Hi readers! Thanks for coming back after a bit of a hiatus. Returning from Australia, life got a bit in the way and had to get back in the swing of things. Now that I’ve gotten a chance for a day off, I wanted to take some time to write about the next chapter of our adventure. To me, this is now a sweet, memory; however, still fairly fresh.
This chapter is just going to focus on the first day trip we had out of Cairns, which was to the Daintree Rainforest. We opted again for a guided tour for this one, mostly because it was about a 2 hour drive from our hotel and we felt more comfortable in numbers with this one. As every one has an idea that everything can kill you in Australia, there’s a kernel of truth with that statement in Queensland. I didn’t really feel like dying on this vacation…so a guided tour was a great way to add a safety blanket to the trip 🙂
The tour bus took off early in the morning, though we were originally worried that we missed it as they came about 15 minutes later than their provided window. We were in similar company, as a separate tour group came to pick up a couple from our hotel and then didn’t show up for 15 minutes as well. I could tell that the tour guide was getting nervous, as he started joking that if ours didn’t show up we could just hop onto his. It made me wonder as to whether that tour group had been burned in the past by customers.
Needless to say, the bus came (and the other group’s couple came as well — it looked like they had just slept over their alarm because they looked like a mess) and we hopped on, ready to head to the rainforest. The bus picked up a couple more folks and then began driving to our first destination, Mossman Gorge.
On the way, our tour guide, Kyle, began giving us some historical and environmental lessons about the area. It was a really nice overview of the area, but what stuck with me was all the safety education on the different types of animals to watch out for. Let’s break that down…
- Kyle spent some time talking about Jellyfish and how awful they are. We learned that there are two main types of jellyfish in Aussie oceans, the box jellyfish and the irukandji.
- The box jellyfish is that typical jellyfish that you think of; it can sting you and if it happens you’re in immense pain, with a small chance of surviving. There was a story that ted read before coming on this vacation that there was a person a couple decades back that was stung by a box jellyfish and was in so much pain that they were still screaming after being sedated!
- The irukandji jellyfish is about the size of your thumbnail, and provides instant death. These critters suck. There’s essentially no way to avoid them in the water unless you wear a wetsuit. That, or don’t swim in the water!
- Per Kyle’s dialogue, he actually talked about how sharks are the most misunderstood animals in their ecosystem. Due to movies, tv shows, etc. a lot of people have an unhealthy fear of sharks, with the main thought that if they see one that they’ll be eaten. To Kyle, this is fake news. He educated that sharks actually are just foodies without a purpose. When sharks are born, they aren’t given a sense as to what they’re supposed to eat. So as they grow up, they have to determine what actually is good for them and what isn’t. Where a human comes into place is when you run into a shark and try to run away, thus making sudden movements. If that happens, the shark will think that you may be prey, and that’s what causes a shark attack. And more often than not, they’ll just take one bite and then swim away cause we taste terrible to them.
- I had never heard of a Cassowary before until this trip, and these birds are cool! They’re apparently descendents of the velociraptor. Pegged at 6 feet tall and sharp like talons, they’re one of a kind in this world and is extremely endangered. There’s only about 5,000 of these birds remaining in the wild.
- Though rare and unique, they are also very deadly. These birds are aggressive creatures, as if you spook them or act like prey they will come at you head on, proceeding to punch-kick you the stomach with one of their talons, and then gut you like a fish. These birds show no mercy. So to combat this, it’s recommended to play the “ring of unity” move, which is a classic defensive technique against bears. If you’re with a group, then you need to link arms to seem bigger. Cassowaries have a hard time understanding when arms are linked as to whether it’s 1 big person, or multiple tiny people. If you’re alone and you run into one…then you’re just stupid, because you should never be alone in this rainforest. Too many things can kill you!
- Salt-Water Crocodiles
- These baddies are the ones that have no defense mechanism. Kyle just said to try not looking for one, and hopefully none will show up in front of us. If one does, there’s nothing to do to prevent an attack.
- Finally, snakes are hit and miss. The snakes in Australia are extremely venemous, with its most dangerous snake having vile that can kill 100 people per 1 drop of venom. However, snakes never attack unless they think you’re prey (just like the sharks). If you ever realize you’re in a snake’s presence, then the only tactic is to be very cautious and slowly move yourself away or stay completely still. If they bare their fangs or move to striking position, then you’re just SOL (because most of the snakes have no serum or if they do, you have to administer within 10/15 minutes).
Needless to say, some pretty cool knowledge but definitely had a healthy stomach of fear after hearing some of his stories!!
After about an hour we reached to our first destination, which was the entrance to the Daintree National Rainforest visitor center. We were pulled quickly into a smoke ceremony, where one of the park rangers went through an overview of his ancestors and how they lived and used the rainforest to support their lives. The rainforest provided them several amenities ranging from using wood from trees to creating weapons to hunt for food, as well as shelter options and even paint from stones. He finished his time with us by using some of the leaves to create a bonfire and had us walk through the smoke. Apparently this is a traditional process when incoming into the rainforest; it requests spiritual guidance and protection from the guardians of the rainforest, but as well the smoke was a natural mosquito repellant (which I so desperately needed).
Once complete, we made our way to our next destination – Mossman Gorge. Unfortunately at this point, Mother Nature started to fight with us and got slammed with some heavy downpour. I was so proud of myself for grabbing my umbrella; however, some people weren’t so lucky and got pretty soaked. We only had about an hour at this location, so our tour guide led us through the boardwalk to a couple lookout points and then gave people the option to swim in one portion of the river alongside the boardwalk. We didn’t bring our swim gear so continued to walk around looking for wildlife. We got the opportunity to snap a few photos of camouflaged lizards, but nothing too extreme. I’m really glad we didn’t go swimming as the weather was a wreck, and the current looked pretty strong.
At the end of the hour, we then made our way to the next portion, which was a salt-water crocodile lookout boat ride and then quick lunch and overview of the insects in the rainforest. The boat ride was pretty great cause we got to sit and look out for crocs by the water, while also seeing a different view of the rainforest. We spotted some adult and youth crocs, and the weather put up with us to also get some sun.
After lunch, we came to learn about how spiders actually play a very valuable role in the rainforest. There were these common spiders called the “Garden Variety”, which provided protection to the forest by eating certain harmful bugs. I want to point out though…these spiders were HUGE. Like size of your hand huge. I haven’t seen spiders that large in real-life with the exception of some biggies in South Carolina when we visited Congaree National Park (another story for another time). I know they were useful, but it was really hard to keep myself from shuddering on the thought of one landing in my hair or something.
We made our way to the next destination of ours, which was another rainforest walk to Meowy Beach (that’s probably spelled incorrectly, but that’s how they pronounced it). As cute as that beach sounds, this was not a beach to mess with as it was an active home for salt-water crocodiles. When we arrived there, we were instructed to only go about 50 meters away from the trail. We learned afterwards that a few months back there was an incident with a tourist on a previous guided tour in their company that ventured too far, walked into a low water area, and got bitten by a juvenile crocodile. The tourist survived as the croc missed a major vein in her leg, but apparently had to get about 30 stitches. Talk about nature taking a bite outta ya! (but seriously, i’m glad i’m alive back in Ohio today…)
During our walk to Meowy Beach, our tour guide pointed out a few things in the rainforest that you can use to survive in as a human…but pretty much made it clear that if we ever got stranded in the rainforest, we are pretty much screwed. Basically everything in the rainforest is poisonous to humans, ranging from the water to any fruit on the trees. We learned about a practice to see if something from the area is poisonous, which was focusing on a step by step policy. If you’re interested in eating a piece of fruit but don’t know if it’ll kill you, you start by rubbing the fruit on your lips. Then wait 20 minutes. If your lips aren’t swollen/puss-based, then take another small piece of the fruit and rub it against your gums. Then wait 20 minutes. If your gums didn’t swell up either, then ingest a small piece of the fruit, slowly. Then wait 20 minutes. If you’re not vomiting, coughing up blood, etc. then eat another piece. Then wait 20 minutes. Then repeat until full. This process really made me feel my privilege with the ability to have fast food and ingest it quickly lol!
Another freaky thing…our tour guide pointed out a unique insect called the peppermint bug (why it’s named that way? Wait for it…). His peer tour guide found one on his way to the beach and pointed it out for us to find. On our way back we found the critter, which looked like, well a cooler praying mantis. It was a really unique shade of blue-ish green, and resembled a bit more like a bamboo stick with the long arms that a mantis has.
Now this is when it gets real awkward. Our tour guide started tickling the bug. We were all not really sure what was going on…but after a few seconds the bug expelled some white liquid onto our tour guides hand. My immediate reaction = OMG WTF. And then our tour guide proceeds to stick his hand in front of our faces yelling on top of the rain “smell my hand!!!” Trying to restrain myself from laughing/running away, I took a sniff, and immediately got the strongest whiff of peppermint. See – worth the wait?
Our day started to come to a close, and we began to make our way back to the hotel. By sheer luck, one of our bus passengers spotted a wild cassowary on the side of the road and got to snap some close pictures (in the safe comfort of the bus). We also stopped for some local Daintree ice cream, which was possibly some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had. The mango and coconut ice cream I remember being very sweet and bright, which was awesome considering the business added no sugar to their desserts.
By the time we got back to our hotel we were spent. We grabbed a bite to eat close by at a place called Spicy Bite, a casual indian cuisine place. It was incredibly spicy, but oh so good. Having to get up early for the next tour guide, we went for a short walk among the late night flea market and then headed to bed.
Till next time readers! Promise it won’t be as long this time around to write again.