28 Apr 2008

The Daintree Rainforest

The "Trail"

Well, I never got around to writing about the last part of my spring break in northern Queensland, having been distracted by the surf trip and the general sense of laziness that has washed over me the past few weeks. But with the next two weekends booked for Melbourne/The Great Ocean Road and Brisbane/The Gold Coast, I feel a renewed sense of purpose in my life. I didn't realize how much I enjoyed traveling until all of my planned trips were finished, so I'm glad that there are things in the works for the next few weekends.

I can hardly believe it, but I'm halfway done with school (just finished week 6 of 12) and halfway done with my time in Sydney. I've been here almost two months, and in another two I'll be on my way back to Cairns with my family in tow, en route to Auckland, San Francisco, and finally Vermont. And I have a feeling my life is only going to get busier as I try to pack everything I haven't seen or done yet into the next sixty days.

Getting back to the subject of this post, though, the last few days of our vacation were spent up in Cape Tribulation (map), a small town that is one of the gateways to the Daintree rainforest. The Daintree is not only the oldest surviving rainforest in the world, but it is also the only place in the world where rainforest runs right up to the coastline and the ocean. This made the drive up very scenic, like a cross between the Green Mountains of Vermont and the beaches of Australia.

Rainforest and Coast

Our time in the rainforest was no less packed than all of our other days. The first thing we did was "Jungle Surfing," a ride through the canopy attached to zip lines. I call it a ride because we had to do nothing besides launch ourselves off the platform; there was no holding on or pulling ourselves up to worry about. It was quite relaxing. We wore harnesses which were attached to the lines by carabiners, and our speed was controlled by the attendants. In all, we made our way through a path consisting of 5 suspended platforms, and at one point we were 70 or 80 feet off the ground. For the last segment, they made us ride upside down! The best part was that we were in the shade the entire time; it was hot in northern Queensland, around 100 degrees some days!

Later that evening we went out on the ocean for a sunset kayak ride. I've never been kayaking on the ocean before, only on lakes, where you can stop and everything stops around you. The ocean is in perpetual motion. It's not exactly as relaxing as freshwater kayaking, because the water is constantly slapping up against the side of the boat, but it is a neat experience. We were all allowed to take a swim in the deeper part of the ocean. The shallows harbored the most venemous creature in the world - the box jellyfish. Our instructor plucked one out of the water by its top (remember Finding Nemo?) and let me touch it! While we were rowing back in, the sun dropped slowly behind the mountains. It was a gorgeous sight.

At night, we had a bonfire at the beach. I cannot remember the last time I saw so many stars. Northern Queensland is sparsely populated, and most people that live there work in the tourism industry. So with a fire crackling on the beach, the ocean rolling in, countless stars illuminating every inch of sky, and beers in our hands, we enjoyed our last night on vacation taking in the natural beauty that is so abundant in Australia.

Group Shot

The next morning we were shuttled off to the rainforest in two groups for a "mild hike." Mild turned out to be strenuous, as we were climbing large, wet rocks up a creek bed, but when we reached the waterfall at the end it was all worth it. Our guide told us about the plants we were encountering as we hiked, and to my surprise many of them packed a bite! These are plants that you would not want to rub against, lest they cut and ensnare you with their sharp edges. I guess the rainforest didn't survive this long by luck! At the end of the hike, we drove to a freshwater pool and took a swim - so refreshing! Even so, I made sure to get a shower in before boarding the bus for the drive back to Cairns and the flight back to Sydney.

Stay tuned in a week for pictures of that other large Australian city and the famous landmarks of the Great Ocean Road!