So here we are at the third stop on my whirlwind recent trip to Queensland - from Orpheus Island to Crystalbrook Lodge, I arrived for a brief over-night stay at Silky Oaks Lodge on the Mossman Gorge River. Despite the huge contrast from arid outback to rainforest I could see that even here the river levels were low, and that some consistent rain would be welcome. Regardless, the surrounding bush was green and inviting, providing a cooling protective canopy from the heat of the Queensland sun. Having arrived by car after an hour's drive around the picturesque coast up the Captain Cook Highway, I checked into my lovely room, high on poles above the river and surrounded by trees and birdlife, feeling like I'd been transported to a very glamorous incarnation of the Robinson Crusoe movie set! I wandered down for a quick look around the tree top restaurant and bar area, then managed to attach myself to a group heading out on a guided walk into the Daintree National Park. To read and see more of my rainforest adventure, just click on the recipe link below :)
Once past the gorgeous hotel pool area we were soon on paths heading straight out into the 'jungle' - a word our guide Chris from Venture Deeper explained originated in India meaning a wild tangle of vegetation. This rainforest area felt somewhat more familiar to me than my recent outback surroundings, reminiscent of New Zealand bush but with a tropical twist, and even though Chris talked to us about the snakes and other wildlife common to this area, he said the more dangerous varieties are rarely seen - and he should know, he also works as a snake wrangler! (You are far more likely to encounter a platypus or a wallaby :) ). After a fascinating hour looking at and learning about the different plant life we found ourselves back at the main lodge, with just enough time for a spa treatment or a lie-down and freshen up before dinner. The Healing Waters Spa offers a range of luxurious treatments using 100% chemical free, Australian-made Sodashi products, but on this occasion a quick power-nap was on the menu, before I made my way back to the main lodge for a catch up with owner and ex tennis-pro Paul Van Min. He and wife Barbara bought Silky Oaks back in 2009 keen for a slower change of pace, and consequently spent millions on up-grading and refurbishment. The main lodge area houses the bar and restaurant as well as a communal living room with complimentary wi-fi - all surrounded by the lush green rainforest. The restaurant provided a magical setting for dinner, tea light candles shedding a warm glow out into the trees, alive with rustling and the sounds of twilight in the bush. I nibbled on delicious mustard and cheese bread dipped in olive oil before tucking into tasty pan-fried Barramundi on fennel risotto with a lemon vinaigrette. After dinner I had the opportunity to chat with talented head chef Simon, a local who has been with the lodge for around 6 years. Half Torres Strait Islander and half Phillipino he brings a unique foodie perspective to the kitchen. The one thing he always loves to cook is pork and the ingredient he can't do without, mango. It was fascinating discussing the way he sees the seasons, without a defined cold winter, he says it's more "hot, dry, wet then windy" so his menu changes more by design than default and includes such treats as Sand Crab Dumplings and Kangaroo Loin with sweet potato puree, beetroot, kale and orange glaze. Despite the tempting dessert menu I was 'tuckered' so after dinner I wandered back up the path to my treetop room for a wonderfully deep, restful sleep - there is something incredibly calming about being surrounded by so much nature.
The next morning I was up early, reinvigorated and ready for the last leg of my Aussie adventure. After a delicious breakfast of mushroom and spinach omelette with soft goat cheese I was on my way to the airport for my flight from Cairns to Sydney, and then onwards to Tasmania for the dinner of a lifetime! Woo hooooooo - more on that soon :)