Before we left Cairns I had the pleasure of starting the day listening, as a guest, to Helena Norberg-Hodge share her Local Futures organisation and principles around sustainable local systems in the serene surroundings of the Kewarra Beach Resort. Helena’s principled work is certainly worth dipping in to, as so many locals are doing. http://www.localfutures.org is a good place to start.
A drive up the Kennedy Highway to Kuranda and the sea slips away behind you. I was still looking around the many bends for that elusive cassowary, but despite plenty of warning signs – for the safety of both humans and the birds – no sightings. Of course you can take the Skyrail air ride and/or the train ride as your means of transport, where the thrill of gliding above the treetops or seeing the magnificent Barron Falls are definitely worth it. We had chosen those means on a previous trip, so we stuck to the road this time.
Kuranda as a village is like a licorice allsort which offers a complex taste of tourist kitch, alternate lifestyle pockets and a bit of a vibe of not really knowing what it is. There are many visible attempts to appeal to all sorts. (corny groan)
Probably my pick of Kuranda was The Frog Restaurant, the history of the 1942 crash of the plane, Geronimo, the church, the quirky street art and the Ark building housing many styles of Aboriginal art.
I picked up a pair of hand painted ear rings and left with a jaunty spring in my step. They had appealed, not only because they were the work of a local artist, but because they reminded me of the beautiful book by Jeannie Barker – Where the Rainforest Meets the Sea.
There are plenty of eating places catering for the coffee and culture vultures, as well as the famous Butterfly House. A very pleasant village to stroll around or indulge in card readings, massage or op shopping.
The cool green vegetation of the Kuranda surrounds opened out to cultivated cane fields and fruit trees as we drove on towards Milanda and The Tablelands.
By this time the call of the stomach was becoming louder, and the recommendation to stop at Jacques at the Coffee Plantation was calling. Our destination along the plain was once known for its tobacco growing. Diversification had become the name of the game for the farmers when the dire effects of smoking were finally accepted by governments and smokers alike, so there are now other agricultural crops like the mangoes, and tourist offerings like the gyrocopter rides. The entrance of a termite mound terrace was fun.
The food was excellent, the cafe full of tourists and locals, and the coffee selections and gifts were plentiful. Thank you Jacques for the delicious local barramundi.
The final stop on this jaunt was Mareeba. The legacy of those migrant European tobacco growers and their traditions are proudly on display at the local deli. Filled to the brim with the Mediterranean style cheeses, meats, olives and the smells of rustic meals, this deli stands as a familar tribute in the otherwise rather nondescript country town to the hard-working new chums who came to the area for a better life after ravages of war in their home countries. I know of an avid motorbiker who regularly makes a trip from Cairns to savour those deli delights.
All good things come to an end, and so we returned via those winding, no-show cassowary bends back down to Cairns, stopping at Rex Lookout to breathe in the air and soak up the view.