May 23, 2011

Paradise in Cairns Part 1

The Esplanade
This morning I was sitting in the living room with my trakkies and dressing gown on, slippers on my feet, heater warming the house up, sipping warm water with ginger and honey, feeling a little under the weather. Now I'm in a singlet, heater off, doors and windows open, fresh air flying around with the sun shining (this time with licorice in my warm water). Having just returned from a week up in Cairns visiting my big sister there for the first time, I could go so far to say I might just move there! Lucky for me I get to re-live it all again in blogging to you guys (and if you'd like a totally different spin on the series of fortunate events check out Nikki's blog here).

Morning walk down the Esplanade

Happily on college holidays right now, I was more than ready to get away for a week! The flight only takes a couple of hours and the views on flying when you get there are breathtaking! Over HUGE mountains that literally drop to nothing at sea level and snake around the coastline to what is Cairns. It's a very flat place which makes for great bike riding and walking tracks. Nikki greeted me at the airport early Monday morning, with great big hugs, warm sunshine, and an organic Cairns banana (noone knows you like your sisters). After a long-way-round-drive back to her place to take in the esplanade, we dumped my things and then ... well just chilled. I suppose that's all we did all week!

No real agenda set for the day (or any other), we ventured out to find fruit and veg! I wanted to see all the local organic places, stock up on supplies and start from there. The markets are on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays but having arrived on Monday (note to self - next time fly in on Friday and stay till the following Monday for 2 weekends of markets), we had to shop at the local stores. And when Nikki took me here - um well exceitment central (she looks pretty excited too)!!

Nikki at Neils Organics
We stocked up on greens, kales, spinach, cabbage, vegies, and delicious fruits - dragonfruit, papaya, persimmons, pineapple, avocadoes, bananas...and later made a salad with a few bits n pieces...

But not before we drove to check out the "Fruit Bat"; a little side-of-the-road vendor a small Thai lady operates. Her prices are great, her produce even better, and when I spotted these babies I was close to hysterical!!


I had only ever heard amazing things about this fruit but never seen or had one myself. I am a HUGE fan of mamey saoptes which are in the same family so was sure I'd like these. They weren't ready to eat but that didn't stop me from buying half a dozen to wait until they were... until they turned BLACK!

Black Sapote deliciousness
And then OMG! The texture is like a mamey - which is kinda like an avocado. So it's really soft. Although a little softer even - like a really really ripe avo. It melts in your mouth.Think chocolate mousse. Nicknamed the "chocolate fruit" you can see why. It even smells a little like chocolate when it's ripening. The taste is probably as close as a fruit could get to tasting like chocolate, but having said that, it tastes nothing like a block you'd buy from the store. I was in Heaven slowly scooping out mouthful by mouthful...

Then decided to make somthing a little spesh for Nikki and I to enjoy for brekkie. I've made similar versions loads of times before but wanted to show Nik how quick and easy it is - whether it's brekkie, arvo tea or dessert - chia pudding is a staple recipe I use all the time, mixing up the fruits, spices, and added extra yummy bits I've got on hand to amke it different everytime.

Layers of chia-brazil nut milk-gel, cacao nibs, goji berries, sliced bananas, and BLACK SAPOTE!

The rest of our week was filled with warm weather, rain patches, and  starting our days with yoga each morning, then making green smoothies pondering where our day would take us...  We lazed about reading, and chatting in afternoon breezes that gently swept through the house when it was raining outside... We laughed hard about stupid little nothings that sisters do so easily when they've spent way too long apart... We got busy making amazing salads with new ingredients, experimenting in the kitchen with backyard produce (more to come!!)... We walked 'round town (to the point where I now know my way 'round town - sure sign I'm a local)... and spent quite a bit of time blissing out on locally made dark chocolates (ginger bark mmm, lemon myrtle buds, chilli warming chocolate pods omg, even cacao-covered-cacao-beans!!) whilst drinking coffee... wait what?!?!

(yep - you heard me - I said drinking COFFEE! Now neither Nikki or I drink coffee really. Well once in a blue moon for me, maybe a teeny bit more often for Nik, but on the whole it's very rare... despite my forever long deep immense LOVE for the stuff, and having worked as a barista for years... personally I have pros and cons in regards to coffee; alot of pros, and alot of cons, but whilst in Cairns with amazing local organic coffee, it is a bean after all, I only drink it straight up and black, we both indulged and loved loved LOVED our little coffee fixes every few days - one certain coffee fix took us down memory lane of our travels overseas and had us laughing so hard, we had the shop owner laughing with us, 5 shots of coffee between us and 2 or 3 hours later...).

We had lunch at The Lilypad mid-week (amazing little hippy cafe serving loads of colourful food, stax of vego options, an awesome hand painted tables, chairs and artwork floating about) and my taste buds were blissing out on this monstrosity of a salad splashed with an amazing soy sesame dressing. Nikki had a delicious lentil burger that you can see she thoroughly enjoyed also.

We took a road trip up the ranges to Kuranda and Mareeba on Wednesday I think... The drive is round and round, and turning, and a bend, and around...

we had to stop mid way to re-callibrate our brains, and take in the breathtaking views of course...

Looking down into Cairns 

When we got to Kuranda we got out to stretch our legs and have a wander. It's the cutest little town (rather touristy though). Small gift shops, local honey, markets, and everything (stereo)typically Australian to munch on - crocodile, emu, and kangaroo burgers and pies, anzac cookies, lamingtons, even banana mango smoothies! Yay for the fellow fruit munchers!

I was happy with my nashi pears and a few nuts, Nikki with a hot vegie pastie as we sat in the park, but it was kinda cool to see tourists really enjoying the local food - Aussie girl through and through, but I don't think I've ever seen an emu burger in my life!

We tried some honey (garlic infused!) and bought our favourites (avocado honey!) before we set off again, stopping at Coffee Works plantation for a sticky beak (they grow, mix, roast, pack and serve many different varieties of coffee along with some of the best tasting chocolates I've ever had the pleasure of tasting considering it's hard to find great vegan choccies). But a girl can't live off chocolate and coffee alone... and yes, we did try :)

Next stop was Skybury; a huge farm that grows papayas and bananas, as well as coffee (ever watch Farmer Wants A Wife? One of the farmers from the last season owns this joint - mum was a big fan).
We drove along a red dirt road for a bit, passing rows and rows and rows of beautiful papaya trees. There seemed to be noone in coo-ey it was so quiet when I stepped out of the car to take some piccies. Fresh country air and warm afternoon breeze...

We were only a 2 minute drive from the farm but I suppose mid-week there's not laot of people about (perfect). We parked the car, did the whole tourist stretch thing on hopping out, and headed over to the entry; already knowing we'd be spending time there. We wanted good coffee, some arvo tea, (which sure you can get anywhere) but we chose Skybury mainly for the view.

Not a bad spot to stop for coffee hey?

Not bad scones either I believe

On the way out I had to grab me some lady finger bananas and hand picked papayas - I mean at $2.50/kg how could you resist? I loved how they were sitting there in boxes with an old-fashioned scale and an "Honest Box" to throw your money in once you did your own weighing and calculations. I picked a few un-ripe-er nanas for late, but made sure I got a few ready-to-eat-me-now nanas too, coz (as expected) once I got to the car, it was nana time! Creamy, soft and so delicious!

But that's certaintly NOT where the banana fun stopped! When Friday morning rolled 'round it was MARKET TIME in town and boy-o-boy was I excited! You all know how much I love my markets! I live for markets! I could spend everyday at a different market I LOVE them! Only pity is I don't always have the time to get 'round to them all in Sydney.
And with fresh produce from local growers, buzz and chatter, conversations with friendly folk, tasting everyone's bounty they are more than happy to share... why wouldn't you love markets?

So I'm going to save them for another day! They deserve all the attention they can get (along with the delectable dishes we made from all our produce)... Keep your tongues in. Recipes to come...


  1. Hi Christie, the food looks delicious! I remember eating a Black Sapote about 10 years ago from the local woolies strangely enough. Very yummy! Sadly I haven't seen any since.

    So you're serious about thinking of moving there? And do you prefer it to Darwin? I can imagine it would be a nice change. I'm still yet to visit either, but might think about going in a few months time. Are there planes that go there straight from Sydney, or is there a change over at Brisbane?

  2. wow, looks amazing and fun and a once in a lifetime opportunity!!!!