Back from Oz - 2

Discussion in 'Motorhome Chat' started by kijana, Mar 17, 2010.

  1. kijana

    kijana Read Only Funster

    Sep 30, 2007
    Mostly in a car park.
    Thanks for all your kind comments re my last post. Afraid I'm going to have to serialize this as the only way to get it down to readable chunks. Chunk 2 follows:

    * * * * * *

    We arrived at Daintree village, where we went on a cruise up the river. It was an almost eerie experience, seeing ancient forest that has remained essentially unchanged for thousands of years. The Daintree rainforest is the oldest on the planet, & has far more species of flora than the Amazon forest. Along the way were some cleared patches which were grazed by Brahmah cattle. These are the sacred cows of India, established in this area because of their tolerance of soggy ground & their resistance to ticks & other tropical bitey monsters. They have really cute faces, with great big eyes.

    We also saw some crocodiles: a baby one basking on the bank, and a very big one lurking in amongst the mangrove swamps, looking terminally evil. He was maybe 15’ long.

    Next day we drove into the rainforest proper. Amazingly dense, dark green foliage, dripping in the 100% humidity. Numerous weird & wonderful species: tree ferns 10 feet tall; numerous native hardwood trees; creepers of every description, and real live Tarzan vines hanging down, begging to be swung on. We were warned to be careful of a tree with stinging leaves for which there is no cure – you just itch (badly) for 6 months. But the strangest example of the struggle to succeed was the Strangler Fig.

    The mature examples of this can be 30, 40, 50 feet high, the whole supported on a series of snakelike roots about as thick as my arm, converging to form a single trunk way up in the air, before the leafy branches start. This tree starts life as a seed settling high up in the crown of an already established tree of another species. The seed germinates and sends down aerial roots. These support its needs from the atmosphere until they reach the ground. Once they find soil, they take root and strengthen and swell to feed the sapling way up in the canopy. As the roots grow ever thicker and denser, they gradually strangle their host, which eventually dies, and rots away, leaving a hollow cage of root trunks supporting the now flourishing tree up in the sunshine. Scary!

    We visited the Rainforest Discovery centre. This is a large open tower built deep in the forest. Around the base are lots of walks with information boards pointing out the various flora. You then climb up the tower, stopping to rest and look around at each level. The trick with rainforests is that different things are going on at different levels, & the tower has levels with info at each stage explaining what’s going on, & what to look for. Eventually you get right to the top, where you are now at the height of the forest canopy, looking across the top of it into distant jungle views. Absolutely fascinating.

    We camped that night amongst some tall trees. In the early evening, while it was still light, we were astounded to see a pterodactyl flying noiselessly through the trees, maybe 20’ above us. We watched it for a few minutes, when it was joined by another. They were huge animals, with a wingspan around 5 feet, and totally silent. We asked about them the next day with some excitement, as I thought pterodactyls were extinct (although the Daintree is a prehistoric jungle). Rather anticlimactically, they turned out to be fruit bats :Blush:

    Blimey, if you can get that big eating fruit, pass me a banana! We later saw a whole bunch of them hanging from a branch not far from our van, and yes, they really were huge.

    We pushed on through the rainforest heading north, keeping an eye out for cassowaries (didn’t see any). The road gradually got worse, and eventually turned into a gravel track with potholes and deep puddles. It got to a point where I reluctantly had to accept my navigator’s view that the sign we’d passed a while ago saying ‘4WD only from here’ actually meant what it said. Traction on a rear wheel drive Tranny is good, but not that good.

    So at that point, we’d effectively run out of road in the far north of Queensland, & had to turn round and head back south. On the road back to the nearest small town, we passed a whole row of mango trees, with so much fruit the ripe mangoes were dropping off them. I stopped and collected a few for later. When we subsequently did a bit of shopping in Mossman, a couple of k’s down the road, I was amazed to see mangoes on sale at $2 each!

    We tried to follow the coast roads as far as possible. Stopping for a break, we walked through the rainforest to the sea. Here a noticeboard informed us that it was the only place on the planet where two World Heritage Sites come together: the Daintree Rainforest & the Great Barrier Reef. Along the beach from this sign, above a few washed up coconuts, was a Stinger station. This gave helpful instructions on what to do if you were careless enough to be stung by a jellyfish (whose name escapes me), and handily provided the flask of vinegar to do it with. We didn’t go swimming. . .
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