On Thursday, 8th April, 53 members and friends of the Mackay and Capricornia branches of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia Inc., travelled north by bus to Mossman for the Easter weekend. We arrived at the White Cockatoo in Mossman at about 10:00am on Friday. We stayed in cabins with five people per cabin. There were lush tropical gardens containing heliconias, lipstick palms and much more surrounding the cabins.
The weekend started with Thursday night and Friday morning on the bus. After lunch we visited Alan and Suzy Carle's property. They have 20 acres of tropical fruits and nuts, backing onto a National park of rainforest. They also have about 500 tropical flowers and medicinal herbs.
The orchard is laid out in four sections: South Pacific, South America, Central Asia and Madagascar. Half way through the orchard tour, we paused for a rest where we were treated to a refreshing drink of lime juice followed by a cooked breadfruit. Never having tasted breadfruit before, I found it to be very appetising. After seeing the magnificent tree growing near where we rested, I decided that I have to try and grow one for ornamental value, and if it bears fruit, then that is a bonus. Judging by the number of breadfruit trees that got off the bus when we got home, a lot of people thought the same way.
After the tour was finished, Brian Cornell, while thanking Alan, put it nicely when he said, "It took us 12 hours to travel to Mossman and 2 hours to walk around the world".
On Saturday, we were guided around the Mossman area by Mossman RFCA Inc. branch members Trudy Woodall and Dawn Meneikys. First stop was Mossman sugar mill, where there is a collection of rare fruit trees from one to possibly twenty years old. The orchard was started by some of the original Rare Fruit Council members. All the trees are labelled with their name and some of them are over forty feet high.
On the way to the second venue, during a brief rest stop at Newell beach, some people gathered coconuts that were almost twice as big as a soccer ball. Growing amongst the coconut trees were Indian almonds.
The next stop was Sommerset orchard. We were given a tour of the orchard propagation laboratory, two orchard greenhouses and about 5000 fruit trees including 45 varieties of Rambutans, by Bruno Scomazzon.
Bruno, Dierdre and son Luigi also grow 140 acres of sugar cane. We were accompanied for the rest of the day by Peter Baker from the Cardwell/Johnstone Branch.
During the orchard tour Bruno showed us mamey sapote trees from Guatemala, a purple mangosteen with variegated leaves. We also saw how breadfruit trees are propagated by cutting the roots, which causes them to put up suckers, which are then removed. Bruno said that most fruits can be used green as a vegetable. We also saw a 'book book', a tree from New Guinea which has large green fruit. While on the orchard tour Bruno's grandson found a green spiky thing and gave it to him. It turned out to be a ripe Durian. After smelling it I was sure that the little fella had found it in the rubbish bin - it smelled absolutely rotten. After the tour Bruno cut it up for tasting, then I was sure it was rotten. However durian eaters informed us that the more you eat it, the more you get to like it. The next day when we went to Mario's place, he told us that he used to wait for the lychees to ripen; now he says, "blow the lychees - where's the durian!"
Also whilst at Bruno's, we tasted Rambai, a small pale-coloured fruit with a sweet centre.
High Falls farm was the next venue where we had a talk about the rare fruit, an orchard tour and fruit tasting. Here the fruit was laid out on top of banana leaves, which was different and looked attractive. During the orchard tour, we saw seven types of bananas, including a large pacific plantain which we were told grows bananas 12 inches long and 2½ inches in diameter. We had lunch there where the dining area is built on the top of a creek bank with cool, clear water flowing by below and lush tropical rain forest on the creek bank. It was a very enjoyable atmosphere for the lunch break.
After lunch we travelled north towards the Daintree for the last visit of the day. Here we walked through parts of a 2000-tree orchard belonging to Andre Leu.
Andre, who acquired the property 2 years ago from Werna Cyzgan, has been involved with rare fruits since 1971. He started collecting rare fruit trees in the early seventies. During the orchard tour we saw the first grafted rambutan, abius and star apple trees in Australia. We also saw a 17-year-old purple mangosteen tree which Andre said was one of the first in Australia. There are also 2 Brazil nut trees that are the first planted in Australia and are now over 40ft high.
Andre told us how Brazil nuts can take up to 18 months from flower to nut. When we were shown flowers on the top of one of the trees, somebody made the comment that the trees were so high that if the flowers fell off they would be nuts by the time they reached the ground.
A black sapote variety called 'Martins' had fruit on the tree that was almost the size of a small dinner plate. Andre said that the RFCA Inc. NEC committee is currently working with the DPI to promote black sapote fruit.
Growing among the fruit trees were some different types of legumes that are used to put nutrients back into the ground. Andre, together with Alan Carle, must have computer-like memories, for the amount of knowledge that those two guys have stored in their heads about fruit trees is incredible.
On Sunday morning on the way to Kuranda and the Atherton/Tablelands, we stopped at the Port Douglas flea markets, which were pleasantly set up in a park beside the ocean. Here we saw fruit for sale like rambutans, abius, durians (didn't smell any better ), fibreless soursops, red-skinned custard apples and more. After we arrived there it started to rain and the wind blew so strong that members from our group volunteered themselves as human tent poles. After the rain had passed, we continued on through the market where there was one stall which contained a small hand-operated sugar cane crushing apparatus that sold cane juice mixed with lime juice and ice.
On the way to Kuranda I couldn't believe my eyes - there was an easter bunny hopping along beside the road. I thought, after all of these years I've finally seen it . . . no, it was only a bandicoot.
On the way to and while we were at the Kuranda markets it rained (again). However, they tell me that it rains 432 days a year at Kuranda! After a look around the markets and some lunch, we were on the road again to the Tablelands where we met Don and Irene Kajewski at Tolga. Due to circumstances beyond our control we had only one property to visit there.
At Joe Masasso's place, there were large commercial orchards of pecan nuts, custard apples and mangoes with a few odd trees like longan, rollinia, grumichama etc. thrown in.
We were joined on the orchard tour by Tony and Myrna Growns and Joyce Allen who have both been involved with the NEC for a long time.
Unfortunately, there were not a lot of custard apples to be seen on the trees because Joe has had a problem with mites. However there was a variety called Hillary White that most of us had not seen before.
On the journey back to Mossman via Mt. Molloy and Julatten there were mango, avocado, citrus and pawpaw orchards on the side of the road. Between Mareeba and Mt. Molloy there was sugar cane growing. Last venue for the day was at Mario and Ann Cobavies place in Mossman.
Here we saw a black sapote tree that was 60ft high, a lychee tree about 60ft high that was growing in company with pine trees. We also tasted the biggest, sweetest abius. Mario suggested that his lychee tree was on the dole, (as it doesn't make any fruit). As we walked around the fruit trees we saw large pine trees, large ornamental flowering trees and a magnificent palm tree that Mario said was the type that grows the biggest in Australia. Mario's good sense of humour had everybody laughing in the short time that we were there.
It was certainly a great way to finish not only the day but our visit to the Mossman area. I think everybody regretted not being able to spend more time there.
On Monday morning, we packed up the bus in the drizzling rain and departed for home at 7:00 am. On the way, we stopped for a last, but not least, orchard tour of David Chandlee's Tree Farm at El Arish. David, who is currently the NEC secretary, has about 1000 fruit trees which contain the Borneo collection. Unfortunately it rained during some of the orchard tour and I spent most of the time trying to keep dry. Some of the trees from the Borneo collection have large leaves (Pedalai can reach up to 4ft long). It was funny to see an innovative Kevin Whitten using two large leaves as a rain coat.
I have only one regret for the whole weekend, that I didn't take a small pot and do an approach graft on the swimming pool at the White Cockatoo. All the members of the group enjoyed staying there, and the brave (or silly) ones of us who used the pool morning and night enjoyed it even more. To sum up the whole weekend, only one word comes to mind, "excellent". I know other members of the group like myself are thinking, "I'll be back".
DATE: July 1993
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