Sunday, July 29, 2012

"It rains in the rain forest"

It was my last (and very busy) week in Australia and I was spending it around the Far North Queensland. The week was only halfway and after the trips around the waterfalls close to Cairns I headed up the coast! The plan was to make a loop around the rainforest covered area north of Cairns and the town of Port Douglas.

It was a warm winter morning when I hopped on the bus in Cairns. First I would head to a river to cruise down along the mangrove shores and spot some saltwater crocodiles. I was curious whether we would actually see any but sure enough, as if they were planted there, we spotted a couple big ones. Surprisingly even some small saltwater crocks were swimming around and some more safely hanging around close to their mothers. The smallest I saw was 4 weeks old, about 15 cm long little creature, just swimming along the shore. The boat captain said everybody loves the small ones ... especially the big fish: they love to eat them! Snif.. cuties.

Can you spot the two small ones, on the right side of the branch?
Next stop was at the Daintree rainforest. Just about time we arrived to the rainforest boardwalk it started pouring rain. Well I had sort of suspected this might happen and tucked away under my raincoat (so happy I got a new one in Sydney!). It was still pretty fun to walk there and hear some stories about the plants and how they were - and are still - used for all kinds of purposes. Not so fun having my shoes soaked but hey, it's not called the rain-forest for no reason.. The best part was that we came face to face with a young cassowary, a big flightless bird known for its colorful head and big claws that gives a true meaning to the end if its name: be (casso)wary! I had seen one of these in the Featherdale Wildlife Park close to Sydney, an adult (I have it in this picture).. and that was a bit scary even in its enclosure.

A young cassowary, just heading out of the rainforest
In the afternoon our minibus pulled over at my lodge in Cape Tribulation. Cape Trib is one of the most popular spots in the area, located in the middle of a patch of rainforest and right next to a beach. There I would have had an opportunity to take a boat out to the reef, or hire a kayak, go horseriding or join a river cruise, but the weather wasn't on my side. I was also really tired so I was just resting most of the evening. The next morning I had some more energy to roam the long beach (beware of the tides when I venture out there!), looking around, enjoying the fresh air and collecting shells. Even though I had been "drying" my shoes under the fan all night they were still wet from the previous day's rain, the humidity was quite crazy there.

A small sample of all the different shells you can find on the beach
Low tide

From Cape Tribulation the rainforest tour continued to Mossman Gorge. There was another rainy rainforest boardwalk to the gorge and the Mossman River. The water was really clear but also really green there... must be because of all the moss (hense Mossman Gorge?). By that time I'd had just about enough of all the rain and couldn't wait to get back to the city!

Close to Cape Tribulation is the town of Port Douglas - and my last stop before returning to Cairns. Port Douglas is very much like a holiday resort anywhere with a couple of streets of shops & restaurants, and the rest is hotels. The city is lined with a beach – 4 Mile Beach. There are no buildings right on the beach so it feels pretty quiet. Well the cloudy weather might have been another reason why it was so empty there. I went out to explore the hill at the end of the beach (where there are some gorgeous mansions by the way) just when it looked like the clouds are going to clear up but no luck. The rain started pouring again and this time I didn’t have any rain gear on me so I was keeping rain for a moment under a palm tree. That's the tropics for ya! I went to bed early and slept happily for 11 hours – I guess I needed some rest.

The next morning I went back to the beach to do some stretching and dancing - and managed to even see a glimpse of the sun! But that's the only time I saw sun in the whole three days. I returned to Cairns pretty soaked, ready to repack my small bag for my last Australian adventure which I would later call "the best trip ever"..... More about that in the next post!

Port Douglas harbour

4 Mile Beach
The three days (and two nigths) in the Daintree National Park, Cape Tribulation and Port Douglas cost me 170 AUD for the travels on bus, boat and the ferry, entry to national park and accommodation. That's quite a cheap trip in those neighborhoods.

There's lots of things to see in the Far North Queensland, including Crystal Cascades and the Atherton Tablelands I wrote about earlier, but also many other popular spots such as Kuranda (a village in the rainforest) and the Scenic Railway, you can go to the zoo in Cairns or Port Douglas or  go skydiving and rafting. There are also tens of different kinds of snorkeling and diving daytrips or liveaboards (for even a week) on the various reefs and islands at the Great Barrier Reef. Well, more about that coming up..!

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