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.

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