We decided to 'do' the Cairns Tropical Zoo today, then meander up in to the Atherton Tablelands in the afternoon. As it was Anzac Day, most retail places were closed, but the Zoo was open and we expected a pub or two to be open after 1pm so we hoped to have a late lunch at one of them.
The highlight of the Cairns Tropical Zoo was the free flight bird show. We needed to sit in the shade and where we sat was just the BEST. Two of the birds (a red-tailed black cockatoo and a barn owl) had their flight paths directly over our heads… close enough to touch us with the downward beat of their wings. Amazing.
Other zoo highlights were the crocodiles – man, are some of those guys HUGE! – and the koalas. I think it's the first time I've touched a koala and the fur is amazingly soft. One of the koalas hung asleep in a branch looking like he'd had about 5 or 6 Jack Daniels and cokes too many (he's the one on the right in the pics below). Too funny.
As far as zoos go, this one was quite small, but came with a hefty entry fee of $28 per adult. I'm not sure it was worth that, but it was a pretty neat zoo nonetheless.
We finished at the zoo about noon, then drove south of Cairns to near Gordonvale where we turned inland towards Atherton. Going up and over the Great Dividing Range is pretty hair-raising. The road is narrow and winding, and the drops off the side are deadly. The views are fantastic, but some of those bends were a little stomach-churning for me (I was in the back, so that didn't help).
We decided to stop for lunch at the Peeramon Hotel just off the main road. We'd been there before and had a great steak snadwich, and as this is an OLD Queensland pub (built in 1908 and full of character – and characters!) we thought it would appeal to Dave. However it was a bit of a disappointment as there was no lunch on today and the place was looking quite tired and jaded after sustaining some significant structural damage from Cyclone Larry only 5 weeks ago. So the guys had a beer each and played (badly!) one game of pool, then we went back to the Lake Eachem Roadhouse and had lunch. Dave reckons the hamburger he had was the best he's EVER had, anywhere. That was probably because it was home-made, not like the burgers in the US which are all pre-packaged reconstituted cardboard (in my not so humble opinion!). We had steak burgers and they were great too. Good old Aussie burgers – beetroot and all!
After lunch we continued on to Atherton looking for somewhere that sold ice-cream, but Atherton was basically closed. However, on the road to Mareeba we came across a roadside market at Tolga that sold locally made ice-cream. It was delicious. I had 2 scoops – one of banana/coconut, the other of macadamia nut/caramel. The lady in the store talked to us about the various fruits they had and mentioned something none of us had ever heard of – dragonfruit (aka 'pitaya' from Central and South America). They made a sweet chili sauce from it and Dave was totally hooked!
We bypassed Mareeba and headed back towards Cairns via Kuranda. Another very winding road with sensational views of the coast at various points. Well 'do' Kuranda later in the week.
In honour of Anzac Day I cooked kangaroo fillet steaks tonight for dinner with chili sausages and a plain salad. We were going to have a BBQ but it was pretty dark, so I cooked inside. The kangaroo was delicious – it had marinaded in chili and Cajun spices and olive oil all day! We had Wild Lime dressing on the salad, and that was delicious too – wild limes are an indigenous food, and I'm not sure they are actually from the cirtrus family, but they have the same tang.
All in all, a satisfying day… even if our stomachs were groaning a little under all that lovely food!