Safely back on the ground and noting our hire car was still there in the car park where we had left it, we headed north to Palm Cove. Now the fun starts – finding the right resort. We were to stay in the Coral Coast Resort but everything is Coral Coast something and the reception is in another building some distance away and the receptionist was at lunch. After two attempts to check in we got lucky the third time and received the key and a brief oral directions to find our way.
Not too shabby and spacious apartment. In the directions mention was made of a footpath access to the beach. Now none of the directions were accompanied by a map so there was some trial and error. We did find our way. It turned out to be a pleasant stroll but the wind was blowing strongly off the reef bringing relief from the humidity. The path wound through some of the housing around the resort and then a timber walkway took us across the coastal swamp before striking the esplanade with its pubs and shops, and the ocean side park with BBQs and sheds amongst the palm trees.
Our plan was to get a coffee and look at the water and the only option was to have a beer at an overcrowded bar. Everything else was closed or not yet open for the evening. So after taking a walk along the beach we returned to the apartment but on the way we met two kookaburras who were obviously locals and not at all put off by our presence. In fact I would say they were waiting for the restaurant to open.
We wandered home and being rather tired (had to get up at 4.30am) ordered a pizza and after collecting it and a bottle of wine relaxed watching TVNQ.
Its August and our anniversary plans are in disarray. New South Wales is in lock down our theatre show cancelled and no plan B. So we divert our attention north where travel is permitted and choose Cairns as it is as far away from Sydney as a commercial flight could take us. Kerry has promised to let her girlfriend Sally know when next we are travelling and Sally wants to come along. We book accomodation at Palm Cove about 20 mins drive north from Cairns airport where we pick up our economy car – a small Skoda. Our apartment will not be ready until 2.00pm and its 8.30am. The weather has not been kind, its grey and there is rain in the air not quite falling though so its humid.
We drive north with the idea that we will take the Sky Rail to Kuranda for the morning and return by bus. We had booked the passage on the Sky Rail but arrived so early that there was concern we would have to wait in the coffee shop. Covid has devasted Cairns and its tourism. There were none of the usual crowds pushing and shoving and we walked straight on to the next cable car. The trip to Kuranda carries you up a steep slope draped in forest with views back to the coast. Yorkey’s Knob is clearly visible and the canefields spread north and beyond.
Leaving the coast behind the humidity builds as we passed way above the floor of the forest with crows nest ferns and staghorn/elkhorn ferns adorning the trees. There is stop on the way and we dismount to have a look. A timber walkway takes us around the forest and past giant red cedars and a view of the valey which is astounding.
The path to Kuranda is cross by Barron Gorge and the Barron River. As we approach the gorge I notice that the Kuranda train has positioned itself for the passengers to take photos of the gorge and that the train is a diesel not the traditional steam train. It is still humid and spots of rain appear on the windows. The station pulls into view and Kuranda awaits.
As we come towards the platform a camera takes a photo of us so as we move towoard the gift shop we are greetes by the image of the three of us smiling into the camera lens. Despite my doing my best to disuade Kerry from buying the souvenir photo, we walk out with our memento. Whilst in the shop we learn there is no bus on Sundays that returns us to the Sky Rail station below. I visit the Rail station to enquire about the return journey (the station is beside the Sky Rail station) and we decide to take the Sky Rail back. The train returns to Cairns and the return journy on the Sky Rail is half the price of the single journey on the train.
As I said tourism is dead and no more evident than a walk past vacant shops in Kuranda. Kuranda always seemed to be like a giant gift shop for tourists and with no tourists the small businesses are closed down everywhere. A single troubadour is performing on the street, didgerdoo in hand and outstretched hat for the scheckles from the tourists. Essentially we walked the street, stopped at the church which is an extrordinary example of a bush church, and had a coffee in a local shop. We could walk unmolested as there were so few visitors.
So we return to the Sky Rail passing some unusual bushes. The return trip was uneventful and our hire car awaited our return. Palm Cove next stop.
After a night of board games and a sound sleep, I was a bit slower out of bed. It is the coldest day of this winter and there is even speculation that there will be snow – not a common occurrence in Queensland. We rustle up breakfast and toss ideas around about the points of interest to visit today. Into the mix comes discussion about the very scented bath and hand foam provided by the Cottages management. It is a local product made by Washpool and it has an outlet in Ballandean. We visited Rod’s Dad’s grave yesterday and it was clean and no maintenance required but we continued to notice every dam was full to overflowing so we thought we would visit Storm King Dam which had not ever been full and even was declared empty during the recent drought leaving Stanthorpe dependant on trucks to deliver potable water to town. A variety of cellar doors were discussed as was the various routes. Finally, the picnic to empty the fridge of all the food we had brought along. So we hit the road. First stop Storm King Dam.
We continued south to Symphony Wines cellar door. There we had our first tasting of the morning (it must be after 4.00pm some where in the world). This vineyard claims that it has had 3 of its wines served by Qantas in its business class and first-class cabins so it must be alright. Whilst the others chatted and sipped and sniffed, I took a tour around the exterior but as I returned, I noticed a group coming from the cellar with water bottles filled with wine. Very strange but when I enquired I was informed that they were samples prepared by the Symphony Wines winemaker using grapes from another vineyard. It appears it is not uncommon for smaller vineyards to contract the winemaker of the larger vineyards to make their wines. Overall good quality and we will be sampling more through our membership of their club.
After Symphony we took to the road and travelled further south to Ballandean. Remember that soap discussed over breakfast well we found their “cellar door”. Wow the moment we went through the door we were assailed by a storm of fragrances. Not really my cup of tea but the girls found it alluring purchasing a cornucopia of rubs scrubs and shampoos. As we left the wind rose and there was a wetness in the air – not snow possibly sleet definitely sprinkling rain. The temperature must have been in the low single digits, but the wind dropped it further. Our picnic looked doomed to be back at the cottage.
Rod was of two minds about visiting the Puglisi family at their family vineyard “Ballandean Wines” but in the end he thought it polite to call in. Lucky for us he did. We were all greeted like long lost family and allowed to use their members room for our picnic. We were recommended to drink their new season Rose which we did and were delighted with. As the afternoon rolled on and the wind howled so the wine continued to flow in the form of a tasting this and that leaving us with a desire to join their club also. By the time the tasting was winding up I needed some fresh air and a comfort break.
We left the cellar door and made our way back to the cottage. The wind was chilling and the thought of a roaring fire and a glass of wine relaxing before that fire was too enticing. We stayed in for the evening occupying ourselves with more cards and board games. Some where through the evening we finished of more of the acquired food and went to bed with very happy bellies. We are going home tomorrow but there is no hurry to leave this oasis. We discuss what we might do on Stanthorpe’s coldest day whilst travelling home – where else but the Xmas shop. So after a hearty breakfast and packing the car – we were supposed to being taking home less not more so the packing took longer than planned.
As we travelled north-east to Brisbane, we kept a lookout for the Xmas shop. Just before Applethorpe we cross the rail lines and then we head into what appears to be bush but Google maps assures us it is just around the corner when voila there is the gate to acres of pine trees all the perfect house size trees and in the middle a pen of deer and the Xmas shop. What a surprise here in the wilderness is a depot for the most discerning Xmas trinket shopper. Most important they serve hot Belgian chocolate. We leave behind a bit more cash – helping the local economy before farewelling Xmas to December where it belongs.
The travel home is uneventful. We collect our car and by late afternoon we are settled into our slippers in front of the telly. All in all, I was surprised what was on offer in Stanthorpe. I will be doing it again shortly.
I had attempted to view the night sky before retiring to my dreams and was thwarted by clouds blown across a dark sky. Morning came quietly with a cold breeze and more clouds. Even so I was keen to get out and start our break by finding the track into Stanthorpe so camera in hand and dressed for a chilly morning I left our cottage and surprised a mob of wallabies contentedly grazing on the lawns around the cottages. The female was carrying a joey who wisely remained tucked up in the pouch.
Beyond the mob was the original house and a grand old house it is. There were 4 other cottages, but no one was moving about save the wallabies and the wood ducks. Even the Tawny Frogmouth remained tucked up in bed. After moving around the house joey decided to check out the visitors and popped his head out and looked around. I found the track to the bridge and along the way I meet the chooks who thought I was coming with their morning feed. Stanthorpe is famous for its granite outcrops. Even though the temperature was in single digits, the freshness of the morning and softness of the sun playing on the bush and rocks, was a fabulous vista to start the day.
I followed the track to the bridge and crossed over. Last night our neighbour had told us that it was a wet ride across the creek and now I could see the reason why. Recent rain had filled ponds along the bank and the track to Stanthorpe was impassable. The neighbours house “the Lodge” was high up on the bank above me but the crossing was wet and muddy. So, I turned around and returned to the cottage. This is what I saw walking there and back.
After breakfast we started our exploration. I wanted to visit the “soldier settlements” granted to WW1 soldiers to start again after the horror of the battlefields of France. Many of the villages were named after those battlefields. The programme continued for WW2 veterans, but mostly they were not successful farmers and not much remains of these settlements. On the way we passed Castle Glen cellar door. Built to appear to be a castle it is tired and tacky and we did not stay long.
Besides we were close to Stanthorpe Cheese. A repurposed shed the cheese factory makes a range of soft and hard cheeses and has tasting room. In addition, they have a range of country product from chutneys to jams. The tasting ranged over 8 different cheeses accompanied by pastes and chutneys. We came away with a bag full for the cold nights with a glass of wine. Five stars of taste.
We had read about Donnelly’s Castle as being a must do. It is off the beaten track but certainly lived up to the reports. it’s not actually a ‘castle’. This quiet spot is a wonderland of giant granite boulders and walking amongst the boulders you can explore into cave-like entrances and narrow crevices.
Donnelly’s Castle is famously the site used by bushranger ‘Captain Thunderbolt’ as his hideout. Thunderbolt was the longest roaming bushranger in Australian history and it’s no surprise he managed to elude authorities here, because as you wander over, under and through the network of boulders, you feel you’re hidden away from the world! There’s also an exciting lookout sited on the top of one of the granite outcrops. Be careful returning down that boulder as the potential to slip and fall is very real.
From Donnelly’s castle you drive across Amiens Rd to Pozieres – the name of the town in the midst of an infamous battle of WW1. The only thing to tell you this was once a village is the telephone box outside the closed post office and the cold stores. From there we followed Amiens Rd pass Messines into Amiens where we found the Amiens Legacy Centre and township maps. This fabulous memorial tells the story of soldier settlements and the villages, the visit by the Prince of Wales in 1922 and the restored carriage now converted to the museum. It is humbling to see the conditions for returned service men and their families to start a new life. There is also the story of the tin miners who established Stanthorpe. Returning towards Stanthorpe we came to the remnants of Amiens and the memorial to the servicemen from the area who served and did not return plus the story of the soldier settlements.
We then returned to Bapaume but we could not find any evidence of the village. We then went on to Robert Channon Wines cellar door. Robert is famous as the man with the name which Moet & Chandon thought a threat and demanded he stop using his name. The nearly 20 acres of vineyards at Robert Channon Wines produce approximately 50 to 60 tonnes of grapes each year. The relatively small size of the vineyard and tonnage is typical of the boutique size of the dozens of wineries across Granite Belt Wine Country. The grapes they grow are Verdelho, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay and red varieties are: Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. We left the vineyard weighed down with more wine.
It’s been a long day so we head home stopping off at Mt Marlay for an all over view of the town. Then we arrive at the cottage, start the fire, get out the nibbles cards and wine. The wind has risen and the temperature drops but not to worry we are warm and cosy in side the cottage.