Daintree Rainforest and Cape Trib

Trip Start Aug 22, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Feeling lazy and content, I had spent a day deciding whether to head north, to Cape Tribulation and the Daintree Rainforest, where the cassowarys roam free (emu-like bird, but with a big lump on top of their heads, and a distinctive blue colouring on their heads and necks.  The female lays the egg, then leaves it for the 2 meter high male to look after.  The male brings up the chick and is incredibly aggressive if it thinks you want to harm the said chick or bother it in general.  They are also very terrotorial.)  Or, whether to join Ofer and Haggai from the Taca trip and go and dive the S.S. Yongala shipwreak, where wildlife gather from miles around to shelter, as there is no other shelter near it for huge distances.

I eventually decided that the place I'd enjoyed most so far on my trip was trekking in the Ecuadorian rainforest in the Coco region, in the Amazon basin, the Daintree Rainforest would have to win the day.  Cheaper too, although Guy tells me that the Yongala is spectacular diving and worth every penny.  He rates it above the diving we did in the coral sea.

So, I typed a quick email in response to one that Marc, my diving buddy had left me and told him where I was going.  I knew he was headed in the same direction, but didn't really think we'd meet up.

So you can imagine my surprise, after a long 6 hour journey when I'm sitting on my bunk bed, contemplating life when in strolls ... Marc.  He was surprised as well and we had a good banter, me berating him about the strangeness of eating waffles, muffins and pancakes for brekkie and him telling me baked beans in the morning were just wrong and should be saved for barbeques.  Soon, we had got chatting to Finnish Henna and Welsh couple Roberta and Olly.  I made some chai and we got on together like a house on fire.  Being with Robbie was like being back at school again!  She's such a hoot!  We giggled like naughty schoolgirls and told each other stupid jokes that were really unfunny, although we laughed so hard.  We had both been told off at school for being the ones that couldn't stop laughing and some things just hadn't changed.

During the five days I spent at the Daintree, I heard some interesting things.  I had set off with the intention of having some time to contemplate life, and mentally prepare myself for the lifestyle change I'm gonna experience back in the UK (leading a stable, predictable life is pretty scary after a year of hedonism).  I had decided to switch my mobile off and not use the internet although it was there, and spend hours walking alone, battling cassowaries, snakes, spiders and other killer animals if the need arose.  What actually happened?  The mobile reception had died and the internet was very expensive, so that part was easy to keep too.  But when you're having a good conversation about nothing in particular, its too good to miss up on.  I enjoyed talking to everyone and was sad when they left a day before me.

We all walked south to a watering hole and swam in icy water.  Then Robbie, Olly and I walked north to Emmagen Creek - each walk was 9.5 ish k long and took a good six hours, as we chatted and took it very easy.  We didn't see any crocs at Emmagen Creek, although we wanted too, and although there were croc warnings and locals said they were there.

Here's some things about crocs that you might not have known:  crocodiles swim in both salt and fresh water!  So some call them 'salties' as in, 'saltwater crocodiles.'  Well bad luck, they don't stick to one or another!  They have also been known to swim up the main river in Cairns and the real beach has croc warning signs up.  The Cairns people respond to this calmly and have made a 'lagoon' for people to sunbath on, with water and sand, just like they did in Brisbane.

Crocs are extremely terrotorial and will kill you and eat you even if they are not hungry, if you are in their patch, because you are in their patch.  And you should have known better.  Crocs have sensitive bumps on the top of their heads that tell them exactly when there is disturbance in the water, or near the water's edge.  They don't use their eyes much at all.  They are lightening fast in water and can usually jump their body length forward on land, too.  They are slow on land but in water, can jump up and snap birds on low hanging tree branches.  They only need the equivalent of about 3 chickens a week to survive, and are made to last.  It takes a crocodile 10-12 years to mature to the point where they are physically big and developed enough to mate.  1 in 1000 eggs on average survives, as everything from goannas to birds like to eat crocodile eggs.  Locals know when rainfall is expected as careful crocodile mums build their nests above the expected waterline before the rains come each year. 

The tour driver, Joe, who drove us up to Cape Trib told us that during a night hike in the rainforest, an unsuspecting man taking a nature leak wee'd on a cassowary as he couldn't see it and had to have a vasectomy afterwards.  He was the only known person alive who had successfully raised a baby Ekidna and let it out into the wild - most die in captivity or are too tame to survive in the wild.

One of the Israelis I met one day was called Kfir.  He had been a paramedic in the Israeli army and a technical diver in the navy.  One day, when he had come home for the weekend, his grandfather, a Rabi, had said to him, 'Kfir, promise me one thing - promise me you will always take this bible with you every day in the army.  And remember that God is always with you.'  In order to please his grandfather, Kfir obliged, and kept the small bible in the pocket of his combats. 

About three weeks later, Kfir was in a stressful situation, where a commando-trained terrorist was single-handedly causing havoc in a town.  He was walking through buildings, shooting everyone.  Their troop was radioed that two 15 year old girls had been shot and their were further casualities.  Kfir was the only paramedic in the troop and soon they came to the building, and he started work trying to recover the two girls, using the medicine in the special medicine stocked vests paramedics in the Israeli army use.  The men who were covering him decided to go off and look for the gunmen - people were getting killed every minute and his best friend in the army had got shot in the leg.  Working away on his friend, Kfir looked up as the light changed and saw the terrorist above him, pointing a machine gun at his head.

The man reloaded his guns. 'Answer me one thing,' he said as he did it.  Kfir held his bible and said to the man, 'In the shadow of death, God will be with me.'  The gunman suddenly looked around and stared at a wall to the right of Kfir.  He emptied his gun along the wall and ignored Kfir completely.  The others came running back and shot him down.  Kfir has no idea what happened or why the man didn't shoot him.  He came back home and told his grandfather what happened.  His grandfather smiled, and told him that he'd had a dream three weeks ago that this had happened, and because Kfir had not had a bible with him, the man had shot Kfir.  He could describe the two girls and the terrorist and the scene of the crime exactly.

Walking over to the cafeteria on my last day, I saw a meter long Lace Monitor lizard walking in front of me, looking for food.  It was gorgeous - we asked the catering staff if it was dangerous, and backed off when one lady said, 'well, I wouldn't be standing that close to it.'  'Why? Well if it thinks you're a tree, its got big claws and could do some real damage.'

Robbie, Olly and I went on a night walk one night, and I was thrilled when behind me, a man yelled, 'Snake!'  It came slowly, but confidently out of the undergrowth and towards the man.  Feeling ok, as it was headed away from me, I cheerfully joined in, 'Snake!  Snake!'  It slithered off and I almost forgot to take a photo.

Also seen on the walk, was a scorpion about an inch and a half long.  A little rodent of some sort, that's quite rare apparently.  Some stick insects, some huntsman spiders although I'd seen bigger one's in Adam's house in Melbourne.  And a croc, crusing down the river.  It lasted about 2 1/2 hours and the guide was good fun - you'd never have sussed her for an ex special needs teacher.

We went on a croc spotting cruise on the way back to Cairns, and a walk around the rainforest.  It was a nice day and the sunset was awesome.  I met up with Petr from the Taca boat for dinner that night and we relived the dives over some wine.  It was nice to have a friend left in Cairns to hang out with, stable friends that stay in the same city aren't so common when you are a traveller.
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