Mapoon – Sun 4th Oct
Our wedding anniversary, so what better thing to do than disappear all morning for some fishing……..thanks Hils.
About 5km south along the beach Janie Creek joins the ocean. Inside the creek mouth the reef is a great spot for some fishing with bait balls visible in the tide. It was also the only place in the Cape where we saw a croc – there was a 4m+ cruising the far bank.
The best time seemed to be just after high tide, serving up some decent Mangrove Jack for our final dinner here. Cooked over coals in foil with some lemon they were delicious.
Coen – Mon 5th Oct
OK after the last, noisy, time we had said we wouldn’t stay here again. Actually we were intending to drive further on as the school term was starting and the girl’s schoolwork was waiting in Cairns so we faced a couple of days of long drives.
After a few great weeks it was also time to say good bye to Fifty Toes (or so we thought) – they were heading for Oyala Thumatang national park for a few more days in the wild.
Stopping at the tip on the way out of town there was a sad sight, an old Land Rover crashed and abandoned to rust away in a corner.
From Weipa the road worsened once outside the mining lease, making for a bumpy trip pretty much all the way until it joined the main Development Road. From there to Coen was in much better condition, with a lot of work roadbuilding work going on.
Reaching Coen around 2pm it was a surprise to see Fifty Toes filling their water tank (there is a tap on the north side of the town). Apparently the park was shut for fire, shooting and what sounded like pretty much the horsemen of the apocalypse. Anyway, all plans of driving on went out the window and we all checked into the sExchange Hotel – wonderful name, they even have t-shirts you can buy with that printed on them.
The camping behind the pub is probably the cheapest on the Cape, $5 an adult and kids go free. For that you get a level spot, hot showers and a shade area with table and running water. Fortunately the party crowd from our last visit must have been all worn out after the long weekend, a quiet night was wonderful.
Cairns – Tue 6th to Sat 10th Oct
So, it was goodbye for the final time. We were heading to Cairns and they were going back into Lakefield National Park for a last Barramundi hunt.
Heading out of Coen the road was in poor shape after the school holidays, in places getting close to undriveable without slowing to a crawl. To add to the fun the weather also turned, becoming showery; thankfully not enough to turn the road to mud, actually it helped a bit in keeping the dust down.
At Musgrave Station the road forks, heading south is the Development Road and to the east is Lakefield National Park. Unlike the trip up we stayed on the Development Road, gambling the potentially worse road surface would be offset by the c.50km shorter distance.
Midway along this stretch is the Hann River Roadhouse, for us a useful late morning snack stop albeit under the close eye of their inquisitive emu. There is also camping here, but pretty quiet now the school holidays were over.
So far the gamble on the road had paid off, until we hit the sting in the tail, the last 20km. The only place to get away from the horrendous corrugations and dips was along the shoulder; but then you had to keep an eye out for washouts, soft sand or getting trapped and unable to climb the camber back up to the road. There was great relief on reaching the bitumen at Laura.
From there it was just a very long drive, 550km by the time we reached Cairns.
Lake Placid Caravan Park
This is a lovely little site at the mouth of Barron Gorge. If full it would be a bit tight, but being less than half full was great. As well as a small pool there is a huge undercover camp kitchen, with the weather remaining showery this was perfect for meals (and schoolwork).
Located about 10km north of Cairns centre this is a great base to travel into town without having to stay there and has a shopping centre a couple of km away to deal with supplies. For us it was a great spot to pause for a while after the travels of the Cape.
Kuranda Butterfly Sanctuary
The butterfly sanctuary is about a half hour drive back up into the hills west of Lake Placid, in the direction of Mareeba. Behind an unassuming shopfront is a wonderful enclosed space, beautifully laid out with plants and water and teeming with gorgeous native butterflies. Unfortunately the Ulysses, which is a vibrant blue on black, never stays still, making it almost impossible to photograph.
Included in entry was a guided tour, making it excellent value. Fascinating facts included the more active a butterfly the shorter its lifespan (their wing scales degrade), the Hercules Moth can reach a wingspan of 30cm – sadly they only come out rarely and live for just a few days so there were none on show.
The centre breeds the butterflies, with the tour taking in the lab facilities and showing all stages from newly hatched caterpillar to pupa and then newly hatched butterfly drying its wings. Out the back they have several acres of land devoted to growing the various plants the caterpillars feed on; the butterflies get a sugar solution.
Whilst Cairns sits at sea level this is just a narrow coastal strip. Inland rises sharply, through the World Heritage wet tropical area to the tablelands beyond.
Being above 1000ft altitude this area, we learned, is great for growing coffee, indeed it produces over 80% of Australia’s crop. However compared to annual import of almost 90,000t volumes are not large and are pretty much solely Arabica.
Coffee Works is located in Mareeba, about 45 minutes from Lake Placid and is like a shrine to all things coffee (and a bit of tea). Whilst you can just got to the café and have a coffee the main game here is the tasting and the Coffee World museum tour.
The tasting offers up three single origin coffees, nearly a dozen blends and half a dozen coffee based liqueurs. It is all on a help yourself basis, so if you want to revisit you just go back to the pot. Alongside this are various flavoured handmade chocolates, also for unlimited tasting much to the girls’ delight.
The museum contains more coffee grinding and making machines than you could have imagined existed, all with an explanation of what they were and some with a recorded explanation by Ian Bersten, founder of Belaroma Coffee and the original collector before he sold his collection to the owners of the museum.
As well as the machines there is a ton of information about the history of coffee, from the smuggling of 5 beans out of Mecca to India in the 1600s to how coffee cup size in a country is directly related to what they drank before. For example Italy and Greece developed very small cups as coffee replaced grappa and ouzo, Britain had large cups as coffee replaced beer. To complicate things further historically Britain had access to sugar but not milk (it was either made into cheese or was likely to poison you) so enjoyed sweet black coffee, whereas France had milk but no sugar so developed a taste for large milky coffees.
It is fascinating how many ways people have, over time, tried to brew coffee, from simply pouring water onto grounds up to intricate machines, and even a samovar type into which coals are poured provide heat.
It took the girls all of about two hours to shake off their chocolate tasting binge and ask for something sweet!