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: up one hill and down another

We did a LOT today.

To the point where I can’t fit it all in one post without being tedious. So there will be more tomorrow, mainly the Loot. We started out driving past the Australian Armour & Artillery Museum, the Skyrail cable car and the Kuranda Scenic Railway to head up the Kuranda Range to the Tablelands. I’ve written about all 3 of those before, so if you’re interested, do a search for those posts, as otherwise this one will turn into War & Peace!

Once at the top of the range, we drove to Mareeba, location of our lunch destination and Coffee Works. Lunch first: a plateful of beefy goodness for us both in one of the nicest foodie pubs in the area.

The Gateway Hotel in Mareeba has been Done Up in a big way, but my word, it’s worth it. This is a corner of the pub garden. See what I mean? Pretty lush, isn’t it?

After lunch, it was time for Coffee Works, also in Mareeba. They bring together local and imported coffees from around the world, roast them and blend them. You can tour the works and see this in action. They also have a huge collection of antique coffee brewing implements and vessels, and the world’s best gift shop. The photo below shows one small corner of the huge barn that houses the gift and coffee shops.

We scored there, but more of that tomorrow. They also have a chocolaterie on site, and make their own dark, milk and white chocolate, flavoured with chilli, ginger, coffee, lemon myrtle, orange, lime & pepper, cranberry & pistachio, etc, etc. We scored heavily there too, but again, more tomorrow.

The debate was then whether to return home the way we’d come, via Kuranda, go down the Gillies Range or down the Mt Molloy-Mossman Range. We’ve done the Gillies Range a lot, so we opted for the Mt Molloy-Mossman Range via the Mulligan Highway. It’s incidentally the direction you’d start out on if you were planning to take your 4WD up to the Top End; north of Cooktown (another day’s drive away)  it’s where the roads begin to get interestingly rough and challenging!

En route to the range, we passed Quaid’s Dam (aka Lake Mitchell) beside the Mulligan Highway, an artificial lake that takes you by surprise: it’s huge, deserted, miles from everything and doesn’t really have any function, not being for irrigation, or leisure, or drinking water, despite the fact that it holds 190,000 megalitres at full capacity. I believe there was a plan at one time to build a housing development in that location, but as far as I can see, there’s nothing there to justify or support housing in that area.

The Mt Molloy-Mossman range is lovely, passing through rainforest much of the way, with a couple of outstanding lookout spots for photos. It’s interestingly wiggly and huge fun on a motorbike, to the point that on a previous trip on the motorbike we’ve turned round at the bottom so we could ride back up and then down again!

This one shows the view over Mossman to the sea; the light-coloured fields are canefields, which appear light because of the flower plumes on the tall cane.

And then from Mossman, we turned down the Rex Highway south to Cairns, passing Port Douglas and Palm Cove. We passed this sea-eagle nest on top of a power pole – how the birds are not electrocuted is beyond me, but it’s a pretty substantial nest, and it’s right beside the road.

An eagle coming in to land on that must have given a driver or two a bit of a start, wouldn’t you say?

Last stop of the day was Ellis Beach, reliably deserted and peaceful, with Double Island in the background. The sun was getting low in the sky, the sea was calm, the sky a bit patchy (the rain started later), and I got to feel the sand between my toes, always a very calming experience for me.

Home again to Miz Lizzie, cool and comfortable, for cups of tea and a bit of planning for tomorrow’s expeditions. Oh, and tomorrow I’ll show you what we bought at Coffee Works!

Till then…