I spy an eye for a ‘platypi’ gippsland times how to cook back bacon joint in the oven

I’m no stranger to early starts but I’ll have to admit that it’s the first time I’d been up at first light and in a kayak searching for platypuses — or is it ‘platypi’ or is the plural the same as the singular?

I’d been picked up on the edge of the queensland town of imbil by ian harling, who runs an adventure touring company called ride on mary (www.Rideonmary.Com), and we’re now kayaking along yabba creek, a tributary of the mary river.

First light is a great time to be out here and apparently the best time to catch a glimpse of a platypus. It’s calm and slightly eerie but it is just so beautiful, though the water level is quite low and ian has to drag our kayak, with me still happily ensconced in it, through some shallow bits.

We’re surrounded by tall timber and lush undergrowth, and were in luck. We’re suitably quiet and ian taps me on the shoulder and points to, not one, but seven elusive platypuses in the couple of kilometres of water that we traverse.Mary river

They’re incredibly shy creatures and all we really see is their arched, fur-covered backs as they dive for cover, but they’re there all right and it’s a genuinely rewarding experience. People can’t believe I’ve spotted seven of the things. To see one in the wild is apparently incredibly rare.

I’d been to the sunshine coast before, and experienced three distinct sub-regions — the built-up coastal strip around maroochydore and caloundra, the hippyish hinterland around maleny and montville, and the laid-back, sophisticated noosa and surrounding villages.

But I’d never been far inland from noosa, along the mary river, and it proves to be another charming and distinctive sub-region, with towns such as imbil, kenilworth, kandanga and amamoor, surrounded by dairies and dense forest.

There’s a good choice of accommodation available, including melawondi spring retreat (www.Melawondispringretreat.Com.Au), which tony and tanya fisher have established as a very classy, secluded retreat set in 30-or-acres of natural bushland.Mary valley

The next day it’s off for a night at amamoor lodge (www.Amamoorlodge.Com.Au), which was once part of an 800-acre farm that featured fairly basic single men’s quarters.

These days it’s run by christine and malcolm buckley, and those basic quarters have been extended to form a very comfortable main lodge with a charming lounge room and broad veranda overlooking a swimming pool and surrounding countryside.

Malcolm’s love for cooking is shown by the dinner he prepares — an entrée of pickled beetroot served with plum jelly, goats cheese and horseradish cheese; main course of roast beef with madeira sauce and crème forestiere, served with puréed sweet potato, spinach and snap peas; and for dessert, coconut and mango tres leche (three different milks) cake with raspberry coulis.

He also prepares breakfast, served on the veranda, the following morning. It’s headlined by a platter of fresh local fruit, which is followed by poached served with bacon, sausages, tomatoes and mushrooms — a very satisfying way to start the day.Mary river

Up the road is the main settlement in the mary valley, gympie, which is making the most of its railway history by restoring the 100-year-old mary valley rattler (www.Maryvalleyrattler.Com.Au) and reopening its refurbished station and tea rooms to the public.