I can’t resist a World Heritage site so Daintree National Park in the far north of Queensland was a must. The park is on the seaward side of the Great Dividing Range that runs north-south along the eastern coast of Australia, dividing the lush coast from the arid interior of the country. The national park incorporates some 56,500 hectares of rain forest, as well as the beautiful Mossman Gorge, and Cape Tribulation with it’s stunning views of the coast line.
My B&B hosts recommended Tony’s Tropical Tours and it was perfect – a small group of only seven with an exceptionally knowledgable botanist-come-tour-guide. I mean this guy was remarkable. He knew every inch of the forest, pointing out things we certainly would have missed and he could identify a bird just by hearing it’s call. This was the same guy who gave us all a very graphic description of what happens if you run into a stinger while swimming in the ocean at the wrong time of year.
This is the lovely river that runs through Mossman Gorge. I found the rock cairns intriguing. The gorge feeds into the Daintree River and the Daintree River is home to a healthy population of crocodiles. It’s not unreasonable to see one come up the gorge. Our guide said the cairns were probably left by ‘ferals’ under the influence of cannabis. Ferals, he explained are sort of like hippies except that hippies care about the environment and tend to respect the park. Ferals apparently not so much. They arrive in the park packed into small, ancient, rusted out cars with all of their collective possessions precariously roped onto the roof. They set up camp on the beach or roadside for weeks at a time and tend to leave a trail of waste wherever they go.
There’s no rainy season in The Daintree. It rains all year with an average annual rainfall of five and a half meters. Anything will grow in these conditions and it’s very common to one species growing on, in, over or around another.
A water witch catching some rays along the Mossman Gorge.
Largely due to it’s proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, some half a million tourists come through The Daintree every year so the impact of so many footprints is a challenge. Almost all of the rainforest is inaccessible but the sections that are made available for tours are well planned and easy to access.
Our day included a barge tour of the Daintree River with a jocular fellow at the helm who assured us of a croc-sighting or two.
Just in case anyone was thinking about a cooling dip.
This is not a crocodile. Just one of a number of little guys we saw sunning along the bank.
This, however is a crocodile, albeit a young and small one – about half a meter long. I watched it stalk and catch the little crab that’s in it’s mouth. There had been seventeen of these cute little things hatched to a single mother. Our barge followed a very large croc up a creek running off the river but he was too low in the water for a good photo. We eventually gave up the chase for fear of running aground.
We saw these globular starling nests everywhere, hung like Christmas baubles from the trees along the river bank. They are sometimes suspended in spider webs.
The Daintree Ferry runs on a cable and the five minute crossing is a very good alternative to the other route – a hundred and fifty kilometers of bad roads. The attendant on the ferry said it had been quite a day. Because of the eclipse there had been more ferals than usual and their decrepit cars occasionally needed to be pushed on or off the ferry. One car had actually rolled part way into the crocodile-laden river when it’s brakes gave out while waiting at the sloped on-ramp.
The mouth of the Daintree River and northeastern shoreline from Mount Alexandra lookout. Port Douglas is across the channel from the river mouth at the foot of the mountain ranges in the background.
This is our fearless guide demonstrating how sturdy the long vines are that proliferate in the forest.
Beautiful and delicate cup fungi.
We saw loads of these growing up the sides of trees. If you peel them there are nuts inside but tasting is not recommended. There’s a saying in the rainforest, “If it’s red, you’re dead.” But staying away from red is no guarantee of impunity either. There are many, many ancient species here and apparently the older plants are, the more likely they are to be deadly.
Picnic lunch in a shelter in the forest, complete with hot tea and dessert.
In an amazing adaptation to soil conditions these large trees, unable to gain purchase in the shallow soil send out high, narrow buttress roots that support them like the feet on an old-fashioned coat rack.
The beach at Cape Tribulation, covered with the intricate pattern of crab tracks.
We passed this tea plantation on the way back to Port Douglas. Because the terrain is flat this tea can be harvested by the machines shown here, that ride over the top of the bushes pulling off the top leaves. I first saw tea growing when I adventured to the top of Alishan in Taiwan. There the tea is grown on the side of the mountain, so it’s hand-picked and grown in rows of round bushes. I think I will always feel excited about being anywhere that tea is grown.
My next cup of tea will be in Sydney. Stay tuned!