Wednesday, November 30, 2011

30 Nov 11 – Day 6 (Eumundi Markets, Noosa Avalon Cottages, Hastings Street)

Everyone got up early coz we needed to check out of Cedar Lake Country Resort to go to Sunshine Coast. The guy in unit 17 did not come back with any quote or show his face. On our way to the car, we saw that guy’s car still parked in the exact same spot in the exact same position. BIL went over to check out the car and found out that it was actually a rental car from Hertz. Anyway, we checked out and spent nearly 2 hours on the road, partly due to a traffic jam. Reached Eumundi Markets about 11+am and we tried to look for parking space. Parked along the main road and BIL checked with the traffic police about the methods of payment for parking fee. It turned out that parking along the main road was only for 30 minutes. He told BIL to drive to the big open field carpark behind the market where he could park longer. So got back into the car and looked for the carpark.

There was a lady sitting at the entrance to the carpark collecting parking fee of A$5 which would go to the community. There were many stalls in Eumundi Markets selling clothes, accessories, handicrafts, knick knacks, food and drinks. All were interesting to see but expensive to buy, at least for me. Clothes were nice but not my kind of style, I hardly wear accessories, no place to display artworks at home so only left food and drinks. As it was close to lunchtime, so BIL suggested getting something to eat while we walked. Lyn bought a sausage roll from one of the stalls; sis bought a set of sandwich from an alternate stall where BIL also bought a banana milkshake from. There was a heavy passing shower just when they were getting the sandwich and milkshake. Fortunately, there were ample shelters around for people to walk.

After we finished the section that was near the carpark, we crossed the road to the other section that was nearer to the main road. There were some fruit stalls there, some massage stalls and so on. I walked faster than the rest coz they were held back at one of the fruit stalls looking at mangoes and BIL eventually bought two. Then there was a small section where the stalls were selling food such as Dutch pancakes and Asian laksa. After we were done covering the whole place, BIL suggested that we find a place for proper lunch but could not find any. I did see a cafe in the middle of the market but did not suggest to BIL coz I had a feeling that it would probably be shot down. In the end, it was decided that we would go back to the area that we got food from earlier on where there were some seats. As the rest were full so I went on my own to get lunch.

Walked to the corner of the street where I saw an old man with his mobile stall selling mini cinnamon doughnuts earlier on and bought a bag of 12 for A$3. After that, I passed by a stall selling muffins and bought a chocolate rosemary muffin for A$2.50. While crossing the road to the first section, I saw BIL and Lyn crossing over. BIL said Lyn wanted to eat ice cream. Found sis and Ry, sat myself down and started eating. The doughnuts were good. Finished my food and went to the stall beside the sausage stall where Lyn bought her sausage roll earlier on to get a small cup of ginger beer for A$1.50. It was worth the money coz it was very gingery, which I like very much. Was really tempted to get a bottle at A$4 but in the end the stingy side of me took over. BIL and Lyn came back and the ice cream turned out to be the Dutch pancake with ice cream and strawberries. Before we left, BIL bought a pack of five sausages from the stall that Lyn bought her sausage roll.

Entrance to Eumundi Markets

A street performer

Left after we finished eating to go to Noosa Avalon Cottages for the check in. It was another long drive where we passed by Pomona, a small town 5 minutes away from Noosa Avalon Cottages. The GPS indicated that we were very near to Noosa Avalon Cottages and we nearly missed the place coz it was a slip dirt road from the main road. Drove in and Lyn had to get down at one point to open the metal gate for the car to pass through. Waited for her to close the gate, got back into the car and drove further inwards. Came across a yellow dog and a teenage girl who told us that Linda, the owner, was not in and that the cottage that we had booked were opened and ready for us to move in. She pointed out the direction to the cottage and then BIL continued driving. There was another metal gate before the cottage and Lyn had to get down the car to open it.

Finally reached the cottage and we lugged the luggage into it. Once inside, the kids started commenting or rather complaining about the condition of the cottage and the fact that it did not have air-conditioning. Ry turned on the tv and said no Nickelodeon channel, a channel that they watched whenever they had a chance while in Cedar Lake Country Resort. The layout of the cottage was not too bad, it has a kitchen with counter top, shelves with books, a stack of playing cards, lots of old VCDs, there were two big rooms with a double bed each and a section along the corridor that was fitted with a single bed facing a row of netted windows with no fan and beside the toilet cum shower room. The two big rooms came with ceiling fans; the first had a cupboard with one side being faulty while the second room had a door that led out to the porch. The corner of the second room eve had a big spider wed and a spider on it.

Some  photos of the cottage :

Did some unpacking and announced that I would be taking the single bed coz I thought that I should at least let BIL sleep on proper bed since he had been sleeping on the sofa all the while back in Cedar Lake Country Resort. The arrangements for the other two rooms were such that Ry be occupying the first room with sis while Lyn would be in the second room with BIL. Came out to the kitchen and saw a lot of ants crawling near the mango jam and peanut butter. Quickly told BIL who was near the sink to wet a tissue paper to wipe the ants away and clean up the bottles of spreads.

We rested a while before heading out again to Hastings Street in Noosa Heads for a walk and dinner. Most of the shops along Hastings Street were sort of branded, we passed by the Noosa Heads Surf Life Saving Club and said that there’s an eating place inside but again the idea was shot down. Strolled on the wooden walkway next to the beach and stopped for a while to let the kids played with the sand. Saw many people, mostly Caucasians, sun tanning on the beach. They could just go there with a beach towel, laid it on the sand, took off their clothes and just suntanned in their swimwear without even going into the water for a dip.

Couple of photos of Noosa Beach :

Left to look for dinner and we went to this place called “La Vida Restaurant” which was quite popular coz the tables outside the shop were all reserved. I ordered fish of the day which was Barramundi, Lyn ordered Mooloolaba prawn pasta and Ry ordered seafood platter for two to share with BIL and sis. We shared the seafood platter and fish of the day except Lyn’s pasta and the food was really good. The Barramundi was cooked just right hence so the meat was very juicy and tender; the seafood was fresh and service was good. After we finished the food, we still had space for desserts. So BIL ordered the buttermilk pancake with ice cream, caramelized apple on sultana pizza with ice cream and warm chocolate cake. Again we shared the desserts and they were yummy.

Headed back to the cottage, again we had to go through the two metal gates. As it was really dark, sis suggested going out in pairs to open the gate. Ry took the first gate and sis wanted to follow but Ry shut the car door on her and my sis suffered a bad bump on her head. Lyn took the second gate and I went with her. Finally returned to the cottage, while the rest unpacked, I went for my shower. There was the hot and cold water tap but the hot one gave out cold water. Tried the cold water tap and the water was even colder. Had to shower using cold water and I was shivering badly at first. Fortunately after a while, the body was used to it and I managed to complete my shower.

Thinking that perhaps I did not switch on the heater that was why I did not have hot water, so after I was done, went out and asked BIL if there was any switch that I needed to turn on for hot water. He looked around but found none and the conclusion was that the hot water tap might be faulty. The kids were the first to groan but there was no other way out. Lyn then went for shower and asked sis to sit on the toilet bowl next to the shower screen to accompany her. The rest of us in the living room could hear her scream and shout while showering due to the cold.

Next was Ry who also asked my sis to accompany him during the shower and he finished fast. After he came out, he said that he lathered the soap on his hand, applied to his body and quickly rinsed off. Then my sis went for hers and asked BIL to accompany her. Did not know if she did ask him to sit on the toilet bowl or just wait outside and I did not want to find out. Oh well... guess I was the bravest of them after all. After everyone had showered, we played card games on the counter top and chatted. Finally we went to sleep about 11pm.

Thoughts: Eumundi markets is a nice place to walk if you are into accessories, artworks and knick knacks. Food wise, I really like the mini cinnamon doughnuts and the ginger beer a lot. Now when I think about it, I should have just bought extra to eat later the day. Noosa Avalon Cottages is probably not bad if we had stayed there during winter where it would be cooler and less mosquitoes. We could probably endure the lack of entertainment, after all, most of the time we would be out. The only downside was the lack of hot water for showering. Dinner was the best so far, food was delicious and service was good.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

29 Nov 11 – Day 5 (Sea World)

Today we left for Sea World close to 11am and got there close to 12 noon. While getting the tickets, BIL saw the notice saying that the Jet Rescue ride is still not available yet. Oh well... By the time we bought the tickets, it was slightly after 12 noon. BIL studied the map and program sheet while the rest of us checked out the gift shop. He told us that the Jet Stunt would start at 12.30pm and that it would take place at the area right in front of the foodcourt so we decided to take lunch there and wait. Lyn and I had kid’s meal each which consisted of chicken nuggets, fries and small drink while BIL and sis had fish & chips with large drink and Ry had beef burger with fries with large drink. The Jet Stunt started promptly at 12.30pm and we got a great view from where we were seated. I took video of the performance while BIL used the 10 frames per second feature on his DSLR.

Entrance to Sea World
Jet Stunt Performers

After that, we followed the map to explore the other parts of Sea World. We saw the penguins, the touch pool with star fishes, sea urchins and sea cucumbers, went to Ray Reef where we saw adult and baby sting rays, Sharks Bay where we saw sharks and other deep sea fishes and so on. Passed by the dolphin nursery and saw a few dolphins in the pool. They were friendly and playful. A few of us and other visitors stood beside the pool and the dolphins swam very near to the edge and splashed water towards us using their tails and fins. One of them even tossed a piece of seaweed with his beak towards us, trying to get us to toss back and play with him. In one of his tosses, the seaweed hit my leg and bounced into a gap in the rocks which could not be retrieved. Took some photos of them before heading back to the Ray Reef where visitors were allowed to feed the sting rays with the small fishes provided at A$9 per cup. BIL bought two cups and while he and Ry fed the rays, the rest of us just watched and took photos.

Some photos taken while in Sea World :

Then we went to see the Dolphin show which was great before going for the helicopter ride. BIL chose the Currumbin Valley Scenic Tour which lasted 20 minutes. The feeling was like riding a plane just that you get more views. The pilot could have introduced us to the various spots that we flew past but we could not hear very well. Nevertheless, the view was good. Got off the helicopter and was told that we need to wait about 20 minutes for the complimentary DVD to be ready. So sat at the ice cream kiosk to wait and while waiting, Lyn and I bought a large cup of soft serve ice cream at A$6.90 each. After eating the ice cream, we went to the gift shop where Ry said he wants to get soft toys as gifts for friends.

Photos from helicopter ride :

BIL saw some soft toy paws selling at two for A$20 and told Ry to get that instead. So in the end, BIL took two for himself, Ry took two for his friends and chose another two more toys at two for A$20. While they were busy choosing soft toys, Lyn went to look for necklace and I went to browse for t-shirts. After we were all done choosing, we headed for the cashier where I made my own payment. While queuing, Ry saw a penguin soft toy and took that as well. The casher told me that one of the t-shirts that I took cost A$25 each and not the promotion of two for A$40 but he would double check to confirm. It took quite a while for him and his colleagues to check and finally he told me the t-shirts were on promotion price. He apologised for the delay and threw in a shopping bag as a small compensation.

Large soft serve ice cream

Left Sea World to go to Advancetown for dinner. During the journey, sis said that the merchandises in Sea World were either wrongly priced or spoilt. The first necklace that Lyn took had no price tag and no pendent, after asking the staff, it turned out that someone had took the pendant and the price tag away, leaving just the cord hanging on the rack. Reached Advancetown about 6pm and we went to the Italian restaurant opposite Ki Lun called "Lavelle Street Café" where I had ravioli ricotta with rose sauce. Finished dinner in one hour and went back to Cedar Lake Country Resort.

Lavelle Street Café

Ravioli ricotta with rose sauce

Went for my shower while the rest tried to squeeze the soft toys into the foldable grey bag that sis had brought along for the trip. By the time I came out, they were done with the task and one by one took turn to shower while the rest packed their clothing and souvenirs into the luggage. Watched tv with the others and then went to sleep at 10pm coz the next day had to be up early to check out.

Thoughts: Sea World was smaller than I had expected but the Jet Stunt and Dolphin show was good and fun to watch.

Monday, November 28, 2011

28 Nov 11 – Day 4 (Tropical Fruit World, Super Bee Honeyworld, Springbrook Natural Bridge)

We went out at 9am, which was a record by far, got to Tropical Fruit World (TFW) about 9.45am and was early by 15 minutes. So took some photos nearby before checking out the fruit stalls near the TFW’s entrance while BIL bought tickets. Made our way slowly to the fruit tasting place and along the way we saw many fruit plants, fruit trees and even giant cactus with flowers.

A few photos from TFW before fruit tasting :

Reached the fruit tasting place where Carol, one of the TFW’s staff, explained to us the difference between fruits and vegetables is that fruits have seeds. Someone in the group asked what about chilli and capsicum. Carol said those are actually classified as fruits but because of their savoury taste, they are commonly known as vegetables. She also introduced us to the fruit that the farm is famous for, avocado, and its related products.

Couple of photos from the fruit tasting place :

Carol, one of the TFW staff

She also showed us other fruits such as strawberries which she later poured some lemon myrtle syrup over them, papayas, bananas, pineapples, mangoes, egg fruits, kiwifruits which is also known as Chinese gooseberry, grapefruits, blood oranges, yellow pitaya or dragon fruit, red pitaya or dragon fruit, star apple, mashed avocado dip seasoned with sea salt mixed with herbal spices, papaya seed dressing, sweet chilli tamarillo sauce and we were able to dip the corn chips with and then there was the chocolate pudding fruit, also known as black sapote, which was served with vanilla ice cream.

She said strawberry is the only fruit that has seeds on the outside and average about 200 seeds. Bananas and pineapples also used to have many seeds but now they are seedless coz they were engineered to be so, as with some other fruits like the seedless grapes. Kiwifruit originated from China and was brought to New Zealand which later on became world exporter of it. Pitaya is a kind of cacti, while most of us are familiar with the red pitaya, yellow ones are new to us and we hardly see them in supermarkets. Star apple is another fruit that we hardly see in supermarkets. It got its name from the fact that when cut open; it has a star pattern in the pulp.

Carol told us that the seed was not to be eaten and the way to eat the pulp was but pressing the skin of it together to squeeze out the pulp. We were told that there are many types of avocados; the farm is famous for the Linda variety which is really, really big. The normal ones that we usually see in supermarkets are the Hass variety. The chocolate pudding fruit is very soft, has green skin, a single seed and brown pulp that taste like chocolate pudding. Besides fruits, the farm also produces many fruit-related products such as mango butter, mango jam, mulberry jam which is seasonal, chocolate fruit syrup, papaya seed dressing, lemon myrtle syrup, avocado face oil, avocado body lotion and so on.

We got to taste all the fruits that Carol showed us and were allowed to try out the various products in the room. She told us that 10% discount would be given for products purchase within the room and that we could collect the purchase from the fruit stall at the entrance after we finished the whole tour. So I quickly grabbed a big tube of avocado body lotion while BIL took a bottle of mango jam. I made the payment and told Carol to write BIL’s name on the plastic bag. Then Ben, the driver of a tractor, came to bring us on a tour around the farm on his blue tractor. We saw many fruit tress such as those of the Hass avocados, yellow pitayas, jackfruits, bananas which some were covered with plastic cover and many others.

Ben, driver of our tractor

Photos of the fruits tasted :

We stopped half way near the macadamia trees and Ben told us to get down. He showed us the tree, the macadamia fruits on the tree, the manual nut cracker device and the ripe macadamia fruits. He demonstrated the way to crack open the macadamia fruit using the device and we were given time to try. BIL helped us to crack the shells and we ate the fresh macadamia nuts. We only had about one or two each while the rest of the visitors took quite a few each with some saying to bring back home as souvenirs. There were many red flat insects stuck on the device and crawling on the ground that was covered with macadamia shells. A few insects crept up to sis’s legs and she freaked out and was jumping about trying to get rid of them. After we were done, we got back onto the tractor to continue with the rest of the tour. Ry told us that Ben was laughing at the back when he saw sis jumping around to get rid of the insects.

Some photos taken during the macadamia nuts cracking session :

Macadamia Tree

Bucket full of macadamia fruit

The nut cracker device

Cracked fruit showing the raw nut

Ground full of macadamia fruit shells

The ripe macadamia fruit

Cracking the fruit open

Empty shell

One of the many red insects found in the macadamia trees area

We came to another part of the farm to do a little train ride. As the seats on the train were limited, some visitors had to take the second round. We took the first round and it was fun but it also ended very quickly. After that, we got onto a boat and there was a dog at the back of it. While waiting for the rest of the people to board the boat, we played with the dog. Soon everyone was on board and the guy who operated the boat gave us a couple of slices of bread each to feed the birds as we travelled down the river to the next destination.

Train ride and the little dog :

Got off the boat and it was a place with farm animals where we could feed them. There were Sherman, the big horse, some sheep, cows and wallabies. The wallabies were in another open area and we had to walk through tall grass to get to them. They were very shy and did not want to eat the food. Another family from Singapore were also there and both the families were trying very hard to get some photos of the wallabies. We spent quite a long time there and I kept telling sis to hurry up coz the rest of the group were already back at the place we got off the boat.

Animals in Tropical Fruit World :

We were told to go the other direction to get board another tractor and along the way, we saw donkeys and again we spent some time there. We thought we could have missed the tractor and needed to walk back on our own, turned out that the whole group were waiting for the five of us on the tractor. We were so embarrassed. Finally we came to the end of the tour, got down the orange tractor and headed for the cafe for lunch. Ry and I had the flatheads with chips, Lyn had chicken nuggets with chips, BIL had beef burger with chips and sis had a pie. We shared the mango smoothie, soursop smoothie and jackfruit smoothie.

Lunch was good and after eating, Lyn and I went for ice cream. She had a vanilla ice cream cone for A$2 while I got a red pitaya and custard apple ice cream for A$6.90. How they made my ice cream was that they poured the fruits and a big scoop of vanilla ice cream in a blender and blend them together and then the ice cream mixture came out from an opening into a cup. Done eating and resting, we collected our earlier purchase from the fruit stall, took some photos and headed to the Super Bee Honeyworld to catch the live bee show. It was pretty quiet and we were the only group of customers in there. Explained to the lady about how we were told that we could go back for the show and she kindly got the bee handler to give us the tour.

Yummy ice cream and fruits :

He was in his bee handling suit and he brought us into a room where we could see the interior of the bee hives through a glass panel. There were a few bee hives with many, many bees. He told us that there was another big bee hives forming above the room and they would need to do something about it soon. If a hive becomes too big, the queen bee will leave, taking half the hive with her. The remaining half will have to make a new queen bee using royal jelly. We were told that the queen bee, contrary to what most of us think, is actually about the same size as the other female bees, just a bit longer coz she needs to hold eggs. A queen bee can lay about 2000 over eggs per day and there can only be one queen bee per hive.

So many bees...

Most of the bees are female, only a few big ones are male. The average lifespan of a female bee is about seven weeks but a queen bee can live up to seven years. This is because queen bee feeds on royal jelly that is produced by the glands on the head of the other female bees. So wherever the queen bee goes, she is always surrounded by female bees so that she could feed as and when she likes. And because of the fact that she is always surrounded, it becomes easy to find her in a bee hive. Just then, he found a queen bee and we could see what he said earlier on.

We learnt that female bees work during the most part of their lives, doing things such as babysitting the larvae, serving the queen bee, standing guard and only go out during the last week of the lifespan to collect nectar. So on average, a bee only produces about a teaspoon of honey. The bee handler then brought us to the exit of the room where the side was blocked by another glass panel and we were able to see the bees hovering before the different bee hives. He explained that before the bees go out to collect nectar, they had to hover in front of their respective bee hive, facing towards it to “set their GPS” so that they could return to the correct hive. Each hive has a unique scent created by the individual queen bee.

We were then led to another room and there was a bee hive in there with some bees hovering in front of it but facing outwards. He told us that the bees were sending out the scent of the hive to guide the other bees back to the correct one. Bees do not sleep, they communicate by shaking their tails, male bees cannot sting and they do not work. Finally we came to the last room where a hive was attached to a machine that had a handle. The bee handler took out the hive and scoped some honey for us to try. It was raw honey and tasted really sweet. He then placed the hive back to the machine and started turning the handle very fast. What the machine did was to let the hive spin on high speed so that the honey would get flunk out to the side of the container that it was in and then the honey would be collected at the bottom of the container.

He then introduced us to some products such as the manuka honey, honey comb, royal jelly, propolis and bee pollen. He said that when choosing manuka honey; go for a rating of at least 15, whatever that means. He also recommended royal jelly saying that it comes in big capsules of 2% and small capsules of 6%, whatever the percent means again. He said that he has been taking the 6% capsules for many years and he is 60 this year but does not look like a 60 year old man. BIL was sold and he bought a bottle of yellow box honey that was said to be suitable for diabetic patients and a bottle of small capsules of 6% royal jelly. I asked if he could finish so much honey and sis said she would make honey for them frequently to make sure they finish them.

Left Super Bee Honeyworld about 3+pm to go to Springbrook National Park to look for the Natural Bridge. The journey was long and travelled on many winding roads. Finally the effort and time was paid off, we found the Natural Bridge around 4+pm. There were a couple of other cars in the carpark and a few people coming out from the National Park. Used the toilet, took time to look through the information board nearby before embarking on the walk. We followed the walkway, stopping now and then to look at the plants, trees and signs. Soon we reached the glow-worm cave with the mini waterfall. As it was still bright, we could not see the glow-worm but we were able to spot a few bats fluttering in the cave. Took a few photos then continued the walk for another 15 minutes before calling it a day.

Some photos while at Springbrook Natural Bridge :

Went to Coles to get bread, juice and some snacks where I got a small packet of Smith’s Salt & Vinegar chips. Drove back to Advancetown for dinner and most of the eating places were closed cos it was a Monday. So we went back to the same Chinese takeaway place called Ki Lun to buy dinner back. We ordered fried rice, braised duck with mushrooms, mushrooms omelette and beancurd with vegetables. The meal cost over A$60 but the lady told BIL that since we are all Chinese, she only charged us A$60. Got back to the apartment around 6+pm, BIL grilled the beef sausages that he bought couple of days ago and heated up the leftover dinner from the night before to eat as dinner. The meal was good and satisfying. After eating, went for shower and watched tv till about 11+pm before going to bed.

Thoughts: Today was a day well spent. We learnt a lot about fruits and bees and got to taste some exotic fruits that we cannot find back home as well as taste raw honey right from the bee hive. If I had my own luggage and space, I probably would have bought a few bottles of the fruit syrup back. Saw the lovely glow-worm cave with mini waterfall but a pity we did not get to see the glow-worms in action and did not get to explore other parts of the National Park. Nevertheless, it was a nice walk and if ever I get to go back to Gold Coast, I would want to explore Springbrook National Park better.