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Published: November 27th 2011
Hello dear homosapiens. Well, we’re now in Cairns, located on the north-east coast of Australia. Contrary to the dry desert of Uluru/Ayers Rock, Cairns is situated in a tropical area. The tropical forest, just a 2 hour drive from the city, is a protected UNESCO site. Australia boasts 19 such sites and unlike other countries in Europe, most of these are of a natural kind (in Europe they are of a cultural kind). In the area they have two, the tropical rain forest of Daintree and the Great Barrier Reef!
Yesterday I visited the outer section of the Great Barrier Reef and did several dives in a place known as Flynn’s Reef. B didn’t join me on this occasion as she had conveniently hurt her little toe after bashing it into my suitcase. Of course I got blamed for leaving my suitcase in the way, even though she knew it was there!
I was quite disappointed with the diving. This section of the reef (about 2,300 kms long) was 95%!d(MISSING)ead. There was some life, but not as much as one would expect in a place of this renowned character. The diving was very commercial, in that it provided a safe and basic diving for the masses. I was informed later, that there are indeed much better places to dive, but permits are required and that the dive centres are not keen on taking your “normal run of the mill divers” to these prime spots. I have been given the name of a dive school that may be able to provide me with the thrill I’m seeking. I hope to contact them tomorrow, so watch this space.
Today we did a visit of the Daintree Rain Forest. Our first stop was at a small town called Palm Cove. This used to be a sleepy fishing village but has now been turned into a large expensive resort town, with million pound properties. The inhabitants of this town fought for its trees not to be cut down by greedy developers. The trees are hundreds of years old and were around when Captain Cook sailed past these shores in the 18th
Century. I’m happy to say that the trees won. Developers have been forced to build around these trees and never any higher than what the trees actually are. Some of these go through the inside of the buildings and come out through their roofs. They are of fantastic sizes and beautiful, they have been around a loooong time. If only trees could talk...
From here we head north and are taken to a place called Mossman Gorge (AKA Moss Vegas, as ‘nothing ever happens in the town’). We walk on specially prepared platforms, built in order to protect the rain forest and end up by a river where we have a refreshing paddle. It’s a bit too cold for my liking but there are some locals swimming upstream against a fierce current. I’m impressed!
We jump back in our minibus and head now to our guided river tour, but not before stopping for a few minutes to take some photos of the ocean and mountains from a lovely view point. At the river we are taken downstream on a boat; we are all hoping to see a crocodile. Our guide certainly knows his stuff and I laugh my head off at his sarcastic and black humour, no one else seems to find him funny because they don’t understand him. His experience shows when he pulls over next to some mangroves and gracefully grabs hold of a Green tree snake so we can take a closer look at it. How on earth he spotted it is beyond me! We continue downstream close to the mangroves trying to find a crocodile and at long last we spot a small one, only about 1 year old. It’s high tide so spotting crocodiles is difficult at this time as they tend to go further into the dense mangroves seeking drier places. We have to make do with the baby crocodile. Our guide tells us that only less than 1%!o(MISSING)f crocodiles actually make it into adulthood. There are so many predators to contend with, ie. snakes, birds, other crocodiles etc. They can live to anywhere between 50 – 80 years, longer if they’re in captivity. There are two types, freshwater (these live higher up, inland and are smaller) and saltwater crocodiles. He explains, that even though they are known as saltwater crocodiles, they spend 80%!o(MISSING)f their time in freshwater. Some of these can weigh up to 1000kg and be over 8 metres long! (the one which dominates this area is called ‘Scarface’ as it fought another croc for 5 weeks to earn the place). There have been many cases of attacks by crocodiles on humans. Some people have survived with horrendous scars, but only after pocking out its eyes or shoving a stick down its throat. People have also killed crocodiles (a local one called ‘Fat Albert’) as they kill cattle at night. There is a $35,000 fine if caught trying to harm these protected animals.
We make it to the other side of the river, with all limbs intact, and continue with our trip. We’re now taken for lunch and B and I sit with our Aussie driver/guide. He tells us stories and explains that in Australia the animal that most people die from is actually the horse. Whether kicked or thrown off. The animals that we think are so dangerous are actually at the bottom of the list, things like spiders, snakes, crocodiles, sharks, jelly fish etc actually kill less people! We tell him our story about the encounter with the snake in the desert when we were driving. He informs us that it was a King Brown, the second most venomous snake in the world! OMG!!
We have a great lunch and then head down to the coast for some more photo opportunities. This piece of coastline is ranked number 8 in the world as the best coastline drive. The beach we stop at is a really beautiful bit of coast, with glittering, smooth yellow sand. There’s only one snag, we can’t get in the water. Not even to wade. This is the season for boxed jelly fish. They are extremely dangerous, as one touch of their tentacles will send you into cardiac arrest and kill you in less than 4 minutes.Man, it’s so tempting to get in, it’s so damn hot, and we have to satisfy ourselves by sitting on the beach, enjoy the view and sweat like roasting pigs! On the way back to the minibus, I spot a giant lizard and take a quick photo before it disappears into the dense rain forest.
Our last stop before we head back home is at the award winning (7 years in a row) Daintree Discovery Centre. Here you can appreciate the rain forest, walking on aerial walkways and climbing a canopy tower so you’re above the trees themselves, looking down below. There is also plenty of information on the life within the forest. One of the most interesting bits of information and I’m sure you ladies out there will love this, is in regards to the endangered Cassowaries birds. These birds are rare to see; even though earlier that day, one had walked through the centre, we weren’t lucky enough to spot one. The female is about 1.80 metres high (taller than me) and typically weighs around 80 kilos. The male is about half the size (I’m not sure how the male would mount the female though). The interesting thing is this; the male is the one that rears the egg and when the striped chick is born, it also looks after it. The female just ignores them both.
Our day has been really informative and fun. I can’t help but think as we drive back home, that Australia is a wonderful country, with so much to offer with its nature. The funny thing is, you can’t actually enjoy it, as you’re liable to get hurt or killed in the process. You can’t swim in rivers because crocodiles will eat you, you can’t swim in the sea because jelly fish will kill you or sharks will eat you, you can’t walk through the forest as you’ll probably get bitten by a snake or spider or have your blood sucked by leeches, the list just goes on. Ironically, these dangerous creatures are what protect the forest and other environments from man.
Thanks for reading,
M & B.
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