It started with a phone call! Can I come to the A.G.M. at Tolga? Yes, they said, so we left Rockhampton at 6.30 a.m. Friday, 8th March and headed for Cairns.
Bruce Benson, Jack Cowie, Tony Welch, Ami Setu and Peter Fontaine have done this trip before. This will be the 20th trip that these people will have made to the north to participate as committee members of the R.F.C.A. Luggage is kept to a minimum and sleeping bags abound. Time moved quickly with friendly conversation, information and camaraderie. We picked up the Ingham Branch member - Evan Evans, after a brief stop to look over his orchard and cups of coffee. Signs of the recent floods were evident on the fencing wire, but not in the town of Ingham. The Pizza shop where we stopped had been inundated but you couldn't tell.
Catching up on news from the Ingham Branch filled in time until we took a mystery trip deep into the jungles of El Arish. It had to be a rare fruit grower. Breadfruit trees, star apples and inga trees stretched over the road. We tried to identify the trees as the car's headlights shone on them. Dotted between them were rainforest trees, bamboos, a bush house, a wheelbarrow and a carton of picked abiu fruits.
As the narrow road wound and curved its way upwards, I was told David Chandlee lived in this rainforest paradise. What a pity it was dark, I would have liked to see more. With David Chandlee aboard, we continued onwards to arrive at Roger Goebel's place, our place of rest, but not before we had swapped information on the various branches, trees and orchards. A lot of information was exchanged by midnight, and for some, 2 a.m. An early morning start saw us off with Roger Goebel to Cairns to see the fruit markets. What an experience! It has expanded remarkably since five years ago. The range of fruits was marvellous. We found durian, rambutan, santols , red custard apples and mamey sapotes. Needless to say we bought up big, especially of durian and rambutans because they are still scarce in Yeppoon.
We stopped into Marjorie Spears' to see if she needed a lift. What an eye opener! Fruit trees everywhere, no wasted space and all grown organically.
Atherton on the Tablelands was our host for the A.G.M. held in Tolga. What a welcome spread there was for the members.
Because of the recent flooding everywhere, the February meeting was held before lunch. A scrumptious lunch followed, provided by the members of the Tablelands Branch. Many thanks.
The A. G. M. was held at 2 p. m. What a disappointment. Only 35 - 40 members turned up and twenty or so was a busload from Ingham Branch. At previous A. G. M.s I have attended, at least 100 people have attended. Was the distance too great, timing wrong or is it a case of, I can't be bothered or do you know everything?
A group like this needs input to survive, an occasional serving on the committee, an article, or idea, recipe or brain wave wouldn't go astray.
The returns are enormous, free information, problem-solving and meeting people with the same interests turning into long-lasting friendships.
The final outcome - Capricornia Branch now has the President - Bruce Benson and 3 members on the committee. For those who didn't make it, you missed a great meeting, fantastic food and lovely company.
On Sunday, an early start saw us at Tolga markets, an orderly jumble of plants, plenty of heliconias and gingers, honey, peanuts, clothes and wood turnings and carvings.
A ramble through Doug and Margaret Farrier's place was interesting. Only 5 acres, and crammed full of rare fruit trees, native trees and ducks. A brief rain shower didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the visitors at the Pecan Nut Farm. A huge, gnarled and fruiting fig grabbed everyone's attention. In season, the majority of pecan nuts are sold to passing tourists.
Another stop was Yuruga Nursery, Walkamin. We learnt about our own native fruit trees, that they still needed to be identified and selected to get the best fruit possible. An Avocado/Mango Packing House was an interesting stop where the machinery was displayed.
Back at Roger Goebel's place, we unpacked all our purchases ready for a return trip to Cairns. A morning visit to Kamerunga was first on the agenda. Again, it's been five years since I was there. The trees have grown a lot since then, and it was nice to wander around and note the difference. The place was lucky not to be too damaged by Cyclone Joy.
From there to Limberlost Nursery. Again, what a change. The selling area has had a facelift. What a pleasure to shop in! More trees had to be fitted in. We turned the 'heads' of passing traffic by unloading under the mango tree in front of the nursery. It looked like we had set up camp. With practised care, the bus was reloaded again. Picking up the rest of the plants at Rogers, we moved to Evan Evan's place.
An interesting afternoon was held at Joe Zappala's. Again the orchards had 'grown up' since I had last seen them. A nice touch was the beds of flowering heliconias and gingers interplanted with fruit trees. The rambutan cleaning and sorting machine was an eye opener to me. The human version of the machine is still my favourite, as it also has the added bonus of built-in tasting. Many thanks to Joe Zappala and his family. It was also interesting to hear about Joe's ideas about Jakfruit. I do tend to agree with him that Jakfruit will have a higher appeal if it can be more easily cleaned of its skin and rags. The European taste buds favour a crisp, good-tasting flesh. It looks like all these attributes might be found in Joe's 'Black Gold' Jakfruit. It definitely has the right factors, good taste and easily opened. Everyone should check their seedling jakfruits, you might just have a good one in your backyard.
A run through Joe's rambutan orchard was a pleasure - beautiful mown grass, almost manicured, evenly-spaced trees, trimmed to the same height and some with fruit still on.
An interesting interlude was held on the various differences of each variety and what better way than by tasting them.
A pleasant evening at Evan Evans' saw us up early on a trip to Herb Bosworth's place. Just up the road from Evans' place is the "Frosty Mango", a roadside shop which I recommend to any travellers. They have different ice creams like Black Sapote, Soursop, Custard Apple, Lemon and Pistachio to name a few. They also have fresh juices and jams. It's lovely to see 'Rare fruits' getting some attention.
Fortified with ice cream, we followed Herb Bosworth through his arboretum. It's amazing that more room can still be found for his plants. We joined him as he was extending his orchard by planting pomelos and assorted citrus trees. A dedicated and observant man, Herb Bosworth may have discovered the cause of jelly seed. He believes a mite or insect bites the stem above the mango fruit, causing the umbilical cord to die, generating the mango seed to say 'start ripening' before its due to, causing the jelly seed problem - an interesting thought.
A visit to Herb Bosworth's place at Dallachy is not to be missed either, so we drove up there to look at lychee trees - hundreds and hundreds of them. This place is big - 13,000 trees. It was a pity we weren't there at fruit-picking time. I believe we would have made good "fruit tasters".
Dare I say it - another stop at Frosty Mango before we headed off to 'Paradise'. I thought the weekend a rare fruiter's paradise but there was more to come. At the back of Evans' place is a National Park with a beautiful swimming hole. Bruce decided to launder his money by jumping in, wallet and all. Truly a place well suited to its name - Paradise. I'd like to visit there again.
Our mamey sapotes had ripened by now and our last night at the Evans' was spent sampling them. Truly a magnificent-tasting fruit when used with ice cream.
Repacking for the last time, we headed home, the journey made seemingly shorter by good conversation and jokes.
I enjoyed myself, learnt, ate, talked and saw a lot. I hope to go again. Thanks guys, and many thanks to our hosts and hostesses along the way.
DATE: July 1991
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