The Travels of Mouse: north to the sun #5

Hello again. Today, the report is about the day off I gave the Staff yesterday. I’ll let Mum do the talking…

Mum: We knew at the start of the holiday that there would be a few things where our lord and master would not be able to join us, sadly. Ahem. I have joined an organisation called Mad Paws, which brings together pet sitters and pet, er, owners. This enabled us to find a lovely lady called Vivien in Cairns, one of several people who offer doggy daycare. She has a large and exceptionally dog-friendly house, a big back yard and several doggos in residence, either her own or on long term visits. We booked a day for Mouse and brought along his medical records, his lead, quilt, snacks and some tightly crossed fingers. This is the first visit he’s made without us along, so we hoped he’d be OK. He was, of course. After demonstrating his running skills and seeing off another dog who wanted to boss him about, he settled right down, to the point where she was texting us photos showing him asleep, all through the day.

So, what did we do on our Staff Outing? We wanted to have coffee and cake, to buy cheese and chocolate, to have a good lunch, and to revisit the 900m/3,000ft high Atherton Tableland, one of our favourite areas when in Far North Queensland.

On our upward journey, we travelled south out of Cairns and turning inland at Walsh’s Pyramid, taking the Gillies Range road, 19km of 263 bends offering spectacular views of the valley below. It passes from sea level through dry to wet rainforest on the upward climb and it’s amazing how suddenly the type of vegetation changes. First stop was Lake Eacham, one of the Tablelands’ Crater Lakes. The area is volcanic, and there are several deep, deep lakes in the area. Local legends say they’re bottomless; of course, they aren’t, but being so high up and deep they’re always cold and refreshing for swimming, and blessedly free of crocodiles, unlike the sea-level waterways in the area.

Mungalli Creek biodynamic dairy has been a very enjoyable pitstop on previous journeys. They have a viewing area for the dairy at work, and serve coffee, cakes and light lunches. We had very fond recollections of memorable Devonshire Teas with clotted cream and a particularly squidgy chocolate torte. Sadly, we were disappointed, so much so that we won’t be going back, and I’m not bothering to provide a link. There was no torte, and despite the fact that they make a range of lactose free milk, yoghurt, etc, they didn’t offer lactose free cream so I could have the scones, jam and cream instead. It was perhaps just as well, as the Husband’s scones were dry and hard in the middle and the cream was a bit scanty and aerated to stretch it further. I had a soggy cheesecake of which the less said the better. The one I make myself is distinctly superior. Our coffees were terrible; his was bitter and far too strong, and mine was so weak it was like drinking hot milk. And there was no cheese for sale. We were offered Covid-19 as the reason, but couldn’t see why that would affect cheesemaking. Oh well….

Moving swiftly on, we headed for Gallo Dairyland, another cheese destination. We arrived to find it closed; at present it’s only open for half the week and of course I hadn’t checked, being used to seeing it open every day. I was beginning to feel rather despondent; I’d hoped to buy some of their hand made chocolates as well as cheese, to make up for the cake disappointment. The chocolates are reliably fabulous, and I’ll know to ring and check next time we’re up here.

And then it was time for lunch. Our favourite is the Gateway Hotel in Mareeba; I’ve posted about it before, and despite being much less busy than usual (all the tables are much further spaced, there was no crowd at the bar, etc), the staff are still warm, welcoming and attentive, and the food was, as always, magnificent pub grub.

The beef is locally produced and the steak in front of the Husband was tender and perfectly cooked. I wanted something a bit different, and had a salad of pearl couscous, roasted red capsicum and pumpkin, toasted macadamias and grilled halloumi, dressed with grilled garlicky prawns and a honey mustard dressing. I scoffed the lot, and it was a big plateful!

We took the scenic route home, descending the Kuranda Range, 11.5km of more wiggly road, coming into Cairns from the north this time. After laying in vital supplies (a hot roast chicken, chocolate, etc), we went to fetch His Majesty. He was pleased to see us, but slightly grumpy at having been left out of the fun. However, walkies, belly tickles and rather a lot of chicken scraps later he recovered his normally sunny disposition…

And that will be quite enough of that, thank you, Mum. A little respect if you don’t mind!

Miz Lizzie Adventures: Cheeses and Chocolates

And now for the drier half of yesterday’s activities.

The Atherton Tableland is famous for its dairy farming. The climate is cooler than down by the sea, the grass is thick and lush thanks to the plentiful rainfall, and the rolling hills are full of Friesians and Holsteins. I’ve mentioned the Mungalli Creek dairy in a previous post, but this time we went to Gallo’s, drawn irresistibly by the lure of fresh cheese – and chocolate!

gallo-cheesesIt’s a family business, and rather than jumping on the same bandwagon as other local farmers, and selling their milk through supermarket chains, they’ve gone the other way. Their milk is channelled into cheese and yoghurt production, and the added value products seem to be paying off for them, as their large shop and café were bustling, even mid-week. You get offered tastings before you buy, of both cheese and chocolate (oh, the hardship!), the prices are reasonable, and we came away with modest quantities of both. The Husband went for Gallo Volcano, a wax covered block of hard cheese with sun-dried tomato and chilli, and I bought some lactose-free Gallobert, a Camembert-style soft cheese, wonderfully lactic and complex.

gallo-chocolateAfter a bit of chocolate sampling, we also bought a bag of assorted chilli, salt caramel, ginger, hazelnut and orange chocolates. The only difficulty was in restricting ourselves to three of the bonbons each – I’d happily have bought one of everything!

gallo-cheese-factoryOne of the entertaining things there is that you can watch the cheese and chocolate factories at work: there are large viewing windows. The cheese is all about huge vats of steaming curds and whey in gleaming stainless steel, with a large crane gantry for lifting the vats and pouring the contents into cheese baskets or trays. The chocolate factory is a much more hands on and peaceful process, with trays and trays of different chocolate bonbons being hand poured and unmoulded.

Today’s Adventure is still along the gastro-tour lines, as we shall be going to the Nerada Tea Plantation, which produces a significant proportion of Australia’s home grown tea, and very nice it is too. I’m hoping to come away with samples… And our morning tea will be at an old favourite, the café at the Tolga Woodworks gallery, where not only do they do a mean flourless chocolate cake, but also some very beautiful hand crafted wooden art and craft gifts.

Sadly, tomorrow it’s time to pack up and leave Atherton. We’ll be heading home via a night in Townsville again. I need to do a little shopping and laundry before we leave… almost like being at home.

Oh… We ARE at home, thanks to Miz Lizzie 🙂

Right, on with the day. More tonight!