Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland
New Frontiers to Discover in an RV West of Cairns
It was good to know there were inland places to visit, when we flew into Cairns on a Great Barrier Reef snorkelling holiday. The Coral Sea was too stormy to go out and this was likely to last a few days. After we made our choice from a great range of motorhomes and campervans at a rental outlet in Cairns, we soon discovered there is a great deal more to Far North Queensland than turtles and starfish.
Two Geographies and Two Climates a Few Miles Apart
The Cairns coastal strip would still be mangrove swamp, if pioneers had not discovered rich tin and copper deposits on the tableland above. Cairns was originally little more than a wharf for shipping the new wealth to Brisbane. The Atherton Tablelands, as they call it, stretches all the way to the Great Dividing Range.
As we followed the gently undulating road towards Mareeba after ascending the heights, we learned that this agriculturally rich plateau grows super avocadoes, strawberries, bananas, oranges, coffee, and macadamia nuts. They make superb wines and liqueurs from the fruit they grow there, and there are some amazingly good cheeses too. After a few hours of happy tasting at stops along the way, we arrived in Mareeba and parked the van in what passed for the high street in the pioneer town.
Exploring the Mareeba Multicultural Paradise
Mareeba means ‘the joining of the two rivers’ and the indigenous and settler cultures created a wonderful place to visit. They grow an amazing amount of coffee there. We soon discovered the delights of their lychee, mango, jaboticaba berry, bush cherry, mulberry, passion fruit, and star apple wines. After a suitable lunch, we decided to stop over at the Mareeba Country Caravan Park. We had decided to take a hot air balloon ride the following morning.
As dusk fell and myriads of stars twinkled out, we lit the barbeque to prepare fresh, organic foods, and congratulated ourselves for having finally taken the plunge and hired a recreational vehicle for a few days. Motorhomes and campervans provide flexibility virtually impossible with any other form of travel we know. We chatted over coffee after supper with some ‘true blue Aussies’ on the next door stand.
Up, Up and Away in Our Beautiful Balloon
The hot air balloon ride the following morning exceeded our expectations, as we drifted across the countryside and saw our campervan safely parked below. As we floated in the cool morning air and enjoyed our champagne breakfast, our hosts gave us great advice of where to drive on from Mareeba.
After a lively discussion, we decided to head southwest to Arriga an hour’s drive away across open countryside. The Granite Gorge is alive with wallabies they promised, and they have a nature trail along a stream we want to follow. We phoned the friendly folk at the Cairns RV rental depot to extend our hire for a few days. But what we found at Granite Gorge is another story for another day.