Hearing of my Spanish (well, Argentine) roots, my friends decided that I must see how one Spaniard fulfilled his dream…

 

Off we drove away from Innisfail, Queensland, through a landscape of alternating banana and sugar cane plantations.  I commented on the many small railway tracks we were crossing:  these are for the sugar cane trains that collect the cut canes and transport them to be processed.  Sugar and bananas are the area’s top crops, that is easy to see.

After what seemed quite a meandering tour onto ever smaller roads, we arrived at Mena Creek and there, in the midst of jungle vegetation, rose the ruins of Paronella Park.  Now a tourist attraction, Paronella Park was the fulfillment of José Paronella’s dream. A baker’s son from a village in northern Catalunya, José Paronella set out to Australia to make his fortune in 1913.  By working hard at buying and selling sugar cane farms, he made his fortune in only 11 years.  José then returned to Spain to marry his fiancée Matilda, only to discover that she had married another man.  However, there was a younger sister, Margarita, whom José proposed to, married and took back with him to Australia.

By 1929 he had purchased the land at Mena Creek and was ready to start building his dream castle, inspired by the architecture of his homeland.  With only a small crew of workmen and with the crudest of building instruments and rudimentary concrete, José built a 47-step staircase, a large ballroom -which also was used as a movie-theater, complete with revolving mirror-type disco ball hanging from the ceiling – refreshment and changing rooms and a turret.   In order to provide the power for the castle and the lighting for the 5 hectar (13 acre) park, he had North Queensland’s first hydro-electric power plant built in 1933.  In addition, over 7000 trees were planted, including an avenue of Kauris (which now tower like cathedral spires in a sacred forest), and many rare plants.

By 1935 the grounds were ready to be opened to the public:  movies on Saturday nights, picnic grounds and swimming in the lake formed by the waterfall, tennis courts, dancing or just walking down the lover’s lane…

José Paronella died in 1948.  His widow and then his sons looked after the place until it was sold in 1977.  In 1979, a fire badly damaged the castle, followed by more damage in 1986 by a cyclone.  By the time the current owners rediscovered the place in 1993, it was in a very bad state of disrepair.  Now, slowly, it is being lovingly brought back to life, even though cyclone Larry buffeted it badly in 2006.  Today, Paronella Park offers many nature walks (day and night) and it has been used as a location for several films as well as a wedding and party venue.

It was a most interesting visit and one that, once again, showed what a dream – some may even call it obsession – and perseverance are able to accomplish.

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5 Comments

  1. Liebe Senaida,
    es ist eine große Freude, Deine Reise zu verfolgen und ich freue mich sehr, daran teil haben zu können!

    Sehr liebe Grüße aus dem herbstlichen München und weiter wunderbare Erlebnisse!

    Carola

  2. Your voyage continues to feel like a wonderful dream, simply beautiful! My soul wanders with you off and on. Keep enjoying it!!!
    Hugs and kisses!
    Vera

  3. Dear Zenaida….This is an incredible place and would make a set for a movie ….or many…It is as if one were in a dream…but wonder how it felt…climate, air, etc….
    Gloria

  4. There have been movies made and it is a popular place for weddings. The whole place looks carved out of the jungle -to think that this place was actually a popular place of entertainment – with a ballroom and strobe light – back in the late 1930s is a wonder. When I was there in September, the weather was nicely warm, even though it was only early Spring. It must be very hot in the Summer!

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