Noosa, Australia | Shores of the sun4 min read . Updated: 29 Sep 2014, 05:53 PM IST
After the bustle of its food festival, this town revels in its beaches and farmers' markets
Waves crashed some 50ft below me. A breeze rustled through leaves. I almost did not see what lay on the fallen brown leaves on my path. It was, I realized too late, a monitor lizard. Was it poisonous? Would it bite? I would find out later that it wasn’t poisonous, but at that moment I was frozen with fear, and the lizard mirrored my stillness. With a swish of its tail, it slowly moved into the thick undergrowth and disappeared from view. I stood rooted for some time till my fear thawed and I resumed my trek.
There are many trekking routes in the park, but I chose the one that ran along the beach for most part so that I could catch glimpses of the blue expanse through parted leaves. My breathing and heart rate couldn’t catch a break, as I walked up an incline that led to a vantage point a 100ft above the sea. I leaned against its grill balustrade and inhaled the salty air gazing at the turquoise blue sea stretched out before me.
Waves dissolved into white foam and crashed on to the rocks. There was hardly anyone in the park and I felt like I had a balcony seat to watch the surfers paddle out, catch the waves, and glide back over the glimmering water towards the shore.
Noosa had caught my attention because it hosts the Noosa International Food and Wine Festival. Held annually in May, the four-day event was in its 11th edition this year. Over 100 chefs from across the world, including Adriano Zumbo, Neil Perry, Tim Montgomery, Julien Royer, Bruno Loubet and Martin Duncan, as well as Matt Preston, attended the event.
I love food. I whip up dishes in my kitchen, I enjoy eating good food. I write about it, as well. And I love visiting food and wine festivals. What drew me to Noosa in particular, was the fact that this was no big city, but a small town with stunning beaches and a national park.
It was hard for me to resist the pull of the sea. This was the east coast of Australia, and the following morning I woke up at 5.30am to watch the sun rise over the sea, the beach five minutes from where I stayed.
A cold wind blew in from the sea, slapping my jacket around and making me shiver. The beach was deserted, save for a handful of brave souls who splashed around the water’s edge. I ditched my shoes and stepped on to the powdery white sand.
The first caress of water sent a jolt through me. Soon the water receded, sucking my feet into the squelching sand. Within minutes, the shock of the cold wore off. The horizon gradually lightened, painting the sky a vivid orange. I had anticipated a bright orange orb to rise, instead a large smudge of dull gold developed over the sea.
The sun came up and the town woke up. I did not want to leave the waterfront yet, but I still had to visit the farmers’ market. Markets fascinate me and I especially love farmers’ markets, since they offer a glimpse of what local life is like—the produce that falls short, the friendships that get forged over kale and spinach, the smiles and frowns of people who, like me, love their food. It’s the exact opposite of the clinical and impersonal feel of supermarkets and large stores.
In the midst of such bonhomie, I was a stranger, but that didn’t stop them from being warm and welcoming. A fruit stall owner gave me a slice of dragon fruit to taste. A stall called The Happy Sprout gave me a cup of sauerkraut sauce to taste. When I walked by a fresh herb stall, the owner offered: “Here, pinch them and see how fresh they are". I walked away from this stall with my hands fragrant with the sweet earthy smell of thyme and rosemary.
As I drove out of Noosa the next morning, the intense smell of the herbs lingered in my memory, mixed with sight of the open, clear sea I was leaving behind.
■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■
Fly to Brisbane from major Indian cities via South-East Asia (return fare starts at around 60,000). Shuttle service to Noosa costs around A$42 (or 2,265) per person; taxi costs around A$400.
A budget option is the Dolphins Beach House ( tel, 61-754472100; dorms from A$20 and rooms from A$80, per person per night). Try The Sebel Noosa (61-754746400; from A$298 per night, for double occupancy).
Try Berardo’s Restaurant and Bar (seven-course Degustation Menu priced at A$95 per person, and A$145 with wine pairing). For a taste of fresh local produce, try Thomas Street Eatery.