets

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

It’s Thursday afternoon, and I’m only just getting around to writing about last weekend… which may give you some idea of just how insane this week has been at Cairns Unlimited. Maria and I have been absolutley bombarded this week, with the busiest week ever for our Digital Underwater Camera Rentals, more Car Rental enquiries than ever, and a veritable flood of Spanish readers contacting Maria for informacion en espanol sobre tours en Australia .

Last Friday we had to revisit Yorkeys Knob to collect something from the post office, so we decided to make a morning out of it. We wandered the full length of Yorkeys Knob beach, from the rivermouth mangroves at the southern end to the rugged rock wall at the northern end, where we used to see dolphins. No dolphins this time unfortunately, but it does remind me that at least one of the reef trip companies have begun to run dedicated whale watching tours in Cairns. I’ve been whale watching before, both in southern Queensland and in Canada, but Maria never has… so watch this space….


On the way home, neither of us were in a hurry to get back to the office, so we took the turnoff to Lake Placid, just north of Cairns. It was a cool and relaxing place to stop and take a breath, and I could have sat there all day if we didn’t have so much work to be done.

Then on Saturday, we hit the Atherton Tablelands to check out the famous Yungaburra Markets. Two years we’ve been living in Cairns, and every month we vow to visit these markets, but for some reason every month we miss them. Well, not this time… although we did run out of fuel on the way home that afternoon… luckily at the bottom (this side) of the Kuranda Range!


Tolga.. the little hamlet with more.

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Ever since our first visit to the Atherton Tablelands, I have been intrigued by the tiny hamlet of Tolga, between Mareeba and Atherton. Growing from a Cobb and Co. staging post at nearby Rocky Creek, Tolga became the centre of both the local peanut industry and the Chinese community’s market gardens. Yes, this area has a rich and largely untold Chinese heritage, as you will discover at Hou Wang Temple and Atherton Chinatown.

Originally called Martintown, Tolga was renamed when the railway from Mareeba reached it. ‘Tolga’ means ‘red mud’ in the local Aboriginal language. It’s no New York or London, let’s be honest. You could almost blink and miss it if you were driving too fast, and many passing tourists would wonder where the population of 1500 are all hiding.

There’s not much to Tolga at first glance; a woodworks gallery, a couple of local shops, the iconic roadside fruit stall known as The Humpy and a little further up the road a gigantic peanut by another fruit stall, this one long-vacant. But in the two years we have been living in Cairns (yes, time flies when you’re having fun!) the giant peanut has been given a new lease on life - and a new body - as ‘The Peanut Place’,  The Humpy is now home to ‘Nutworld’ , and Tolga Woodworks now serves delicious snacks and meals in their ‘Gallery Cafe’. Tolga is now a compulsory stop on the popular Atherton Tablelands ‘Food Trail’.

As you leave Tolga heading south,  a short strecth of rainforest - noticably different to the surrounding pasture and woodlands - shrouds the Kennedy Highway. This is known as the Tolga Scrub, and holds significance as one of the last remaining fragments of the critically endangered Mabi rainforest on the Atherton Tablelands. Once covering vast areas of the Tablelands north and west of Malanda, 98% of Mabi rainforest has been lost to clearing, and several endemic plant species are now listed as ‘critically endangered’.

Mabi is characterised by the presence of scattered, mainly deciduous emergent trees up to 45m tall, heavy leaf fall during times of moisture stress and a well-developed shrub layer. It is the most drought resistant type of rainforest in Australia. The Tolga Scrub is critical habitat for flying foxes. Spectacled flying foxes are usually at the Tolga Scrub, though the numbers will vary throughout the year, being least in winter. It is a very important maternity camp for them, and is sometimes the only maternity camp on the Tablelands. Census counts in November usually report about 5000 to 10000. The total count for Spectacleds in the Wet Tropics is about 180,000

The Little Red flying foxes (Pteropus scapulatus) are sometimes at Tolga, and often in large numbers compared to the Spectacleds. They rarely use Tolga as a maternity camp, but often arrive when the young are flying, around September. The numbers will sometimes build up by the end of the year to be over a million (estimate only), but they are usually gone again by March when the wet season sets in. Little Reds can do significant damage to the forest if they hang in the weaker mid-canopy trees. This damage is the result of their characteristic behaviour of hanging in ‘bunches’ - the branches cannot take the weight and often bend until they break. This damage will repair itself, unlike the damage being done by the cockatoos that results in the death of the tree. However the Little Reds are sometimes camped in large numbers and do no damage, by camping in the larger trees and hanging apart from each other, rather than in bunches. This seems to happen late in the year, just before mating season.

 Tolga Bat Hospital

The Tolga Scrub is a vital part of the local ecosystem, and a refreshing landmark as one explores the Tablelands. But as soon as you have the opportunity to think “hmm… this rainforest seems a bit out of place” you have suddenly emerged into open woodland and cleared pasture. Incredibly, the Tolga Scrub is no more than two kilometres long and only a hundred metres wide!

You can see from this aerial view of the Tolga Scrub that it is completely isolated from other areas of rainforest and is bordered by farmland. The Tolga Scrub survived Cyclone Larry with only moderate damage, but this unique ecosystem faces a number of threats, not the least of which is internal fragmentation as animals and plant seeds have problems getting across the road which (quite bizarrely) disects this narrow sliver of irreplacebale Mabi rainforest.

We stopped to stock up at The Peanut Place (one bag of chilli and lime peanuts and one of honey and ginger peanuts) and then discovered that we were lucky enough to have arrived in Tolga on Market Day. You’d think we would have known in advance, since we have put together a comprehensive Tropical North Queensland Events Calendar, especially documenting every market in the region, and marking them on an interactive map! But the Tolga Markets was a pleasant surprise, and we were amazed at the size and breadth of this indoor/outdoor country market. There was everything from plants to books, stamps and coins, clothes, antiques and collectibles, arts and crafts, fruit and vegetables, and an unusual variety of foods and sweets.

We picked up a couple of giant passionfruit, two delicious pawpaws (papayas) and a few avocados; Shepherd variety. I carefully selected some slightly soft and some still hard so they would ripen in sequence. Once back home, Maria promptly selected the hardest of the lot and - struggling - cut it in half with a sharp knife. She is saving the two halves in the fridge, refusing to believe that it will not ripen now that it has been cut in half.

From Tolga, we continued through Atherton to Ravenshoe via the highest road in Queenslandd, then on to Millaa Millaa, where we and visited the picture perfect Millaa Millaa Falls, and dined at The Falls Teahouse, one of our all time favourites for their comfortable, relaxed ‘country style’ dining atmosphere and their freshly home made foods. I can almost never resist their rump steak pies, and this time chose to enjoy it as a ‘pie floater’, resting on a bed of mushy peas and drizzled with brown gravy. *drool*

Maria chose the fettucine carbonara, which was rich and creamy and generously laden with so much bacon that I had to help Maria finish it.

Port Douglas Markets

Monday, September 8th, 2008

We decided to go for a bit of a drive yesterday and what a better place than Port Douglas on a Sunday, when the markets are on? So we left Cairns early and hungry, with no breakfast whatsoever. But we knew that a delicious meal was waiting for us at one of the cafés in Port Douglas, that we have made into a bit of our routine when we go up there. We always order their muffins, they are absolutely delicious. It seems we didn’t manage to keep Java Blue a secret, yesterday the place was absolutely packed with tourists, all of them after the same delicacies we were too. However, we managed to find a little table inside and were very happy indeed.

Then it was time to stroll around the markets. We’re looking for presents to take home when we go to Spain for Christmas, but we didn’t want to take the typical boomerang, basically because we have already done so and unfortunately we can’t keep on buying the same presents all the time. So this time we’re looking for something more elaborate, and it’s not easy. I think we have found what we wanted, but I’m afraid I won’t be let the secret out, just in case my family happens to read this post and finds out before we get there. We’ll tell you when it’s all over, see what you think.

The markets are a fantastic place to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday morning. Lots of different stalls, from fruit selling to second hand items, bric a brac, souvenirs, clothes and accessories, furniture, art, etc. But my favourite stall is the one which sells the coconut faces. They are superb, so funny and tropical and different from your “Made in…” souvenir. I’m tempted to buy a couple, one to give away and another one to keep myself and have a laugh every time I look at it. Have a look at the pic below, don’t you think they are funny faces?

Steve was completely fascinated by the guy peeling and cutting coconuts. Although it’s not very clear in the photo above, he was using one of those knives that pirates used to use and was absolutely amazing handling it. If it was me cutting those coconuts, I would be in hospital right now. Where we live there are lots of coconut trees everywhere and when the season comes, you can see all the coconuts lying on the floor. I love coconuts so one day I decided to take one home with me, cut it open and eat it. Well, easier said than done. I tried cutting the coconut with every tool and instrument I found in our house. I ended ut with a hammer hammering the coconut as hard as I could but the freaky little thing resisted and I ended up giving up and thowing the coconut away. From then on, I buy all coconuts from the guys who know how to do it. Easy!!!

The sugar cane guy was also an interesting sight. He has modified his bycicle in such a way that he can squeeze the juice out of the sugar cane by peddling. I guess the peddling starts some sort of machinery than then squeezes the canes. He’s more than willing to let you try, of course he would be in such a hot day as yesterday. I must say we were slightly careless and now we’re suffering from a bit of sunburnt. What would my mother in law thinks, as Steve always tells me.

But one of the funniest sights of the markets yesterday was the one just above. I guess this guy hadn’t been such a great father (for those of you who didn’t know, yesterday it was Father’s Day in Australia) and his kids had taken revenge on him by giving him “a massage” as a present. When he got off the bed he had red marks all over him but a big smile on his face, so I reckon it wasn’t as bad as it looked.

And after we had stopped at every single stall at the markets, we went for a walk on Four Mile Beach, the prime beach of Port Douglas. It doesn’t take much imagination to find out why this beach has been given such a name: it’s four miles long and fabulous. By Australian standards, at least in the Far North, the beach was crowded, with more than 30 people playing, laughing and having a swim. Even the lifegards were enjoying the day out, playing cricket, very different from the tv shows about the lifegards in places such as Bondi Beach, where they don’t get a minute rest saving lifes. The water was really inviting, very clear and refreshing but since Steve wasn’t wearing his swimmers, I didn’t want to go for a swim on my own. Nobody to duck under the water, you see?