'Sit down and relax while I make our breakfast, Mum,' my daughter said as she flung open the plantation shutters on the portico overlooking the pool. Moments later the room was bathed in the warmth of the morning sunshine, with shimmering ripples of spectral colour and light from the tropical oasis outside reflecting onto the interior walls.
This mother and daughter spent time together in Cairns on a wellness getaway in the midst of my recent illness. 'You need to go somewhere warm and moist as soon as possible,' came the expert medical opinion. Coincidentally, Peter was on locked into a work trip to Darwin, in Australia's Top End, but I wasn't able to secure flights that matched his. Actually I was dubious about travelling, particularly during a spell where I had not only been bed-ridden, but had lain like a dead-weight, unable to do so much as turn over for days on end. After a series of tests (and a hospital visit), my GP was still uncertain as to whether the mass on my lung was cancer or pneumonia, or if my malaise might be caused by glandular fever or an auto-immune dysfunction, such as lupus. 'I'll come along and take care of you if you need to go some place warm,' offered my beautiful daughter. Having discussed it with Peter, we decided it would be best for my poorly self to get away from Canberra's winter, so we perused weather forecasts to find a location that would provide the humidity and heat needed to help boost my wellbeing. With the promise of 27 degree C (80 degrees F) days, Cairns, in far north Queensland, scored full marks.
For my overseas readers, Cairns is a city in the heart of northern Queensland, Australia, around 2,500 kilometres away from Sydney. According to the guide books, it is 'the ideal base to explore the wider tropical region, including World Heritage listed reef, rainforest and outback'. But this trip wasn't to be an adventure holiday, as I later joked with my daughter, it would be more like 'Cairns, the Nanna Tour'.
We booked accommodation at The Lakes Cairns Resort and Spa, the drawcard being its central location, lagoon-style swimming pools, a well equipped gym (for my daughter), and its close proximity to the Botanical Gardens. Our first day was dedicated to a famil of the city, including strolling along the palm-lined esplanade, watching pelicans on the sand and investigating one or two of the better known eateries, such as Splash. Our daily agenda comprised long sleep-ins for me (while my daughter hit the gym), followed by a healthy mid morning breakfast, a gentle game of badminton (with much laughter, which we all know is 'the best medicine'), time to relax by the pool with a book, then a light and luscious lunch, followed by an afternoon nap and some sightseeing. We took turns cooking nutritious evening meals, which were eaten al fresco. I feel the urge to throw a recipe in. The grilled calamari salad pictured above was a favourite and is quick and simple to prepare. Simply allow one large calamari tube for two. Run a knife down the inside of one side to open it out and clean away any loose insides. Score the flesh in a cross-hatch pattern, but take care not to cut right through. Then cut it into bit-sized morsels. Cook quickly on a hot, lightly-oiled grill for just a couple of minutes until it curls and changes colour. Meanwhile, assemble handfuls of washed and dried mesclun and thin strips of cucumber onto serving plates. Scatter some finely sliced chilli over the top and dress with juice from a couple of fresh passionfruit. Top with the cooked calamari and serve immediately.
Postcards and morsels from our 'Nanna Tour' are shared below for your enjoyment.
Botanic Gardens Cairns...
The only 'wet-tropical' botanic gardens in Australia, Cairns Botanic Gardens houses more than 4,000 varieties of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring tropical flora from Australia, South East Asia, South America and also Africa. Indeed, I could fill this post with photographs of flowers! Perhaps watch my Facebook page, for I might post a few more there. There are self guided walks, as well as audio tours, guided tours and bird-watching walks. If you plan to visit, allow a full day, if not several visits, to give you the opportunity to enjoy the full splendour that this lush paradise has to offer.
One my daughter's friends told her about Crystal Cascades, a 'secret' rainforest and scenic walk with waterfalls, rapids, swimming holes and picnic areas. Located just 15-20 minutes from the city of Cairns, the area is more like another world away. We had planned to swim, but then the weather turned cool, so we decided to enjoy a gentle walk instead, taking time to just sit and ponder the beauty of it all. It goes without saying that a 'selfie' was essential.
Butterfly Sanctuary Kuranda...
Visit Cairns and you simply must spend a day at Kuranda, 'the village in a World Heritage rainforest' set 1,000 metres above Cairns. There's a Butterfly Sanctuary, Koala Gardens and Birdworld, as well as art and craft galleries, quaint and quirky shops, and both village and heritage markets. The luminous butterfly in the image below seemed to like the dark curly hair of another visitor. It stayed on the girl's head for an hour or more! Another butterfly took a shine to my daughter's iPhone. As you can see from the creatures in the images below, Queenslanders are a fairly laid back bunch who just love the sunshine and the opportunity to pose for a photo.
Barron Falls and village market Kuranda...
Barron Falls, located in the Barron Gorge National Park, attract visitors from around the world and the rainforests here are recognised as 'the oldest continually surviving tropical rainforests on Earth'. Wow! There's a Skyrail, ranger guided tours and a scenic railway that winds it way up the mountain. We took a gentle stroll along the rainforest boardwalk, which allowed us spectacular views of the gorge and Barron Falls. In the postcards below, I've included shots of some old, rusty curiosities spotted in the Kuranda Village Markets. For example, the item in the image bottom left is the rusted insides of an old piano.
Cairns Wildlife Dome...
The resort manager mentioned that if we wanted to see a four-metre saltwater crocodile we should visit the Cairns Wildlife Dome, a 20-metre glass-topped zoo housed on the upper floor of the Reef Hotel Casino. Here you will also find the Cairns ZOOm, a rope course challenge with ziplines and crossings, some of which dangle right above Goliath, the croc! We decided to keep our feet on terra firma, with the rest of the native fauna.
Port Douglas is an hour's drive north from Cairns, so on our last day I took the bull by the horns (well actually, the little red Hyundai Getz by the steering wheel), and we travelled along the most picturesque coastline imaginable. 'Do you always drive ten kilometres under the speed limit, Mum' my daughter asked, teasingly. My response was, 'Hell yes, especially when I'm driving an unfamiliar vehicle in unfamiliar territory... and besides there's so much to see, look!' At Four Mile Beach we swam in a clear blue sea that was so deliciously warm I can still feel it on my skin. The rest of the afternoon was spent sunbathing on soft, tightly packed sand, the kind that squeaks when you walk on it.
After a few days, feeling brighter and just chillin'...
The 'Nanna Tour' was memorable in that not only was it hugely beneficial for my health at a critical time, it also gave this mother and daughter the chance to spend some quality, stress free days together, just the two of us enjoying each other's company. It was a good thing. A really good thing!
Disclaimer: This was by no means a 'holiday'. I was genuinely very ill and the journey was undertaken on expert medical advice. It was not sponsored in any way shape or form and I have not been paid to write this post. I merely want to share the beauty of the region and the trip with my readers.
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Tell me, have you ever taken time out for a wellness getaway? Where did you go and what did you do?
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.