Pauline and Meimei picked us up early Friday morning for our driving adventure. We were completely socked in by rain and fog but set off in high spirits nonetheless. Meimei first drove north along the coastal road to Kuranda, which is known for its sprawling markets and historic train. We arrived at 9:00 AM to find the place absolutely deserted. There was nary a soul around, so we drive on to the train station which, by all appearances, is like stepping back in time. I was reminded of an old Rogers and Hammerstein production, “Music Man”. Charming is too quaint a word to describe this pristine setting. Yes it was a setting - almost like a movie set. As we walked through the quiet station, Meimei murmured that everything here is very old. Just then a gentleman popped his head out of a doorway and pronounced "Including Me!" Ha ha, very clever! He stepped out from the building explaining to us "…the town won't come alive until the first train arrives at about 11:00 AM, or maybe 10:00 AM but it is a slow time and the weather is just dreadful…" We strolled around a bit longer, snapped a few photos and then drove over to the waterfalls at Barron Gorge, got out walked along the boardwalk to the lookout point where we observed nothing; it was too foggy and rainy to see even five feet in front of us. We could hear the waterfall but that's about it.
We hopped back in the car, drove back toward the market where some movement was just commencing. Most of the people opening their shops were reminiscent of flower children and hippies straight out of the 60's. Lots of dreadlocks, beads and attire that appeared to have been sewn together from boxes of old rags. We were in a time warp. There were a lot of naturals for sale: fabrics, yarn, teas, herbs, hemp, oils, candles, and the list goes on. Although only a couple of shops were open, we managed to find a creperie that was serving breakfast. We dined on scrumptious vegetarian breakfast crepes and rich steaming coffee. The café was outdoors; as are most of the markets there and by the time we finished eating the rain was now pouring down. The temperature had dropped as well giving us good reason to make a run for the car. We scurried into the car, now heading inland to Mareeba in the Tablelands.
At Mareeba we were salivating in anticipation of visiting Coffee World where we could sample unlimited quantities of coffee, chocolates, and teas. We were not to be disappointed. To Frank, Pauline and Meimei's delight, tastings also included unlimited samplings of coffee and chocolate liqueurs!!! Coffee World's onsite museum houses the largest collection of coffee paraphernalia in the world. We took the self-guided tour. During our tour, the rain reached storm proportions bringing a downpour so thunderous we could not hear a thing for a good 15 minutes as the roof of the building got absolutely pounded. We were very thankful not to be on the road just then, nor out on the water! Before and after the tour we sampled products until we were all on a sugar and caffeine buzz. In the end, Frank and I spent so much money on coffee beans, chocolates and tea (we are stocking up on coffee for the next 6 months) they threw in several freebies. One of those was a $45 bottle of chocolate liqueur. Poor Meimei had to rearrange her trunk to make space for everyone's purchases. They joy of our Coffee World adventure nearly made up for the horrible weather this day. By now Frank had taken over the driving duties leaving Meimei free to enjoy the trip as a passenger.
Leaving Mareeba we continued our drive through the countryside passing mountains overflowing dozens of waterfalls. Even through the dreary rain their beauty and majesty could not be obscured. You could spend a week just touring waterfalls and heritage sites in this region alone. Leaving the mountain area we ventured on down past Atherton to a site just outside Yungaburra that really is a do-not-miss to check out The Curtain Fig; a massive tree that I can't even begin to describe. Here in Australia what appear to us to be Banyan Trees are called Fig Trees. They do not resemble a fig that bears fruit as we know them, rather this type of fig tree is more parasitic. This Curtain Fig was like nothing we have ever seen, rising hundreds of feet into the sky supported by a wall - or curtain- of roots.
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