Monday, October 19, 2009

Cairns to Port Douglas and Atherton

October 15

Port Douglas is just a bit further up the coast from Cairns. The road here runs right beside the water, allowing spectacular views as you travel.

The Port, as people call it, is an upscale little town, full of cafes and shops selling swimsuits, trinkets, summer wear.

The beach isn't much compared to some we've seen,

and signs like the one below are a definite discouragement for some of us,

but the views from the local park are too good to be true.

Private gardens were as beautiful as any we've seen, with lots of exotic tropicals like bougainvillea,

and palms

and a bamboo with vivid red stems.

You could hardly see some of the houses for the rainforest greenery.

We enjoyed a morning there but decided not to stay over. This was our most northerly destination, so we turned south-west into the Atherton tablelands, just behind the coastal fringe.
Not long after leaving the coast we found ourselves driving through a recently burnt over landscape of red earth, black tree trunks and huge ochre anthills.

We stopped at a peanut farm where we bought a big bag of freshly roasted, salted nuts, passing up the ones flavoured with wasabi, or honey, or chili, or lime.

At Atherton for the night, we had a campsite overhung by an avocado tree full of fruit. A couple fell during the night and we scooped one up to take with us (some nocturnal marsupial got to the other one first).

I liked the local map with its colourful illustrations.

October 16

Atherton had a modest gold rush in the 1880's, and a large Chinatown. When the diggers moved on to bigger goldfields in Australia and North America, they left no trace behind, except for a Chinese temple constructed out of corrugated iron, which has been carefully maintained by the National Trust.

Descending from the hills we passed through the town of Malandra, which had a great vine-draped pub,

and came upon a tea plantation. Sadly, their little stall was empty except for a sign saying that too many people had been taking their packets of tea without leaving any money in the honour box. (They were only asking $4 a packet - hardly unaffordable.)

It was by far our hottest day of the trip so far, high thirties, and we were glad to reach Mission Beach again and stroll along the sand in the off-shore breeze. The campground caretaker warned us to be wary where we walked as crocodiles were emerging from the estuaries to mate earlier than usual because of the unusually warm weather.

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