Rainforest Paradise in Far North Queensland.

The first thing you notice when entering the lush rainforest world of Tropical Bliss B&B in Far North Queensland is the sound of rushing water and the deep umbrous green light of the rainforest. It’s a soothing sound, reminding me in many ways of Ubud in Bali. Tropical Bliss B&B sits high above Utchee Creek and just below the platformed gazebo, the rapids rush loudly. If you are lucky enough to stay in the Ulysses Butterfly room, you will feel totally immersed in this environment. It’s another world. The bedroom windows are flywired¬†but open, the doors are French and best left ajar so you can hear the sounds of the night forest or the startling early morning chatter of the Wompoo fruit doves. An afternoon read is a luxurious pastime but it only takes a page or two before succumbing to that water world: the words blur and its off, once again, to the land of nod. Call them naps, or call them dreams or trance, they happen often here. Chillax, as the hosts say.

Driveway into Tropical Bliss B&B.

To get to Tropical Bliss B&B, drive south from Cairns down the Bruce Highway to the thriving country town of Innisfail, then head on through the sugar cane fields and banana plantations until you reach Utchee Creek. This is rich Queensland farming country but there are a few small settlements dotted throughout¬†these fertile lands, especially along the creeks where the rainforest has historically been left intact. The rainfall in this area is the highest in Australia: it’s hard to imagine an average rainfall of 4,000 millimetres ( 160 inches) per year. The forest seems to grow before your very eyes. The thought of all this rain is quite overwhelming.

The wet season continued later this year, with huge downpours throughout April, making Utchee Creek more teeming than usual. You can swim here- it’s too high for crocodiles. The small rock pools below look very tempting, though the staircase down is precipitous. Peter, the host, will happily guide you through his rainforest garden of 2.5 acres. Some is accessible and safe: other steeper sections along the creek are wild and primordial. Some plants have thrived here since the age of the dinosaurs. There are colours, shapes and textures unseen in safer southern lands and stories and legends abound. We passed one plant with incredibly sticky leaves: when torn, they have the property of super glue. Then there’s the Wait- a While stinging vine, ( the only way to become disentangled is to wait a while so you don’t get injured by the toxic stinging barbs) and then there’s Gympie Gympie, the devil- like bush with extremely painful and toxic leaves. Along the¬†driveway, lush red flowers remind me of hydrangeas-¬†they are beautiful but apparently invasive.

The Pagoda Bush

Beyond, in a small grassy clearing, black bamboo canes soar above, while black sapote trees, strangler vines and pepper creepers compete for light. For those interested in tropical plants, Peter can give you a list of palms, ferns and vines in his garden. Research has been conducted on site by world-famous botanists who itemised around 20,000 plant species, including grasses and smaller microscopic plants. I was rather taken with the Zamea Furfuracea, or Cardboard Plant, a bush with thick leaves like sandpaper, good tucker for those ancient creatures from the mists of time. It’s a plant wonderland here.

In a tropical garden.

Peter can tell you about¬†local activities, which might include a visit to Paronella Park, the Atherton tablelands, Mission beach, or the prosperous inland art deco town of Innisfail with its waterfront boats and fish shops. Perhaps you might be tempted to buy some fresh green tiger prawns or a slab of the beautiful white fleshed Coda fish or a coral trout? It is possible to buy some lovely produce in Innisfail to take ‘home’ to Tropical Bliss where you could use the BBQ or, by pre-arrangement, the kitchen.

A chilled white wine or G&T in the rainforest, a bird call, and a pile of freshly cooked tiger prawns with a squeeze of lime is a pleasant way to spend the early evening. Otherwise, the nearby Mena Creek Pub serves meals. Peter offers a variety of breakfast options. He has just mastered the art of sourdough bread so expect some good toast and sugar-free tropical fruit jams, along with a tropical fruit platter and home-made yoghurt, or banana pancakes, eggs and a good coffee.

Coffee and croissant on the deck.
Huge tropical breakfasts at Tropical Bliss B&B.

The house itself is an inviting open space, though most guests spend their time on the deck overlooking the jungle.¬†Inside you’ll want to kick off your shoes and wander about in the shady lounge area, tastefully decorated in Graham Greene style, with wooden shutters, French doors and Chinese antiques. There are two tiny old dogs on site, both¬†friendly and quiet,¬†and the bathroom facilities are shared. It is, in many ways, like a small and friendly guesthouse. Many ‘celebrities’ choose to stay here, given its private location, to recharge batteries and commune with nature. Some come to write, others to watch birds, backpackers to learn about Australia, and family groups come to have fun. There are two bedrooms and one overflow bunk room for children. Your hosts, Peter and Steve, can be as invisible as Ninjas or delightfully hands on and¬†entertaining; it’s up to you. All you need to do is leave all your preconceptions behind. A short stay at Tropical Bliss is restorative and unique.

Photo of Cassowary and chicks in the neighbourhood. Photo courtesy of Peter Dameaon. These chicks are now 30 months old and this male has cared for two more clutches since. I saw a Cassowary but I was too slow with the camera.

I stayed at Tropical Bliss for 6 days, courtesy of the owners. The views expressed here are entirely biased, and I can honestly say, I loved it all. Contact me with any further queries or book through the usual channels or ring the owners via the link below.

Tropical Bliss B& B,  257 Utchee Creek Road, Utchee Creek, Queensland. Australia

 

 

A Walk in the Daintree Rainforest

The tropical¬†Daintree Rainforest in Queensland, Australia is one of the most complex on Earth. Its plant diversity and structural complexity is unrivalled on the Australian continent. Descendants of plant life can be found today with many of their ancestors’ primitive characteristics, some dating back 110 million years.¬†Carefully designed walkways through the forest enable the visitor to enjoy this diversity, to see plant life transmogrify, evolve, die, smother, climb, submerge, compete, rot, and re-emerge within this unique UNESCO world Heritage site.
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Sea grasses, Great Barrier Reef

Under the sea, grass sways like a hula skirt around a giant clam. The underwater gardens of the Mackay Reef, off Cape Tribulation, in Far North Queensland, Australia are a natural wonderland. Global warming, the crown of thorns star fish invasion and coal mining, with its associated dredging and dumping off the coast, are the main threats to their survival.

Photo. Tranquillo Morgan.
Photo by Tranquillo Morgan.

The Great Barrier Reef risks being downgraded to a ‘World Heritage Site in danger’, thanks to the short sightedness of the current Australian Government. Despite warnings from UNESCO, a mega port development has been approved¬†for dredging to create three shipping terminals as part of the construction of a coal port. The process will create around 3 million cubic metres of dredged seabed that will be dumped within the Great Barrier Reef marine park area.¬Ļ

¬Ļ Extracted from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_threats_to_the_Great_Barrier_Reef

My Twister

I don’t see my younger sister very often, despite the fact that we both live on the outskirts of Melbourne, or around an hour’s drive apart. Sometimes six months will pass before we catch up. The best times are when she comes to stay at my place in the country or when I get to land on her for a few days in her winter apartment in Coolangatta, Queensland. After spending the first 24 hours giving the drinks a serious nudge, we begin to relax into a comfortable routine of walking, cooking, shopping and sister trickery.

While wandering aimlessly around one of the finer shoe shops in Coolangatta, discussing the various pros and cons of brands, colours and comfort factors, the shop assistant rushed up eagerly with a wild look in her eye and announced,” you are twins or sisters, no twisters”. We keep forgetting that we have grown to resemble each other over the last twenty years¬†and each time it happens, we are amused, amazed and delighted. And then the game is repeated over and over again for the duration of the holiday as strangers feel compelled to comment on our sibling resemblance.

We recall with hilarity the many times in the past twenty years when we were greeted in this way. One night, a young chap wandered, or staggered up to us, raucously announcing,¬†” I think I’m seeing double, maybe I’ve had too much to drink, or are there really two of you?”

Our shoes, not the same colour!
Our shoes, not the same colour, just the same brand, size and style!

We are often mutually surprised, after an absence of many months, to find that we have arrived for an event or restaurant lunch wearing the same coloured clothes and accessories. We both wear a lot of black, being true Melbournians, and break this up with colourful extras. This, and our skin colouring and hair length, only adds to the confusion and fun.

Hats, scarves, reading glasses, jewellery, shoes. Totally weird!!
Hats, scarves, reading glasses, jewellery, shoes. Totally weird!!

We gathered some bits and pieces from our bedrooms for a little photo shoot and were amazed at what we had, quite separately, chosen to bring along for the winter holiday!

Dingo Beach, Far Away in Time

There’s a little quiet beach some distance away from the commercial hub of Airlie¬†Beach in North Queensland that makes you want to sing. The foreshore fringes the beach with deep shady old trees for a kilometre or so. Randomly¬†placed wooden picnic tables hide in the dark, looking almost¬†organic. Although the public facilities are generous, the area¬†isn’t overly manicured or regimented. Cars park randomly,most still attached to a boat trailer. A few stainless steel BBQs hide under cover, inviting the traveller to cook up a few prawns or slabs of coral reef fish.

Dingo Beach, far away in time

The town consists of two or three streets of local holiday houses, a friendly country pub whose front area blends with the treed foreshore, and a small breakfast shop attached to the rear of the pub.

Diver returns from the  reef.

We visited Dingo Beach on a few occasions, parking our Hobbit van in the shade, our only company a cheeky parrot who came to inspect the salad and then leaving in disgust.

Tiger Prawns fresh from the trawler at Bowen.

What is missing is a camping ground, a blessing in disguise. Accommodation¬†is limited to three apartments next to the pub and a few rental beach houses. Consequently the town isn’t dominated by the ‘grey nomad’ traveller, retaining a wonderful local ambience and diversity. And the song that came to mind?¬†

Dingo Beach
Far away in time
Dingo Beach
Far away in time

Lyrics adapted from Echo Beach, Martha and the Muffins, 1983. Another song plant, to be considered by Mr Tranquillo and his guitar playing mate, Chris.

A traveller kicks a soccer ball at low tide on Dingo Beach

Low tide at Dingo Beach, North Queensland, Australia

A fish and a tune.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butterfly, Symbol of the Deaf

Butterflies have come to symbolise deafness in Australia, as butterflies can’t hear, are silent, but feel through vibrations. The Deafness Foundation and other organisations associated with the Deaf adopt a butterfly badge as their logo.

Rainforest butterfly, Magnetic Island, Queensland.
Rainforest butterfly, Magnetic Island, Queensland.

There are 385 species of butterfly in Australia, with 70% living in the rainforests of the wet tropics. The largest threat to the butterflies is loss of habitat.

Magnetic Island Butterfly
Magnetic Island Butterfly

Narrow bush tracks meander through the dense rainforest on Magnetic Island, North Queensland, Australia. Colourful butterflies flock to patches of light, blue and iridescent green wings lighting the way.

For Jack and Leanne.

Captain Cook’s Very Bad Day

Cape Tribulation
Cape Tribulation on a warm, stormy day.

Captain Cook, navigator and explorer, came up with some atrocious names for the spots he ‘discovered’ and mapped along the east coast of Australia. Many were named after jumped up lords, earls, and the odd prince, many of whom were dissolute and pompous members of the British aristocracy of the day.¬Ļ Cook, the son of a farmer and once shopkeeper, was a self-made man and capitano, so was probably in awe of this lot, or was currying favour.

strangler fig on host mahogany tree
Strangler fig on host Mahogany tree

Other spots on the map were given sad, desolate names reflecting the way James felt at the time. Cape Tribulation and the nearby Mt Sorrow are two of these. As his ship, the Endeavour, ran aground on a coral reef midst this dazzling wonderland, the Great Barrier Reef, he was stuck for 46 days as repairs were carried out in nearby Cooktown. ¬†After he cursed and cussed, he named the area Cape Tribulation “because here began all our Troubles”.

Those of you who have visited the rainforest area around Cape Tribulation would not have experienced much sorrow, unless confronted by an ominous crocodile, or pestered by the incessant sand flies and mosquitoes. Dense rainforest fringes the ocean, the climate in the dry months is warm and the sea and its reefs offer an underworld garden of delight.

Fan Palm, Daintree, Queensland.
Fan Palm, Daintree, Queensland.

I’m sure that while Captain Cook was stressing about his boat repairs and writing his journal, the crew may have gone fishing and caught large prawns, coral trout and Barramundi, all abundant¬†in these coral seas.¬†Some of the crew may have gone beneath the sea to view the enchanting gardens of the reef.

Giant clam one metre wide in spaghetti grass. Mackay reef off Cape Tribulation.  Photo by Mr Tranquillo, diver of deep blue seas.
Giant clam one metre wide in spaghetti grass. Mackay reef off Cape Tribulation. Photo by Mr Tranquillo, diver of the deep blue seas.

Joseph Banks, naturalist and botanist, stole the show as he busied himself with documenting the exotic plants and flowers of the rainforest. Most of these plants and ancient trees can be seen today in the Daintree National Park, a listed UNESCO World Heritage site.

Fan palm
Fan palm, Daintree

In his later and final voyage, Captain Cook was killed by Hawaiians, his body boiled up and stripped of flesh. Another rather bad day for this captain. He was known for treating the local inhabitants badly.

plants of the daintree Rainforest, queensland, Australia
Daintree Rainforest, Queensland, Australia

¬Ļ Some place names in Australia named by Captain Cook after 18th century aristocrats include: Temple, Cockburn, Moreton, Keppel, Palmerston, Hillsborough, Townshead, Edgecombe, Halifax, Hervey, Hawke, Stephens, Howe, Cumberland, Gloucester, Grafton, Bedford, Weymouth, York, Rockingham and Dunk.

The original aboriginal name of Dunk Island was Coonanglebah meaning ‘ the island of Peace and Plenty.’ What a lovely name indeed!

 

In My Kitchen, August 2014

View from the kitchen windows.
View from my kitchen window.

In My Kitchen, I have assembled a few representatives of my Australiana collection, as I still call Australia home when not overcome by the need to leave or travel.  Celia, at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, generously hosts this monthly kitchen event.  Sit down, grab a coffee and take a look at other kitchens around the globe.

Temproary home for displaced items
Temporary residency for the displaced.

Things lurk in kitchen drawers, on benches or in the pantry and are ridiculously retro in style. Tins house biscuits or serve as decor, bowls provide colour, drawers are laden with linen.

Old Allens tin with Budgies. Much cuter than that other Budgie Smuggler man in speedos.
Budgerigar tin made by Allens, Melbourne.  Much classier than the Budgie Smuggler speedos favored by a certain Prime Minister.

My daughter entered the kitchen brandishing this rolling-pin in a proprietorial manner, teasing me about her wonderful op shop find.  She fully intended to give it to me, but wanted to hear me beg. So mean. Revenge is sweet.  I find things for her collections, claiming ownership for a time, then hand them over. Collectors need scouts in the field.

Porcelain rolling pin. Made in Melbourne in the 60s?
Porcelain rolling pin. Date unkown. Weapons of pastry construction.

The teatowel collection is mighty large. All linen, retro and very colourful, they depict Australian birds, outback scenes, 70s beer labels, flora and fauna, and silly poetry. They are cheery and soft to use and are handy in bread making, or useful as gift wrapping, alla Australian-Japanese kind of wrapping.¬† An unused retro teatowel is often the same price as a sparkly piece of paper.¬† Which would you prefer? The retro linen teatowel collection. I must confess to an Italian teatowel collection too! ¬†Some of these Aussie Icons don’t get used; ¬†they are works of art!

This classic Teatowel stays in the linen press.
North Queensland Kitsch.
 In north Queensland, Chinese workers from the goldfields established banana plantations in the 1880s around Cooktown, Port Douglas, Cairns, Innisfail and Tully.
Italian migrant labour enabled the sugar industry to thrive, after indentured ¬†‘kanaka’ slave labour ceased in 1901.*
Italian migrants to Tully also furthered the Australian banana industry in the 1920s.*

I make pizza and bread quite often and this Wallaby baker’s flour is¬†just right. The flour is super fresh due to high turnover, it is GMO free, strong, and the wheat is grown in South Australia. The company is still owned by the Laucke family who have been milling flour since 1899.

Lauke Bakers flour from South Australia
The Laucke family migrated from Germany in the 1890s. What a wonderful contribution they have made to this country.

I am making a shift to Australian grown and owned products. Although I love the taste of Italian tomatoes, I am concerned about the labour exploitation involved in its production. The SPC company in Shepparton, Victoria, has struggled to maintain its operation, due to the dumping of cheap foreign goods. The Australian anti- dumping commission found that

‘56% of tomatoes imported from Italy had been dumped on Australia and two of the major exporters, I.M.C.A and Lodato, had been selling them for about 26% below their value.’

The peanut butter shown is made wholly from Queensland’s peanuts and is produced by an Aussie owned company. Whilst not wishing to sound overly patriotic, I do believe in supporting local industries. It’s good for the environment as well as supporting employment opportunities in regional towns. The detailed information on the packaging is often initially confusing ¬†as to country of origin so now I need to take¬†reading glasses shopping with me.

Beans means= SPC.
Beans means SPC.  Shepparton is home to 3000 Iraqis, 1300 Afghans and 1200 Sudanese, along with long standing Greek and Italian communities. Many are employed by SPC Ardmona.

Next in line are these burnt matchstick bread boards featuring Kookaburras, gum leaves, and that bridge in Sydney. As they are collector items, they are rarely used.

Australian Burnt matchstick breadboards.
Australian Burnt matchstick bread boards.

I have previously mentioned my passion for Australian pottery basins and bowls on IMK. Here is the full collection. These were made by either Hoffman or Fowler, between the 1930s and 1960s. The Hoffman pottery, located in Brunswick, Victoria, may still be seen today. Although no longer functioning, its kiln and tower have been incorporated into a modern townhouse development.

Collected Australian bowls by Fowler and Hoffman.
Collected Australian bowls by Fowler and Hoffman.

But wait, there’s more. The Arnotts biscuit tin collection, once Australian owned, covered in a plethora of parrots, Aussie honey, Tasmanian smoked salmon in the fridge, Maffra cheese, Diana ware jugs, Vegemite ( the latter icon being Australian made but now foreign-owned, is disqualified) as is Uncle Tobys ( now a subsidiary of Nestle`).

This post was brought to you by Op Shops ( thrift shops/charity stores), home of the ‘well- spotted’, and recycling.

Blokies on the kitchen bench.
Blokies sit along the kitchen bench.
  1. https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/eserv/UQ:210147/p9780646519197_2_165.pdf
  2. http://www.australianbananas.com.au/banana-facts/world-history