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When TV presenter Dean Miller and executive chef Alastair McLeod joined for an episode of Queensland Weekender, the two could hardly look more dissimilar. However, what they shared on their week long adventure in Far North Queensland was infectious enthusiasm, along with the ability to have a good laugh (often at their own expense).
Kicking off their odyssey in Thala Beach Lodge, the two took to the superbly tropical surrounds like giddy schoolboys. Here Thala’s famous coconut captain, Carl Johanson, took the boys on one of his notorious tours, explaining the numerous benefits associated with the humble coconut.
Then, after exploring Thala’s two-kilometre stretch of first-class, white sandy beach, Alastair decided to show off his culinary skills outside Herbie’s Beach Shack. Here he poached fresh, local barramundi in coconut milk, with garlic, ginger, kaffir lime, chilli and coriander, which Dean exclaimed was “a masterpiece” in between fervent mouthfuls.
Next stop on the Queensland Weekender agenda was the Mossman Gorge Visitors Centre, which opened last year and offers employment to local indigenous people. Local elder and rainforest specialist Harold Tayley took the boys on a tour of the area, and in fine participatory form, Alastair devoured a witchetty grub, which he likened to “wet sawdust”.
Continuing north towards the Daintree, the jolly duo visited Cow Bay, stopping in at Lync Haven Rainforest Retreat. And after a bout of snake fondling with “cuddles”, watching the local croc get fed, and taking respite from the heavy rain, the two ventured forth to the Daintree Tea Plantation.
Here the pair received a tour, along with a cold, freshly brewed cuppa, before heading to the Lion’s Den, where they had lunch at this legendary adventure stopover. With little time and plenty to show, they continued to Cooktown, visiting Nature’s Powerhouse (the town’s Botanic Gardens), where plants that Joseph Banks collected prior to his return voyage in 1770 were marked for display.
However, it was Clare Richards who really roused Alastair’s senses with her knowledge on cooking with local plants and herbs. And after devouring a Cooktown concocted salad, the two capped off their week long adventure with a flight back to Cairns.
In all, this well presented episode of Queensland Weekender gives viewers plenty of options on places to visit in wondrous Far North Queensland.