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Published: October 2nd 2012
The main shopping street. You should note that the sky has changed from the clear blue skies of the past 11 months to an overcast grey!
The Atherton Tablelands . Atherton > Mareeba >Mt Molloy
We have both been swept by a strange emotion since arriving on the Tablelands, one that says to us that our ‘Big trip’ is over, and yet we are still 1000’s of kilometres from ‘home’ (wherever that is!). This emotion is all prevailing and only because we feel we are back in ‘the east’ and visiting places and regions we know, sometimes very well. In Atherton for instance I felt I knew where we could park, where the coffee shop is that we like, etc, etc, and I felt it was silly taking pictures as we probably have them already. Sort of a, ‘been there done that’ feeling. It will be interesting when we get to Cairns in a few weeks’ time, as that is one city and coastline we know intimately, stay tuned!
So what to do about the Blog and all our Blog Followers? Well, we will change the format slightly and bring you more of what we are doing as opposed to the ‘travel info’ style I have been adopting. Having said that we are on our way to Cooktown and Cape York where we
have not been before, so maybe just take it as it comes for the moment until we start to head south from Cairns in a month or so’s time.
The Tablelands is known as the ‘Food Bowl of the Tropics’, a region rich and very diverse in Agriculture. Let me give you a snapshot of what happens here, dairying, beef production, wine production, coffee plantations, tea plantations, sugar production, cheeses, yoghurts, ice-cream, chocolate, a myriad of tropical fruit orchards, citrus, vegetable production, nuts, plus plenty more that I have forgotten probably. I just realised that you can get the perfect ‘local cuppa’ here, coffee or tea, milk and sugar plus a chocolate! Anyway you should get the picture, I hope. The Tablelands are also known for their beauty, green rolling hills and valleys with lush tropical vegetation, waterfalls and lakes, it is a very scenic region with lots of history.
Atherton like many towns up on the Tablelands has its roots in timber cutting and as a staging post for gold, tin, or other ‘precious stone’ miners heading west or north, as well as to other travellers heading back east to the coast. Now it is a busy
diverse regional centre with every facility needed to service the local communities. The main street is on two levels which makes it a little unique and also provides in my opinion, some character to the main street of the town. The Barron Valley Hotel, Atherton Antiques and the Crystal Cave are a few of the businesses that we always seem to gravitate to when here. All your big brand stores are represented and with traffic lights in town we know we are back in civilisation with a big bang!
On our way north to Mareeba we head through Tolga and Walkamin. Tolga, and probably Walkamin, started out as a staging post for miners and timber cutters. At the start of WWII the area became a training centre and staging base for Allied Forces. The region became the biggest military base in Australia with up to 300,000 troops based here at one period during the war. These two towns are the centre of the Tablelands and today a lot of craft is produced here and sold at one of the most popular markets in the region held at the Tolga Racecourse on the first Sunday of each month. Fresh local
Trish with the Cattle Dog !
roasted peanuts, from the ‘Big Peanut’, on the main road heading north are a must for me, but Trish is not so keen, preferring any nut to a peanut! The other thing I always remember about Tolga, is the road heading into town, from Atherton. You drive through a leafy canopy of rainforest, which is surreal at any time, but more so after some of the places we have driven through in the past 8 months, quite amazing.
Then it is on to Mareeba, in Trish’s words, the Coffee Capital of the Tablelands and our primary reason for stopping! Mareeba has a history going back to the gold mining days and as a service centre for the vast cattle stations to the north and west. Today Mareeba is a big sprawling town servicing a vast region that extends up into Cape York and often referred to as the Capital of Cape York, I am not sure I would concur with that however. Like Atherton, there is pretty much everything you would ever need available in the town. Most importantly I guess I better tell you about the coffee industry centred here; over 70% of Australia’s coffee crop is grown
This photo is self-explanatory by the inane grin and the sign!
around Mareeba and you can taste and buy coffee at any number of local coffee roasters or plantations. Trish however, had her mind set on visiting Coffee Works and that is where we went, for over an hour! Whilst Trish followed the story of coffee from plant to cup and tasted and sipped different beans and blends (she didn’t sleep that night!) I wandered amongst the memorabilia associated with the industry. Mareeba is also a major part of the tropical fruit region of the Tablelands, with Bananas, Lychee, Mango, Avocado, Passion Fruit, Star Apple, Pineapple, (plus others I am sure) all grown here, makes for a great stopover!
Our last town heading north to Cooktown is Mt Molloy, just a dot on the map heading north to the Cape and close to the junction of the road that leads east down to Mossman on the coast . We stopped and wandered the few shops and pub and besides finding a very possessive Bower Bird trying to lure some young lady Bower Bird into his Bower ‘for a cup of tea’ we also found a great little town in a magnificent setting on the south western edge of the Daintree
To quote The Vicar of Dibley, " I am going in!"
From here it was straight up the Mulligan Highway to Cooktown some 130klms away, we are looking forward to visiting this place, next Blog!
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