In this, the third installment of my look at Cairns, Australia and the surrounding area, we once again visit the tablelands. Heading south from Mossman, we climbed a winding road onto the tablelands and on through miles and miles of tropical forest and wetlands. A curious sight along the way through the long flat stretches of wetlands were enormous boulders scattered along either side of the highway. Dozens of them if not more. I asked Ralph about them and he told me they were termite mounds.
We knew from our living in Perth that termites were a problem throughout Australia, so much so that houses are made of steel frame construction with brick and concrete. Wood is a avoided except for interior cabinets and trim. And every home buyer routinely has a termite inspection done before buying a house. Most homes have a termite management plan in place. Annual inspections are part of that plan.
Ralph told me that if you throw a rock at a termite mound, you’ll see all the termites run out. We didn’t take him up on the suggestion!
In any event, after many miles of wetlands and termite mounds, we came to acres of mango trees and the Golden Drop Winery. These mango orchards are huge! And they are laid out in perfect straight lines. A long drive passes between two orchards up to the winery itself.
It was pretty quiet but the wine tasting shop was open and we went in to sample some. They specialize in mango wines and had a variety of types on sale. We bought a couple of bottles and Ralph bought some mango liqueur. A very tasty wine indeed! If I ever come across some in Canada, I’ll pick some up for sure.
Further inland there’s the town of Herberton, home to the Historic Village Herberton, a heritage village similar to the Burnaby Village Museum near Vancouver, Canada. Tickets are AU$35 for adults and AU$19 for children. We didn’t go in on this day, but we did walk along the road the runs by it. Like the Burnaby Village Museum, it features historic buildings, farm and mining equipment, and has people in period costume to demonstrate some of the artifacts on display.
Off the beaten path a bit, a narrow road takes you past the Mungalli Falls (picture at the top), the Mungalli Creek Dairy Café and Millaa Millaa Falls. For a restaurant in the middle of nowhere, the café was remarkably busy. We stopped for a bite here and the food was excellent.
In Canada people often have figs as house plants. They may grow three to five feet in height as a potted plant. But in Queensland, figs grow wild. And because it’s a tropical rainforest, they grow large. Very large! Not only do they grow large, but figs in the rainforest can and do attack other trees.
It starts when a bird drops a fig seed onto the branch of another tree. The seed germinates and starts to grow. It needs to sink roots into the ground so it sends shoots down looking for the earth. In the process it ends up strangling the host tree. The curtain fig was formed when the host tree died and toppled over against another tree. The fig’s shoots formed a curtain. The diagram below explains the process.
The result is astounding. A massive tangle of roots rising to the treetops high above. There is a walkway from the parking lot to the tree which is surrounded by a viewing platform so you can take it in from many different angles. Here are a selection of pictures of this magnificent tree.
The curtain fig was one of two stupendous figs we saw. The other is the Cathedral Fig. On our way there through the rainforest we spotted a road sign I’d not seen before.
The sign warned you to watch out for tree kangaroos, an animal I had never heard of before. We never saw one, but did see this drawing of one on a sign at the Curtain Fig. It looks nothing like a kangaroo.
After a bit of driving—the Cathedral Fig is off the beaten track a bit—we finally arrived at our destination. The Cathedral Fig’s host did not fall over and so the spreading roots of the fig gives it a cathedral-like appearance. Here are a few pics.
Although the green strangler figs start out as parasites and eventually kill their host, they also provides a home to many kinds of small plants in their branches, food for birds and bats and other wildlife, and their root system forms a refuge and foraging ground for many small animals. Here are another pic of the Cathedral Fig.
That concludes our journey today. Next time? A fabulous train ride on a narrow gauge railway up through the rainforest to the town of Kuranda and a return trip by gondola. Meanwhile, check out the links of interest below.