On Sunday, we were promised rain. It didn’t happen, or at least not till much, much later.
So, after pottering around inside a while, I got a bit stir crazy. We decided late in the morning to go for a drive and do a big, BIG loop. Consequently, we took off up the Captain Cook highway, and turned left up the mountain on the Kuranda Range road. The Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail both terminate at the top, but we blasted on past, having done both of these trips several times before, and on to Mareeba. This is a place best known to me as the start point for hot air ballooning on the Tablelands, an amazing experience I’ve done several times, but more importantly it’s a centre for the local farming community, both grazing and arable.
The Tablelands are famous for their potatoes, corn, sugarcane and fruit, and the beef and dairy industries up there both produce exceptional results.
The whole area is volcanic in origin, giving the sort of deep, rich, bright orange and slightly acid soil perfect for this kind of farming. We were about to enjoy the results…
By the time we got to Mareeba, we were both ready for lunch. The Husband has been to this town many times, but things have changed since he last looked for a good lunch there, so we browsed the main street a little first. There seemed to be a lot of people going in one particular set of doors…
Opportunity presented itself in the shape of the Gateway Hotel, which has enjoyed a seriously good makeover. In addition to the facelift, the menu is great.
I won’t bore you with IG style photos of our plates, but my pork belly, red cabbage and mustard mashed potato were luscious. I spent a lot of my lunchtime gazing around at the clever, imaginative décor. By far the most stunning piece was Big Red (yes, they named the bar!).
It’s one vast piece of solid red mahogany, brought in from Ravenshoe, an area that hadn’t seen any tree felling for over 25 years, and the tree it came from was over 70 years old.
The bar is over 7 metres (23 feet) long and 40cm (15 inches) square in cross section. There’s a whole photo montage hanging beside it to show how they got it there, and then got it into the building!
After lunch, it was on to Mt Molloy, which is where the highway splits. Half goes on to the Top End, Cooktown and Cape York, the most northerly point of this island continent. The other half heads down the Palmerston range towards the sea, hitting the coast between Mossman and Port Douglas (aka millionaire’s playground). This is National Highway 44, The Rex, and it has some of the best views in the tropics, as it runs directly alongside the Coral Sea coast, looking out to the islands and the Great Barrier Reef.