Monthly Archives: August 2014

Tracking South – leaving the tropical wet rainforest

We are finally moving south – but slowly so that the cooler temperatures don’t shock us too much!
First top was Cardwell. Our memories of lunching on beautiful fresh mud crab sandwiches in a local cafe were dashed as they had closed down. We did try the new outfit (complete with a large crab on their roof) but they were just not up to scratch – watery with free pieces of shell! Fortunately the Cardwell Beachcomber caravan park where we stayed saved the day with yummy mud crab spring rolls at their restaurant.

Cardwell beach 1 Coral Sea mem 4 Coral Sea mem 5 Coral Sea mem 6 Hinchinbrook Island 1 Ibis 1

The lovely boardwalk along the beach made for a pleasant walk into town. Walking in the other direction took us to the Battle of the Coral Sea memorial, commemorating the huge loss of lives in the air and sea battle between the allied Australian/US forces and the Japanese forces in May 1942. It’s easy to forget how close WW2 came to Northern Australia after Singapore and New Guinea were invaded. One special quote about this tragedy was “This was the first naval battle, in history, in which the opposing ships never came within sight of one another. The entire action was fought by carrier borne aircraft.”

Rollingstone Beach Caravan Resort was our next stop 30 minutes north of Townsville.

Dawn Rollingstone 3 Dawn Rollingstone 2 Beach Rollingstone 3 Beach Rollingstone 2

Our beachfront site was delightful (although the wind was so strong that at times we wished we had a more sheltered site) Local farmers bring in pineapples and pawpaws each day – hog heaven. Speaking of which, 3 little pigs (just spit size!) literally strolled out of the bush in front of us one day to forage in the garden round the park office! The people were aware of them and had caught one, but the remainder have learned to be a little more cautious… They are working on other strategies to get them. There were several birds attracted to the Grevillea planted round the park.

Helmeted Friarbird 1 Mangrove Robin 1 Rainbow Lorikeet 1 Rainbow Lorikeet 2 Rainbow Lorikeet 3

The track from Bluewater up into the Paluma National Park was a fab half day drive – the first time we’ve had our FJ Cruiser in 4WD for months and we needed it in a few spots! This is the southern most area of tropical forest, very lovely and would give you outstanding photos out to the coast on a sunnier day.

Trail bike Bluewaters track View from Bluewaters track 1

Our stay in Airlie Beach was also wet and windy. We found this tourist spot similar to Port Douglas – in fact you can stand anywhere and turn 360 degrees and see every type of accommodation from highrise apartments, resorts, hotels, backpackers etc…. but how much of it is full is the interesting question. The marinas full of yachts plus all the boats plying their trade to the Whitsundays are amazing as well. The neighbouring suburb of Cannonvale doesn’t seem to feature on tourist brochures but is where many locals live, and has lovely beaches and cafes.

Airlie Beach 1 Airlie Beach 2 Beach dragon

Our research into long lost Italian relatives in this region also took us to the lovely country town of Proserpine. Key industries here are sugar and cattle, and the locals at the museum, library and nursing home were outstandingly friendly and helpful. That’s a topic for another day.

The Rollingstone caravan park had a resident Bower Bird that was stealing anything silver to impress his girlfriends – including tow hitch clips! A sign warning of his cleptomania was prominent in the office. We didn’t spot him in action whilst we were there, but it would have meant a trip into Townsville to replace this very necessary item if it had been knocked off… Have you ever seen a bower bird nest, or had something bright and shiny stolen?!

Wildlife Photography Workshop – Malanda FNQ

I recently saw a pamphlet at the Malanda Dairy café and gallery advertising a weekend wild life photography workshop with Steve Parish and Martin Willis. I have admired Steve’s work over a number of years – I’ve always thought of him as the ‘calendar bloke’. Martin’s work is on display in the gallery and I was very impressed. I decided to enrol and take the course.
A Pigeon 1 Frog 6 Steve Parish Stick insect 1
It was a revelation – I learned a great deal from these people. These blokes are top notch photographers, extremely passionate about their subject and photography. They had arranged for people from the wildlife centre at Kuranda to bring some animals for us to photograph and the 13 of us on the course had a lot of fun getting images of them.

Gecko 1 - Copy Martin Willis - Copy Mantis 1 King parrot 3 King parrot 1 - Copy Python 4 Python 2 Python 1

It was a privilege to spend some time with Steve and Martin – not mention Martin’s partner Samantha who looked after us very well. Here’s some happy snaps taken at the workshop – I hope you enjoy these couple of photos as much as I enjoyed taking them.

Western Australians may be interested in several workshops Steve is holding in WA in the future.

Watch this space as I start to offer photographs for sale later in the year.

Good food, pigs, boulders and dreams…

Mission Beach seems to be a generic term used for the region that also includes 3 other very pretty beaches of Wongaling, Bingil Bay and South Mission Beach (fab views out to Dunk Island). Each place has a different mojo whether that be water sports, fishing, art galleries, music, drinking at a beachfront bar or eating good food!
On our first visit to the Shanti Cafe at Mission Beach Village we were in a hurry so grabbed a couple of toasted sandwiches.

Toasted sandwich

Wow. A taste sensation – homemade ciabatta toasted till golden, with top quality ingredients.
So we had to go back as it had such an interesting breakfast and lunch menu. Ginny had mushrooms on ciabatta, Parmesan and fresh rocket, with truffle oil all the way from Manjimup in WA.

Mushroom with truffle oil

She didn’t lift her head from the plate once! Ian couldn’t go past a second bacon and egg toasted sandwich, and the coffee was good too. Great spot, especially as they have only been in business for 3-4 months.

There are many experimental tropical fruit crops being grown in this area so there is a huge variety available to try, but how do you know if they are ripe or past their best? And how to prepare them?

We found the tropical fruit safari ($9) run by the volunteer “Fruit Bat” ladies at the Visitor’s Centre at Mission Beach  very helpful in answering these questions!

Tropical fruit tasting 1

Some are very pretty but taste like lolly water, while others are ugly and/or smelly but yummy… our fav by far was the jackfruit.
We also came across the tiny town of El Arish with a big tavern and a huge RSL – all of which made sense when we realised that it was founded as a soldier settlement area in 1921. El Arish was an Egyptian town where the Australian Light Horse saw action in 1916, and the streets are named after WW1 officers including Ian’s hero General John Monash.

El Ariish pub

While partaking of refreshments at the tavern, we viewed some amazing pig hunting photos. Feral pigs are a BIG problem here, and this has spawned an ‘extreme hunting’ industry complete with 4 wheeler bikes, specially trained dogs and lots of guns and 4WDs.
Check out these guys stocking up prior to heading out for a few days hunting…

Pig hunters 1 Pig hunters 2

A complete contrast to the beaches is the Babinda Boulders, set in tropical jungle half way between Cairns and Innisfail. This area has an average rainfall of 4.6 metres during the wet season which falls on these beautiful boulders (whacking great pieces of granite that would look lovely on your kitchen bench) and it is easy to see why this is a very special place for local Aboriginal people. We applaud the infrastructure developed by Queenslanders to help tourists like us to access the history and culture of these regions.

Babinda boulders 1 Babinda boulders 2 Babinda boulders 3 Babinda boulders 4
Paronella Park was a special spot recommended to us by many people on our journey, and we enjoyed visiting this relic of history with our friends Jan and Jamie. We decided that this place is really a monument to ‘survival in a strange land’ as outlined in their promotions:
Everyone has a dream but not everyone’s dreams are fulfilled. José Paronella’s dream was to build a castle.

Paranella Park 1

Paranella Park 4 Paranella Park 2

He chose a special part of Australia and created Paronella Park. On 5 Hectares beside Mena Creek Falls he built his castle, picnic area by the falls, tennis courts, bridges, a tunnel, and wrapped it up in an amazing range of 7,500 tropical plants and trees (now a lush rainforest!). It opened to the public in 1935. Paronella Park has received multiple Queensland tourism awards, is State and National Heritage listed and is a National Trust listed property. It is privately owned and operated and Eco accredited. Paronella Park is the site of Queensland’s 1st privately owned hydro electric plant.

Local people seem to have varied views on the current owners’ dedication to developing this park as opposed to buying and leasing other local tourist sites. Interesting. If you have been to Paronella Park, what did you think?