The second stop on our adventure down-under was North Queensland. Here, we rented a car and set off to explore the beautiful tropical parts of the country.
We flew up to Cairns on the Thursday morning, and upon arrival picked up our rental car before setting off for the north, heading away from the city and along the coast all the way to the Daintree Rainforest. The drive took us around two hours, and took us deep into forests, back out onto open plains, along winding coastal roads and eventually onto a short ferry that would take us across a crocodile-infested river. On the other side, we continued our drive deeper and deeper into the Daintree National Park, before finally arriving at our AirBnB.
After settling in, we took a short jaunt out to the nearby Thompson Beach which we had completely to ourselves - except for perhaps a few hundred thousand Sand Bubbler Crabs who had carved the entire beach into weird and wonderful patterns. On our way home we grabbed a quick dinner at a nearby restaurant before darting back to the safety of our AirBnB as the heavens opened and we came to appreciate the 'rain' in rainforest. It was very cosy in our rainforest retreat though, and we enjoyed an evening of listening to the rain fall and the constant racket made by the birds and bugs in the surrounding forest.
We hit the ground running the following day, eager to see as much of the rainforest as we could in the short time we had there. Our first stop was a short boat ride along the previously mentioned crocodile-infested river - aka the Daintree River. It was a great little tour of the local wildlife and it was interesting to lean about how much of a political issue crocodiles had become in the area - a convenient distraction, our guide suggested, from some more pressing and difficult issues. The highlight of the trip was when we spotted the 4.5m long crocodile known as Scarface just cruising along in the water. We could only see the top of his head and the spiky skin along his back and tail protruding from the water, but that was enough to get a sense of his size and we were glad to learn that he'd recently had himself a very filling meal (an unlucky cow that had drowned in the river).
After crocodile watching we made our way back across the river and up to the Daintree Discovery Centre to learn a bit more about the rainforest and to enjoy the boardwalks that take you down to the forest floor and all the way up to above the canopy. Here we learned that, at around 180 million years old, the Daintree Rainforest is considered to be the oldest in the world having survived as a tropical haven throughout various ice ages. As such, its teeming with a huge variety of flora and fauna, including some very ancient species. The flightless cassowary - whom you have to watch out for on the roads - look particularly like dinosaurs. The Discover Centre also featured a few creepy animatronics of some of the extinct prehistoric wildlife, including the giant Demon Duck of Doom (no joke).
After lunch back at our rainforest retreat, we set off further north again towards the 'town' of Cape Tribulation. Along the way we stopped at several more boardwalks which took us deep into the rainforest to see more beaches and some of the coastal mangrove forests. The walks were full of bizarre sights, such as 'basket ferns' that grown high up in the canopy on other trees, strangler vines that wrap themselves around other trees and choke them until they rot away, and the occasional tree snake darting through the mulchy forest floor. Most of the time we were exploring completely by ourselves which added to the sense of remoteness, especially when we emerged onto empty beaches that disappeared into the seemingly endless forest.
The next day we had to leave our luxurious hut to head back down south to the coastal town of Port Douglas. Along the way we stopped in at the Mossman Gorge for another rainforest hike. This time we were a bit further inland and trekking up and down the steep slopes of a gorge, which has long been an important area to the local Kuku Yalanji people who now run the visitor centre. The scenery was stunning, and despite Elizabeth sporting a injured foot (complete with some very sloppy bandage work) we really enjoyed the hike.
We continued our drive south to Port Douglas and arrived mid-afternoon, giving us plenty of time for a quick swim at the beach before dinner. Like all of the beaches we had explored in the Daintree Rainforest, the waters around Port Douglas are sometimes home to the potentially-deadly Box Jellyfish so they have a net set up around one section for bathers to swim safely. We enjoyed ourselves a quick sunset dip there before heading out for some tasty tapas for dinner, and finally collapsing back our apartment, resting up for our next adventure: The Great Barrier Reef.
We're Elizabeth and Luke.
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