Cradle comforts

Last time we spent the weekend at Cradle Mountain Lodge we promised ourselves we would make it a regular treat, perhaps once a year. Nine years on, we returned last month for a mid-week stay, the impetus being Michael’s birthday. After a leisurely scenic drive of just over an hour, we felt compelled to inspect the new, controversial, Visitor Centre. With all the negative publicity, I wasn’t expecting to find, in my opinion, a rather impressive construction.

Once the hundreds of plantings have grown, I think it will blend well with the environment.

The lodge looks stunning with a new face lift

and the reconfigured reception area has lost none of its welcoming charm.

We checked in to our Pencil Pine cabin, surrounded by wildlife

with a distant view of Cradle Mountain,

and returned to the tavern for lunch.

The guest lounge is cosy and comfortable

and there were two chairs by the fire that definitely had our names on them.

Our cabin was an easy stroll from the lodge, passing many contented furry residents along the way, obviously used to the comings and goings of the human variety.

The next day brought rain, a soothing constant downpour with not a breath of wind.

After a hearty breakfast, we retired to the guest lounge for a couple of hours of enforced relaxation before making our way to Waldheim Spa for a spot of pampering. Michael savoured a sixty minute Aromasoul massage by the lovely Eka, while Kayoko treated me to a Tension Tonic Ritual – a delicious hour of body massage, foot treatment and scalp therapy.

Anticipating a sumptuous dinner at the Highland Restaurant, we returned to the cabin for a cheese platter and quiet afternoon, hoping the forecast snow would materialise. Despite -4°C overnight, snow didn’t eventuate but a heavy frost and ice greeted us the next morning.

We couldn’t resist a final indulgence with a cooked breakfast followed by an easy walk in the crisp, clear air before departing for home, vowing to do this more often.

avian interlopers

Our garden has no shortage of birdlife. The wrens bob around happily keeping the insect population down and the honeyeaters commingle with the bumble bees around the flowering plants. Sometimes, all is not so peaceful. In summer the swallows appear, desperately seeking out their ideal position for the new seasons arrivals. This year, they built a cosy nest under the eaves at the southwestern end of house, not anticipating the unseasonal gale force winds that ensued. Plan B was in the more sheltered northeastern corner but they must have found a Plan C because there was no evidence of them using the nest. I’m sure they will be back next summer.

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Kookaburras are one of my favourites, they are so handsome and their distinctive calls that sound like anything from a chainsaw starting to a raucous belly laugh always make me smile.

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Our relationship was tested when our goldfish started disappearing and one day, Michael observed the kookie culprit. We really didn’t want to put a net over the pond and, knowing kookaburras are territorial, installed a metal facsimile to guard the pond.

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It seemed to work for a while but, long story short, there is now a net over the pond and our new fish are safe.

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We often have visits from the yellow-tailed black cockatoos, usually for water from the stock troughs. I like their mournful, wailing call and they work together as a team with one keeping lookout while the others have a drink. They, too, have recently tested our hospitality. We have a beautiful banksia that has finally reached the perfect dimensions to disguise a rainwater tank – the very reason it was planted.

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One afternoon, the cockatoos decided to bring the family and feast on the seed pods.

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About a dozen birds created havoc, breaking branchlets and flinging debris in all directions. They have returned numerous times, hopefully the tree will survive the onslaught.

11.yellow tailed black cockatoo

The lounge window has always attracted birdlife, the double-glazing provides a flawless reflection. Most of them just look at themselves, some will tap and flutter against the glass while others will stand there and call incessantly. Tasmania is the only place you will find the Yellow Wattlebird, Australia’s largest honeyeater. It has a range of distinctive calls, all of which are very loud and not of the soothing variety, more like a soprano cough. One recently became completely enamoured with his own reflection, I took a closer look.

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He retreated to the safety of the nearby birdbath and scanned the area

before returning to his mirror. In the meantime, I had adjusted my perch for a bird’s eye view.

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Back to the bath for a quick dip

and he seemed satisfied with the result.

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It is lovely to have so many birds around. Despite my grumbling, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Territory Wildlife Park

On a perfect winters day in Darwin, we set off to discover Territory Wildlife Park, situated about 60km south on 400 hectares of natural bushland. We spent a few hours wandering through woodland, wetland and monsoon habitats.

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Along the Monsoon Vine Forest Walk is one of the largest domed walk-through aviaries in the southern hemisphere.

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Birds weren’t the only creatures in the aviary.

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The surroundings were stunning

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with the occasional surprise at ground level.

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Some of the trees had created fascinating designs of their own.

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The Park is well set out with a shuttle train continuously travelling the 4km loop, a welcome service as the temperature rises. Each exhibit entrance is adorned with cute critters and clever decorations.

The display of free-flying birds at the Flight Deck was amazing.

The eagle trying to break open an emu egg with a rock showed the innate behaviour is still strong in these birds in captivity.

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Neil, the bush stone-curlew stole the show.

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Just when you think you’ve seen everything there is something new to surprise.

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