Oh my, what a lot we have done since the last blog. There is no way I will bore you with every place and detail but we have now reached the 'wet tropics', although there is no rain at this time of year! Signs everywhere warn of crocodiles and not to swim, although we have yet to see one. I have seen a shark swimming by though!! You are also warned about marine stingers, or jellyfish, but the season usually starts around October/November. However, we were made to wear (figure hugging!) stinger suits, just in case, on one snorkelling trip! There are also palm trees everywhere and it is hotter and more humid, even though this is winter. There are still sugar cane fields but we are seeing more banana and mango plantations as well, and the wildlife has changed. The butterflies are bigger and 'better' - we have spotted the famed, electric blue, Ulysses on several occasions - and the birdlife has changed.
Our first experience of the real wet tropical rainforest was a trip up Tully Gorge. We were blown way by the size of the Kauri pines and the way the strangler figs had entwined themselves around trees, much like a spider's web. It reminded us of Angkor Thom, in Cambodia, so many weeks ago!! Lots of the trees had also developed buttress roots which were as big as Bob and I. These are to keep the tree stable in sandy soils apparently!
This was followed by a trip to Kuranda, high on the Dividing Range. We went up on the 'Skyrail', a very high gondola ride over the top of the rainforest canopy, followed by a return trip on a diesel engined scenic train with steep drops. It was a feat of engineering just to have built the railway - one does ask why they built it, but it was because of the discovery of tin! We stopped at various points to do a boardwalk and view Barron Gorge and its wonderfall waterfalls. Then to the Butterfly House at Kuranda itself. Wow, there were so many and, if you kept still, some would settle on you. Beautiful colours and much larger than butterflies as we know them! Kuranda was regarded as an early 60's hippie town and has managed to keep its image for present day tourists.
Another trip was out to sea to visit Green Island, a coral cay just off the coast of Cairns (a strange connection here for our Jersey readers, as it was quite close to Trinity beach!). Again, this blew us away. Snorkelling from the beach, in only a few feet of water, was like swimming in an aquarium. We were surrounded by fish of all colours, neon, turquoise, yellow, blue, black, green, brown, spotted, striped, small, huge - it was hard to take it all in. The coral was also beautiful and there were many different kinds and colours, some of the fish were camouflaged and you only saw them when they moved. Part of our trip to the island included a ride in a glass-bottomed boat. We had done this before on Great Keppel Island, but this was so different. The coral was much more vibrant, and there were so many more fish, BIG fish, as well as turtles!! It was awesome. We came to the conclusion that the recent cyclone Debbie, that passed through the Airlie Beach region in April this year, had actually done a lot more damage to the reef than we had realised because, although when we snorkelled there we saw some amazing things, this experience was just so much better. It really was like being in an aquarium!!
So our interest in rainforest and reef had been ignited. We were originally going to end this trip north at Cairns but we were told that there is only one point in the world where the rainforest meets the reef and that is at Cape Tribulation - the furthest north that you can travel on the coast road without a 4 x 4! So off we set via Mossman Gorge in the Daintree Rainforest. You may remember Levison Wood's TV series? He trekked through the Daintree Rainforest, albeit a lot further north, and encountered many species of venomous 'snacks'. However, here was I, paddling in crystal clear water with perch swimming around me, and not worried about 'snacks' at all! Then on, across the Daintree River, on a cable driven ferry with signs everywhere warning of crocodiles. Well, it was like entering a different world - the vegetation changed immediately and it dawned on us that we were actually driving through the rainforest. The beaches were vast and it was difficult to take in the grandeur and size of everything. It was only when you looked down the beach and saw people at the end who were simply pinpricks that you realised how vast the place was! And then we reached the end, the sealed road ran out and the reef met the rainforest literally - quite an unexpected emotional moment. We had done it - gone as far as we could on that road! Reality then kicked in as we watched two birds high up in a tree - suddenly there was a huge crack and a large branch fell from 20m straight onto the road in front of us. Bob helped clear the road but there for the grace of God.........!!