Dan and Justy Down Under


February 15, 2005

Dan or Justy

The adjacency of the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef (approximately 150 meters) is unique in the world. Only here do 2 World Heritage sites sit side-by-side. In fact, the mangrove forests on the beach are the only things anywhere that are listed/protected in 2 world heritage sites.

Australians are justly proud of this. The sea may be full of box jellyfish, irukandji (tiny killing jellyfish) and man-eating sharks, the forest full of venomous snakes, ground-dwelling birds big enough to eat babies, and multi-meter-long crocodiles that hunt where they please, not to mention the insect life anxious to break you down into your constituent amino acids, but the place is a must see.

So we went. It lives up to its billing. In every respect.

The guidebooks make much of the "big wet" season in summer. According to locals, this has been very unreliable in the last 10 years. Nobody I talked to knew if it was El Nino related, but they all believed it was climate change. I've read elsewhere that Australia entered a period of relative drought in the 1890s and has not recovered since.

On our long approach to Cape Trib, I felt like I should be studying the classified files. There is dense jungle and a short river crossing. The patience of the jungle is unnerving. It is a confidence you cannot doubt. And you are not in the magic circle. You can never see from behind its eyes. You will ever be an invader.

The road winds fantastically, up and down through jungle so thick it must need trimming daily, else cars get tangled up and swallowed. Light is the currency here and the headspace above the roads is not wasted. The enclosure is tunnel-like. You are a virus coursing through an alien circulatory system.

Our intended goal was a well-reviewed beach house just past Cape Tribulation, and just past where the sealed road ends. I am very nervous taking the van even onto unsealed driveways for businesses we visit. Aside from the contractual obligation to stay on sealed roads, I would be a wreck navigating a true 4x4 track. It was a well-maintained gravel road, however, and we went about 150 meters to the trailhead for the Mt Sorrow track. In the twilight I was bit aggressive on my 3 point turn to reverse course. I lost one rear wheel in a ditch. I had the brake jammed and knew my only hope was a smooth transition to the accelerator to pull us out.

Ages ago, Scott put me on an icey inclined driveway somewhere in southern Vermont. He had me practice this very maneouver. It worked, and I (once again) swore never to get near an unsealed road in my 2-wheel drive van.

We were supposed to go to the Atherton Tablelands first. I asked Dan what was there, and he pointed to the guide book. Dutifully, I opened the chapter alound: ... the area is elevated 900m off sealevel, does not suffer from heavy humidity, hardly ever reaches temps above 30C (80F) is the Australian mountain getaway.... "LETS GO NOW!" I screamed.

But as I looked out the window, I knew our plans would change. It was cloudy, breezy and dark. The rains have a pungent and relieving smell that accompanies them. Like fresh cut grass. We knew that to miss this opportunity of relief in the weather could cost us dearly, so we decided to head straight for Cape Trib. If the weather was offering some relief, we'd use it where we'd need it most: due North.

The Capt.Cook highway is a splendid rolling snake of concrete paralleling wild and untamed beaches. You can stop and swim in any one (with stinger suits, and possibly a croc-prod). The drive only got better as we crossed the Daintree river and entered the National Park area.

It felt like crossing a border. The river is narrow, so the ride was less than 5 minutes to rcoss, but the true jungle starts here. Lush green rainforest, where the road winds around ancient trees and 'watch for cassowaries' signs dot every corner. Warnings about dangerous water crossings in the wet season alert us to the seriousness of our location.

We spent the night in the most northern parking area possible on cape tribulation, walking the beach in the evening and sharing our bottle of bubbly. It was magical until....

Itinerary Highlights
January 20: Winery Tour
21-23: Moreton Bay Diving
25: Australia Zoo
26-30: Lady Elliot Island
February 13: Diving the Yongala
15-17: Cape Tribulation + Daintree Rain Forest
17-20: Atherton Tablelands
22-28: Coral Sea Diving Liveaboard
March 11-13: OzTek Dive Conference: Sydney
14: Fly to New Zealand
20: Poor Knights Islands Diving
31: Mt. Cook
April 2-4: Queenstown
TBD: To Be Dreamed

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