On a cold June morning, we flew out of Canberra, and four hours later we landed in a very different Australian city, Cairns, in Far North Queensland.
Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, and the Daintree Forests, part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage area.
Despite its international airport and city status, Cairns has lost none of its original laid-back Queensland character.
Driving from the airport there are cane farms on either side of the road, and some original old Queensland houses dotted around the countryside.
We are heading just a short distance away to our favourite spot, Palm Cove…where the winter temperatures at this time of the year are around 14 degrees to 26 degrees.
…let’s just keep that a secret…
We have been visiting Palm Cove with our family for about twenty years.
When our children were young, you could take camel rides along the beach, and an old hippie had a little wooden stand where you could have a foot massage…..those were the days!
In the colder southern states of Australia, the gardens and parks have died back for the winter, so it is almost like sensory overload seeing the glorious colourful flowers and shrubs that seem to grow anywhere and everywhere…
However, Palm Cove’s signature for me, are the most incredible Paperbark Melaleuca trees.
The trunk of the tree is layered with papery bark, which is in a continuous process of peeling and replacing. In a monsoonal tropical climate like Palm Cove, this discourages parasites from getting a hold on the tree.
(It is also very hard to pass a tree and resist peeling a fine layer of bark as you go.)
Tea tree oil is distilled from the fresh leaves and twigs of the Melaleuca, and come to think of it, this is probably what the hippie used, all those years ago, for his foot massages.
These distinctive Melaleucas were here when Captain James Cook sailed his ship, the Endeavour, within three leagues of the Palm Cove foreshore on 10 June 1770….some of the species are reported to be over 400 years old.
It is said that Captain Cook tried using the oil from the leaves to make tea, as a possible way of preventing scurvy.
The beauty of the Paperbark Melaleucas in Palm Cove is the seamless way the buildings, paths and people fit around the trees.
I have read that the local council regulated, many years ago, that buildings in Palm Cove could not be built higher than the Melaleucas…what a visionary decision!
Palm Cove will never be one of the many beaches lined by generic high rise buildings, all looking exactly the same.
Rainbow lorikeets, the busy noisy local parrots in this area, are regular visitors to the trees, as are honey eaters, sunbirds, fruit bats, native bees and many other species that feed on the Paperbark trees.
My apologies, I couldn’t find a Rainbow Lorikeet in Palm Cove the day of taking photos, so I had to borrow a busy Lorikeet from a trip we did to Sydney’s Centennial Park. This Lorikeet is feeding on equally striking flowers from a tree called Cape Tulip Red, originally from Africa, but also very common in the warmer parts of Australia.
The camels and hippies have gone, but, thank goodness some things stay the same, Pete’s Place, with the best fish and chips in Palm Cove.
Barramundi is a locally caught fish here, and is absolutely out of this world….may it never change. I haven’t got a photo of any of our fish and chip meals because they were eaten so fast!
….and, I need never feel too far away from home, because one of the noisiest cockatoos I’ve ever heard, is nesting just across the way from our balcony
…well, if you can’t find an almond tree in Canberra, then a Paperbark Melaleuca tree is a pretty good second…
Not even a cockatoo winging in like a Boeing 747 could ruin an evening walk on Palm Cove beach.
I hope you are enjoying your good fortune if it is summer in your part of the world, and if you are in the middle of winter, as Monty Don says, make it a restorative time.
In my next post Paul and I will go on a bird watching tour in Port Douglas…