Saturday, July 22, 2017

BEAUTY IS....



The Silkwood Pub
Japoonvale
A Section of the Johnstone Shire, North Queensland


Paronella Park, Mena Creek
Above and below...Paronella Park, Mena Creek

Sundown on the jetty at Cape Richards, Hinchinbrook Island...Goold Island in the background
Painted Crayfish
Orchid Beach, Cape Richards...the resort's main beach.. My little abode looked down on it to one side; and to the ocean across to Goold Island on the other.


Kurrimine Beach



Over the years I’ve lived in some beautiful areas throughout Queensland, not the least being Hinchinbrook Island and its mainland surrounds, north and south.


In the late Eighties, early Nineties friends of mine (earlier, in 1986, one of their daughters was a member of my staff at the resort on Hinchinbrook Island), having, in the late 1980s, moved to North Queensland from Brisbane – first to Cairns, and then a little later to Silkwood, a sugar cane area southwest of Innisfail.  For a time, prior to building a new home for themselves on acreage at nearby Japoonvale, they rented a house on a cane farm a couple of kilometres out of Silkwood

 “Just up the road a bit and around a corner or two” is a verdant, magnificent area called Mena Creek.  Its waterfall, natural pool, rope bridge and lush surrounding are perfect backdrops to the legendary, wondrously mystical Spanish castle that was built in the 1930s by José Paronella as a monument of love has been a tourist drawcard throughout the years.

In 1913, José, a Spanish immigrant from Catalonia ,arrived in Innisfail to start a new life for himself and the love of his life, Matilda. Matilda had remained behind in Spain while he went about setting up their future.  José became an Australian citizen eight years after he stepped Australian soil.  He diligently put his nose to the grindstone.

From his hard work, within little over a decade José became a wealthy man. He bought cane farms, improved them, and then sold them.  It was during this fruitful process he discovered the lush forest, waterway and waterfall at Mena Creek....the perfect answer to his dream.  Paronella purchased 13 acres of Heaven.

With a happy heart and a healthy bank balance, Paronella returned to Spain. Upon his return, to his dismay, he learned Matilda wearied from waiting for him. She, of little faith, had married another, leaving poor José momentarily stranded.

“Determination” was his second name.  With no intention of return to Australia without a bride, José married Matilda’s younger sister.  A year later, with an exciting future ahead of them, the newlyweds set off to Australia.

At first the couple lived in a stone cottage, but soon José set about fulfilling his dream of building a castle reminiscent of the Catalan castles of his former homeland.  Tennis courts, entertainment/refreshment areas, a picture theatre, staircases and a ballroom with mirror balls were incorporated into the grand structure. 

José Paronella planted thousands of trees in the already dense forest.   

In 1933, it was on this property that Queensland’s first hydro-electric plant was built.

After a few years of neglect and decay, it has been restored to its former beauty...and the story goes on...as does Mena Creek’s Paronella Park. 

Ted, my head maintenance man when I was manager of the resort that once held pride of position at Cape Richards on Hinchinbrook Island originated from Silkwood, (Ted now lives back in the little township, enjoying his retirement years) often spent his time off,  spear-fishing in the waters off Murdering Point and Kurrimine Beach (other friends of mine owned and managed the Kurrimine Beach Motel…I had a wild week there one night helping them demolish their wine cellar, but that’s another story!), which is east of the highway, opposite Silkwood.

My staff and I benefited when Ted took time off, which, in fact, was rarely, because invariably he’d arrive back to the island with a large esky or two full of Painted Crayfish upon which we would dine in style in the staff room, away from the prying eyes of the island guests.
  
“Painted Crays are magnificently armed and brilliantly coloured. Because they are vegetarians, it’s only possible to catch them by nets or spearfishing.

After one of his trips to Silkwood and Kurrimine Beach, Ted returned to the island armed with a large esky full of large crays just in time for one of my staff members’ birthday.

Daina (correct spelling…pronounced “Day-na”) turned 18 the day of Ted’s return.
I was in the midst of arranging a party for her to be held at my little abode on the island. In my not-so-infinite-wisdom I had declared it to be a “Toga Party”!   

My little studio-style house was off-limits to everyone other than me and Ruska, my beloved ginger cat.  I was rarely there because most of my time, every day and every night, was spent over at the main building that housed the restaurant, cocktail bar, office, kitchen, cold-room, store-room, laundry etc.   I valued and protected my privacy and time alone when I was “home”.  And my staff respected my wishes.

David, my head chef, unburdened Ted of his load of painted crayfish. Wasting little time, David proceeded to prepare them for dinner...for the staff, not the resort guests...to feast upon.

No one was late for dinner that evening.  Pre-dinner drinks at the bar were even ignored as everyone eagerly gathered around the large staff  table, drooling , waiting for the festive feast.

The staff dinners were always held early...before the guests began to wander down to the bar and restaurant.  Everything was done fairly leisurely on the island...that was our style; that what people wanted once they realised it was a world unto itself...totally divorced from mainland style of living.

That evening our poor island guests didn’t partake in the same tasty fare we did, but “you don’t miss what you don’t have”...but I feel certain some of my staff couldn’t resist bragging!  

As soon as the staff dinner was completed my staff, those who were not on kitchen and table duties, rushed off to the laundry to clothe themselves in “togas” using the older stocks of bed sheets as substitutes for the real thing.

In the meantime, I played hostess to my guests, joining and chatting with them at their tables.

One by one, my “kids” (by habit, I often referred to my staff as “the kids”), chanting "Toga! Toga! Toga!" happily strolled through the restaurant area donned in their “togas”, en route to my house, much to the guests'  interest and amusement.

Laughter filled the night air.

The party-goers each made a detour to the bar, for a warm-up drink before progressing out of the restaurant to the track leading across to where the party was to be held.

To my surprise, the last two members of my staff to parade through the restaurant were Ted, followed soon after by my brother, Graham.  I’d not expected Ted to get dressed up, and I definitely hadn’t expected Graham to do so.  He, even more so than Ted, wasn’t a “group” party person; and, normally, he definitely, once he grew out of childhood, was not into fancy dress of any description.   (As children both he and I attended fancy dress balls, as all kids do...and Graham, fittingly, always went dressed up as a pirate).

My mouth fell open in shock at the unexpected, hilarious sight before me.

At the appearance of Graham, the last toga-wearing renegade to walk through the dining area, I heard one of the guests exclaim good-humouredly;

 “There goes another one!”

Seeing my brother dressed in a “toga”, for one thing was surprise enough for me, but to see him strut through the restaurant with a wide grin on his face really “knocked me for a sixer”, as the saying goes!

Such a display was not his normal style. If you’d known my brother, you would understand.

Eventually, everyone gathered together on the deck overlooking the ocean at my little house.

I was the only “civilian” present, opting not to wear a “toga”.

Generously, knowing what was underway elsewhere, the resort guests didn’t linger long in the restaurant that night.  It wasn’t too long before the bar, restaurant and kitchen staff joined the party.

David, my chef, and the others who'd been on shift arrived armed with platters of tasty finger foods for us to nibble upon.

By the time they arrived, the party was well under way.  My staff were always "up" for a party, and never needed urging!  Every day was a party!

What a fun night we had.    

Ruska spent the night, sleeping on “our” bed, with one diligent eye on the high jinks going on out on the deck, a couple of metres away.

Daina and I are still friends.  She now lives at Japoonvale, near where her parents built their home.  These days she’s manager of Innisfail’s K-Mart store.   

She has never forgotten her 18th birthday spent on Hinchinbrook Island.

Where else could she have had such a feast of fresh painted crayfish for no cost, followed by a toga party to end all toga parties, accompanied by the sounds and view of the ocean on either side of the venue?


36 comments:

  1. You painted the evening beautifully. It is amazing how the male personality can change when they slip on a frock. I was aware of some of the Paronella story, but not really about the man himself, so thanks for that extra knowledge.

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    1. It was a memorable evening, Andrew! lol

      Thanks for coming by...have yourself a good week. :)

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  2. "Beauty Is..."
    your photos of course, every one is beautiful.
    And your tale about Daina's birthday is good too.

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    1. Hey there, River....I'm glad you enjoyed my tale.

      Take care and thanks for coming by. :)

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  3. wow you really have lived in some wonderfully lovely places, of course I love the beaches; the Johnstone shire looks like a perfectly round island, is it? and crayfish here are so small they are hardly worth the trouble, but they are used in cajun cooking quite a bit.

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    1. Again, I must apologise...I meant to respond earlier than this, Linda...and thought I had done so...sorry. :)

      No...the Johnstone Shire is on the mainland, Linda...that view is of the Barron River.

      The painted crayfish found in Tropical North Queensland waters...in the Coral Sea grow quite large...and are delicious!

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  4. Beauty is everywhere for those of us with open eyes, hearts and minds.
    Thanks for sharing these gems.

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    1. Yes, so true, EC...and all too often we take it all for granted.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  5. A good story and well worth the read. My iPad needs charging up now! It took my mind off the problems I have so thank you for writing it. Beautifully written piece of work.

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    1. Hey there, Treey....I'm glad you enjoyed my story...and I'm happy it relieved you of some of your stress. Take good care....thanks for coming by. :)

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  6. What a great time that must have been! You certainly know how to have show people a good and memorable time.

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    1. Hey Arleen....my time on Hinchinbrook Island was wonderful...living and working on the island was a world unto itself. It was great. I met many interesting people during that period in my life.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  7. A birthday to remember for sure.

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    1. Hi Delores...it certainly was, in many ways.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  8. Yeah. That's something that Daina will surely remember for the rest of her life. Somehow managing a K-Mart store doesn't sound quite as much fun

    By the way, when you helped to demolish the Kurrimine Beach Motel's cellar did you use a sledge hammer and were you wearing safety goggles?

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    1. Hello, Yorkie. It was Daina's first job...working at the resort. She was fairly shy young lass back then. However, she was very capable, and well-liked by her peers and the visiting guests. Daina loves her present managerial role, which she's held for a number of years. It's quite a large store, and she has a devoted staff who all stood firmly behind and beside her when she fought a battle (and won) with breast cancer four years ago. She travels a bit around the country attending various seminars etc. She's now married with two teenage daughters of her own.

      No sledge-hammers, hard hats or goggles were required while demolishing the wine cellar. We sat comfortably in a civilised manner with the ocean as our nearby backdrop...over a period of hours. :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  9. You have lived such an adventurous life. What amazing memories.
    These are wonderful photographs. Australia truly is a land of beauty.
    The Painted Crayfish is beautiful. And another vegetarian. Heh. Heh.
    Have a great one, Lee.

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    1. Hey Sandra....my life these days, by choice, is less adventurous, Sandra...I live a very quiet and peaceful existence. However, I do have many, many good memories of times had.

      Since my time on Hinchinbrook Island I've not had the joy of feasting upon painted crayfish...they are delicious...as are all crustaceans, in my opinion.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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    2. Entirely my pleasure:)

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  10. I am always so jealous of the events in your life. I try to think of something that has happened to me that could compare but I come up with zero. So nice to live vicariously through you and my other blog friends.

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    1. Sorry, Annie....I thought I'd responded to your comment...I was in the process of doing so yesterday, but obviously I got distracted.

      I'm sure you have many momentous, memorable, interesting and fun adventures you've in which you've partaken...ones totally different to my own. :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  11. I was fascinated when I saw the photos and then got caught up in the party. Your Graham sounds rather like me when it comes to parties (it's highly unlikely I'd have been in a toga either).

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    1. Hi Graham...I went back an rectified the typo I'd made re my brother, Graham...what I meant to type originally was - "was not into fancy dress of any description." I imagine you knew that is what I meant to say.

      Graham shied away from parties whenever he could. I did, however, with much underground, covert planning manage to put together a surprise birthday party for him when on the island...just between the staff because his birthday fell a few days before we re-opened to the public.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  12. I so enjoyed reading about your toga party.

    Up until a few years ago, I would have had no idea what an “esky full of large crays” meant but then our son married an Australian girl and moved over to Adelaide. We’ve visited four times now and will be over again next year – hence eskys and crays have entered our vocabulary, although I’ve yet to eat a crayfish of any kind.

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    1. Hello, Barbara...Yes...I forgot that "Esky" is an Aussie name. When next in Adelaide you must try their crays from down that way...they're delicious. Make a note of it on your diary of one thing you must do...more than once during your next visit. :)

      Thanks for coming by...please do so again. :)

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  13. Toga's? No thank yew!

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    1. A toga is not mandatory, Mr. Ad-Man if you fear them so much. Come as you are - you'll be welcome. I didn't dress in a toga for the party...I was the only one who didn't, but I gave myself permission seeing I was the hostess!

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  14. That is such a gorgeous place. You've done so many things! Lovely that you are still in touch with the birthday girl.

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    1. Hey Lynn...it is a lovely area up that way... Tropical North Queensland is a special place.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  15. Paronella Park looks like it would be so much fun to visit. And it's so pretty.
    Have a great one, Lee.

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    1. Hi Sandra...it is a fascinating place...one man's vision, dream come true. It has a magical vibe about it.

      Thanks for coming by...and have yourself a great weekend! :)

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  16. Your brother has a side that he hadn't shared yet. :D
    Sounds like a fun time generally speaking though.

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    1. Hi Lux...Yes, he surprised us all that night...even himself, I think. Unfortunately, my brother passed away to soon, in 1998. So I'm glad he was able to work with me on the island for a time. He loved it as did I.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  17. You do seem to have lived quite an adventurous life, and fully embraced it, which is just wonderful.
    What an array of memories you have, many thanks for sharing them.
    I loved reading this post and looking at your photographs. Australia sure looks a nice place.

    All the best Jan

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    1. G'day Jan. In the words of Mary Hopkins...."Those were the days, my friend".....

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  18. I am always so jealous of the events in your life.


    แตกใน xxx

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