Blog 177 Atherton Tablelands 7th – 12th August 2011


Leaving Townsville with Dale we met up with Christian and the others for the run up to the Ingham Italian/Australian Festival and at the meeting point we were presented with a must have photo opportunity, a standard Guzzi SP1000  (this is how our bike looked when we first bought it), parked up side by side the standard model looked so tiny!

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Christian planned a good run up there including some great back roads. We sampled some Italian food for lunch and then had a look around all the stalls. The bikes were displayed for everyone to look around and at the end we were introduced to the Mayor (wearing the cowboy hat) who was interested in the bike and what we are doing. We planned to camp in the showground but Dave a local who was on the ride with us offered us a place to stay at his house despite the fact he wasn’t going to be there. He was back in the morning and made us so welcome that we ended up staying two nights. Here are some pictures from the festival, it was a good day out.

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Cairns was our next destination but Nick (who had been in contact for a while now) wished to organise a barbeque at the weekend with some mates to meet us. This was not a problem as it gave us time to explore the Atherton tablelands for a few days on the way there.

Our lunch stop was Mission beach (with no Cuckaburras) before we headed for Paronella Park on Mena creek. This is mission beach, the sign is a Cassowary a strange prehistoric looking bird the size of an ostrich which live here.

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Paronella Park was the dream of a Spaniard Jose Paronella who built a castle (folly) complete with theatre which doubled as a dancehall and cinema, throughout the years distasters struck, fires, cyclones, floods and the park is now a crumbling ruin. Some who saw it in its heyday say it was more beautiful then, others that the crumbling ruins are magical now. It was an expensive entrance fee but ofset by the free nights camping and unlimited access to the park day and night so we went for it. We really enjoyed it, Kev even braved the eels in the swimming hole by the waterfall. We also saw bats in the tunnel and turtles in the river. The point Karen is standing at on the grand staircase is the height of the floodwater in 1941.

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There are some things you can’t escape even half way round the world and that night was census night. The questions don’t cater much for the tourist especially those traveling by motorcycle as one question was to do with vehicles and motorcycles were excempt. So Australia you have two poms seemingly traveling by magic from place to place.

Next morning we did the waterfalls loop and this time we both swam in the Milaa Milaa falls. Kev said the water was lot colder than Paronella but it was a picture perfect spot where we had a picnic lunch.Here is a view from the Atherton tablelands which is a lush inland plateau almost 1000metres high and a picture of Ellinjaa falls and Milaa Milaa falls where we had lunch.

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That night we found a free campsite on the village green oppsite the local pub so it seemed rude not to go a have a couple of beers with the locals. On the way to Atherton town the next day we made a slight detour to have a look at the giant curtain fig tree. This was formed when a fig smothered a tree which in turn collapsed onto another tree at 45 degrees, undaunted the fig smothered that as well and grew it’s branches/roots right down to the ground.             In Atherton town we visited  the crystal caves, these are man made caves built into the basement of a shop in the high street. it sounds a bit naff but it was built as a way to display the owners crystal and mineral collection and its very effective. The last picture is of a huge Amethyst Geode called the Princess of Uraguay which is seriously impressive.

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That afternoon we visited “Coffee Works” in Mareeba. There were free tastings of coffee from all around the world including some from just up the road as this area is Australia’s coffee growing centre. As it was getting late in the afternoon they kindly gave us a pass out so we could come back the next day. This was great as it allowed us to sample some of the different coffee’s and make a start on the museum which was huge and needed a few hours.

The history of coffee is very much intertwined with the history of human civilisation and we learnt a lot. After several hours exploring and sampling it was time to find a campsite for the night, we passed a free site just out of town with lots of grey nomads in it so we headed back there. We caused a bit of a stir as often happens and lots of people came to take pictures and have a look. The campsite is on the site of a war memorial as many troops trained in the Atherton tablelands during WW2, this area was also the site of a huge field hospital for returning injured soldiers.

Next morning after striking camp we skipped our usual morning coffee and headed back to “Coffee Works” for round two, Yum !

After some more sampling we had another look around the museum and then went down to the roastery to watch some being cooked. The beans are actually the seeds of the coffee cherry, each cherry contains two seeds which when roasted caramelise their sugars and turn brown which is what gives coffee its taste. We watched a batch being roasted and through the peephole you could see that the beans are green at the beginning and get steadily browner during the roasting process. The skill is knowing wen they are ready and the roaster has a scoop to pull out a sample to check progress. Once they are ready they are tipped out into a mesh drum with a stirrer and cooled quickly with a fan whilst stirring so they don’t overcook. Below are some pictures of coffee bushes, the roasting process, a tiny snippet of the amazing collection of cofee paraphenalia in the museum and some of the war memorial park.

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On the way to Cairns we stopped for lunch in Kuranda and had a look around. There was another display of crystals and fossils in town which is where we took the dinosaur picture and it was an interesting if touristy place to look around. The sign at the roadside restaurant on the way there confirmed we are well and truly in croc country now.

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Then it was time to ride into Cairns

so we rode down the Karunda road which didn’t disapoint to meet Nick. There were spectacular views and sweeping bends in equal measure and we had a great ride down. Cairns is behind the first hill you can see where the smoke (a controlled burn) is coming from. There are some great roads around this area and Nick has promised us a ride out up the “Gillies highway” one of the most famous.

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Next up our welcome in Cairns, the amazing Gillies highway and meeting the local Guzzisti who were a great bunch.

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