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Page 14



Even More from Cairns

Cairns Botanical Gardens


Botanical gardens? Not my kettle of fish at all but the redoubtable Mrs Bucket decided we would go. And so, of course, we went. I have to admit, yet again, to being wrong. The gardens were so beautiful and interesting that we decided to devote a special page to pictures of some of the blooms, including some insect-eating plants. To look at them click HERE. To return to this page, scroll down to the text below the last picture.

Paperbark Tree



Adjacent to the Botanical Gardens was a rainforest walk which was also full of interest. Take, for example, the towering Paperbark Eucalypt shown on the right being hugged by an over-affectionate Fig Tree. So who was supporting who? Or rather, who was supporting whom? (Do you ever sense your old English teacher looking over your shoulder, a wooden ruler in one hand?)

Blue fruit

The fruit shown on the left was one of several found under a tree in the Botanical Gardens. They were about the size of a golf ball and we wondered at their colour.

Have you ever seen metallic blue fruit?

There was a tropical African Sausage Tree in the gardens with a pile of 'sausages' lying beside its trunk. The plaque informed us the tree is only pollinated by blossom-feeding bats. The 'sausages' were, of course, the fruit of the tree, and they certainly did resemble very large sausages. We didn't taste them.

Departing entirely from all things botanical, while in Cairns we listened to a fair amount of commercial radio. Time and again we heard a catchy jingle advertising box trailers manufactured by one Mr. Taylor and his company. The jingle went something like this:

Trailer



From the country to the city
There's nothing quite so pretty
As a T-a-y-l-o-r's trailer
Etc., etc.

Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder.

We heard this commercial so many times that we became intrigued. Nothing quite so pretty as a box trailer? We thought Mr. Taylor might be stretching the truth a little. Then, one morning, on our dawn constitutional, we came across a Taylor's Trailer parked on the roadside. We gazed at it long and hard, trying to determine what aesthetic attributes, if any, it possessed. It mattered not from which angle we viewed it, that trailer just could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be described as 'pretty'. However, beauty does very much lie in the eye of the beholder, so you be the judge.

I apologise unreservedly to Mrs. Linda Taylor, proprietor of Taylor's Trailers, for any perceived criticism of her product and for calling her 'mister'. A year or two later Linda gave us wonderful service when we needed her help with our caravan. Thank you, Linda. But even so, a box trailer . . . pretty??
One Enormous Moth

While on our morning walk one fine day, we saw what appeared to be a dead leaf tangled in some cables on a power pole. A closer inspection showed that it was, in fact, the biggest moth we had ever seen. And it wasn't tangled, it had settled and was very much alive. Its colouring was such that it could easily pass for a tatty, dry leaf with holes in it. They were not holes, however, but translucent panels rather like our modern banknotes. I rushed back to the caravan for the camera and a ruler so that I could share this moment with you, dear Reader.

Well at least say Ooh or gasp or something, so I feel appreciated. (That wiring doesn't look too smart, does it?)

Hercules Moth

The moth's wing span was 25 cm. or 10 inches.

Some time later we discovered it was a female Hercules Moth. One source describes it as Australia's largest moth, another as the largest moth in the world. The female's role is to reproduce as fast as possible after leaving her chrysalis for her life is short. She has no mouth so can't eat; once her body's store of food is used up it's all over.

Hmmm, a female that can't talk and her only interest is in sex. Those male Hercules Moths have all the luck!

On the same walk we saw the nests of some green ants in a tree. Green ants, for those (like us) who haven't seen them before, are quite a bit smaller than a bull ant and have a green body, hence the name. How those little things manage to bend thick leaves and glue them in position to build a large, spherical nest is truly amazing. Green ants do bite, by the way, but since Aboriginals eat them, I guess that's fair enough.

Ant's Nest

The nest of a Green Ant colony is about the size of a soccer ball. There were several in this tree.

Port Douglas - one hour north of Cairns

We found Port Douglas a thriving little town which relies heavily on tourism - and the place was bustling with them. Tourists, that is. Surprisingly, however, the Japanese were not well represented, but never-the-less the bars, restaurants and beach were well patronised.

Port Douglas Beach

Sun, sand, scenery and sea - what more could you ask? At 10:30 in the morning the beach was already getting busy.

Some wag in Port Douglas has a wicked sense of humour. This rock was situated where everyone making their way from the cappuccino strip to the beach could not help but see it.

Rock Graffiti

We applauded the sentiment if not the spelling.

Mossman Sugar Mill - Twenty Minutes North of Port Douglas

North Queensland is sugar country as I'm sure you know by now, and Mossman is the home of one of the smaller sugar mills. There were two tours each day and we arrived just in time for the first.

Sugar cane is a very tall 'grass' and the sugar is in the stems. (There is a picture of a sugar cane field at the bottom of Page 11.) It takes about a year for the plants to grow - or grow back after harvesting. Each plant is re-used for five years and then replaced. We saw the harvested stems, already chopped into small lengths, arriving continuously at the mill in little railway trucks. The locomotives push the uncoupled trucks onto the back of a queue that is waiting to enter the mill and from then on they are fed in, one at a time, by a mechanism under the rails. The front truck rolls into a cradle which grips it and tips it upside down so the cane falls onto a conveyor belt which feeds it to a shredder. The empty truck is then righted and the next one in line moves forward, pushing the empty truck out of the way. This goes on automatically around the clock.

Sugar truck tipping

A sugar truck, grasped in the cradle, having its cane tipped onto the conveyor belt below.

Before the cane is shredded, any odd bike frames or second world war ordnance that might have been picked up in the cane fields is removed. The shredder reduces the cane into fibrous material, puncturing the 'juice cells' as it does so. A succession of giant rollers then squeeze the life out of the pulp and all the juice runs out and is collected. All sorts of clever processes clean the juice after which it is condensed into syrup by a heat and vacuum process, then further condensed into crystals. The crystals are dried and, hey presto, we have sugar. Well, sort of. It is already good enough for the mill staff to use but it still has to be further refined before it can be sold to the likes of you and me. That extra refining takes place at a different plant. That's the gist of it, though this is very much a condensed version of the process.

Hey, but here's the good bit. A great deal of heat and power is required by the mill. To obtain it they burn the fibre which is left over after the sugar is extracted. Other by-products from the mill include fertiliser for the cane farms, cattle feed and ethanol - the stuff they add to our petrol. The sugar mill produces almost no waste.
Mossman Gorge - Five Minutes from the Sugar Mill

Mossman Gorge is part of the Daintree Rainforest. There were mountains covered in rainforest, tumbling rivers, water falls, huge rocks, giant trees, and a walk through it all which included a bouncy little suspension bridge.

Rainforest

Three pictures of the rainforest. That's Pam in pink crossing the wobbly bridge in the top one.
Pam doesn't like wobbly bridges.

What else is there to say? It was fabulous.
The Dreaded Cane Toads

Prior to leaving Western Australia we had the impression that the good people of North Queensland needed to check before putting one foot in front of the other for fear of standing on a cane toad. After spending several weeks in North Queensland we had not seen a single living cane toad, just a few squashed ones on the road. We queried this with the nice owner of the Coolwaters Caravan Park. The answer was simple - cane toads are nocturnal, we are not. Where, we asked, could we see these infamous creatures? Come back here after dark and look at the base of our water feature, right there. He pointed. So at dusk we returned and lo and behold, cane toads . . . .

Cane Toads

The loathsome cane toads. Pretty little things, aren't they?

For the benefit of those unfortunate enough not to reside in Australia, cane toads were introduced to control insects which attacked the cane crop. Big mistake! They are now spreading across the continent and are so poisonous that anything which bites them dies. Thus they are a serious threat to Australian wildlife. And, yes, I do know I've said all this before.

They are so despised that it is said that people play golf with them. (Please don't ask what handicap they play off.) On our way to see the cane toads in the caravan park we passed three little girls heading the same way with large sticks. The sticks were quickly hidden behind their backs. Pam asked them what they were up to and they giggled and said Nothing. Nothing serious. We also heard that cane toads have been killed, dried, and made into cigarettes which allegedly cause a 'high'. What sort of mentality would think of trying that? Still, there could be a whole new industry there. Headline: Cane toads hunted to extinction. Greens call for cane toads to be made an endangered species. British MP appalled at wanton cruelty to toads.
Pictures From Freshwater Creek

I mentioned previously that there is a creek running along one side of the Coolwaters Caravan Park where one can feed the fish and turtles. One day I was lucky with the light and obtained a few photographs of Mrs. Bucket feeding them.

Pictures from the creek

We could spend hours by the creek, it was so peaceful and the fish and turtles were so tame.

An Evening Cruise on the Ocean Spirit IV

It all started when Pam was accosted in a shopping centre by a lady who was clearly selling something, though exactly what was unclear. It seemed that she had a wonderful bargain for us. Sound familiar? We could take an evening cruise on the Ocean Spirit IV with a four-course meal for just $39 per couple when the usual price was $150.

So what's the catch?

Oh, there's no catch, you just have to attend a presentation at a leading hotel.

This sounded too much like a challenge; could we beat the system and come out ahead? We decided to give it a go.

The presentation was by a company selling holidays. The gist of it seemed to be that we gave them $20,000 now, then a levy of $600 every year. In return they gave us a quantity of 'points' which we could redeem for holidays at various hotels and resorts which they owned. Absolutely no pressure, we were assured.

After the presentation they allocated a consultant to each couple. It was then that the thumbscrews were applied and slowly tightened. We were made to feel stupid if we didn't take advantage of such a wonderful opportunity. What had we to lose? Just look at the flexibility it gave us. Just look at the quality of the accommodation. And it was ours for 75 years! We could even leave it to our kids when we died.

We explained that we had already invested in our future, a lifestyle which we love and which gives us almost infinite flexibility. Why pay for a holiday when our life is already one long holiday? The consultant slammed his folder closed and said he'd go and arrange our free gift.

We were then handed over to another consultant who turned up the pressure with another option that we could take. Talk about push. When he finally realised he wasn't going to win, his persuasive manner and charming smile disappeared in a flash. He gave us our 'free' gift, which turned out to be a ticket for the evening cruise and dinner for which we'd already paid $39. Then, with very bad grace, he showed us the door.

Meal on Boat

Here we are with friends, Greg and Marilyn aboard the Ocean Spirit IV

We had told our friends, Greg and Marilyn in the next caravan, about this scam - sorry, scheme - and they had enrolled too. They also escaped a presentation unscathed and so we all went together on the evening cruise which was run by a completely different organisation. It was a magic evening with a relaxed atmosphere and excellent company. We enjoyed complimentary champagne, delicious food, attentive service and live entertainment on a beautiful, white catamaran while it cruised gently around Trinity Bay in the warm evening breeze. All for $39 per couple. We won. We actually won! I hope the cost came out of those very unpleasant salespeople's commission.

Footnote: This re-working of Page 14 was completed on 18 March 2013. It conforms to HTML5 and CSS level 3.





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