Cape Trib

Saturday, 26 August 2017 17:13
strange_complex: (Cities Esteban butterfly)
[personal profile] strange_complex
Ah, free weekend! How blessed and rare you are. Time to push on with my Australia posts, then.

After Brisbane, my next stop was Cape Tribulation. My stay here was probably the highlight of my travels, but it was also the least well-represented on Facebook because there is no mobile reception there, and only very slow / limited wifi. So this post will do more than some of the others need to to fill in the gaps.

Cape Trib (as it's called locally) is in Queensland, but a little over 1000 miles north of Brisbane, and I got there by flying to Cairns and then driving another 100 miles north in a hire car. Cape Trib is located in a large region called the Daintree, which bills itself as being 'Where the rainforest meets the reef'. This is the photo I took which best captures that - basically a forested mountain range sloping down to beautiful beaches, and with the reef about 20km off-shore.

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I got myself a good dose of both rainforest and reef by staying for two nights in an absolutely beautiful isolated log-cabin looking right into pristine rainforest, and then another two in a slightly-less-magnificent but still totally adequate beach hut which was part of a larger resort. This was the one single FB post which I managed to make while there, from the bar area of the beach hut resort. I didn't put comment under any of the pictures at the time, because I knew my connection could drop at any minute, but I've added a few in square brackets now.

14th July: rainforest and beach at Cape Tribulation

I'm in Cape Tribulation now. There is also a Mount Sorrow nearby. Despite the gothic names, though, it is utterly beautiful and paradisiacal. There's not much Wi-Fi up here, so I won't attempt extended commentary, but here are a few photos.

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[In case it's not clear, this was the view from my bed upon waking in the morning in the log cabin. The little green blanket hillock in the foreground is my feet!]

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[I did not set this picture up, or indeed touch the coconut in any way - I just found it exactly as shown.]

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The owners of the log cabin had set up a self-guided walk which you could follow through the rainforest, which I did on my first day, and which is where I took the pictures in the FB post above. It is pretty amazing just clambering through the rainforest all alone, and I took a little selfie video which I think captures how ïnto it I was:

[There is a video here in the LJ version of this post, but DW can't host it. Please click through if you'd like to see it.]

I also went swimming in a freshwater creek, which is what you have to do locally if you want to swim. Sadly, all those beautiful beaches aren't actually safe to swim off, because there are marine crocodiles in the area who can lurk unseen in the water, and will attack people paddling or swimming. I did want to take the opportunity to swim while I was there, though, as it was nice weather, with temperatures usually in the low-to-mid twenties, and the creek was quite idyllic, with trees overhanging the water and a shoal of fish swimming around in the swimming-hole. I chatted to a family from Melbourne having a winter holiday there while we lounged around in the water, and picked up a few tips for the next leg of my travels.

The following day, it was time to meet the reef, which I did by booking myself onto a snorkelling tour with these people. I have never snorkelled before, and it was a pretty choppy day to be heading out into the open ocean in not much more than a large motorised dinghy. We certainly got sprayed in the face a lot, although the guy at the wheel made it fun by playing stuff like Queen's Bo Rhap on the ship's stereo as we crashed through the waves. Then when we got there and I actually plunged into the water, I had a minute or two of thinking I wasn't going to be able to do it because I was trying to gasp for air and didn't like the way the snorkel mask blocked off my nose and restricted the amount of air I could pull in. But the lady who was guiding and instructing us all explained that I just needed to relax and breathe deeply and slowly through the snorkel, and after a few minutes I got the hang of that, put my face in the water, and it was all worth it!

Sadly, of course, there aren't any pictures, because I don't have a water-proof camera, so I can ony do my best to convey in words how amazing it was. Where we went, the coral was so close to the surface that you had to be very careful in a lot of places not to accidentally bash it, practically sucking your stomach in as you floated over. So it was an incredibly close-up view of huge amounts of marine life. And it really was teeming. I'd always assumed that documentaries etc about the reef were highly selective, focusing in on isolated highlights, but where we went the whole area was alive with brightly-coloured fish, coral, anemones, sea-cucumbers, starfish etc. It really didn't matter much which direction you looked in - everything was utterly amazing.

My most exciting moment was watching a blue spotted ray glide along the ocean floor and then disappear under a coral over-hang, but I also saw iridescent fish, brightly-coloured stripey fish, royal blue star-fish, fish cleaning each other's gills, plants undulating to trap tiny life-forms, spiky blue-tipped coral and giant clams. I didn't even think giant clams were real - I thought they were a joke from Doctor Who - but nope, they are absolutely real, and live ones have beautiful blue or purple tissues lining their shells. I'm not by nature an active sports person, and suspect I am unlikely ever to snorkel again - but I'm very glad I made the effort to do it, and will definitely remember it all my life.

The day after that I had booked another tour, this time in a small group with a local guy who has a four-wheel drive. The sealed roads up the Queensland coast end at Cape Trib, so if you want to go any further north you need something which can handle rough surface and plunge through creeks. He took us about another 20 miles north to Wujal Wujal, a community belonging to the local Kuku Yalanji people, where one of their number, who told us to call her Kathleen, walked us up to a beautiful waterfall. She explained all about how it is a sacred place for her people, and that there is another waterfall further up the same river which is reserved for women only, and is where previous generations of Aboriginal women went to give birth. (Some still do now, but most opt for the local hospital.) She also told us about how the coming of the seasons has changed over her lifetime due to climate change, including bringing crocodiles up to the waterfall part of the river when they didn't used to be a danger in her childhood. Apparently, her people are able to smell the crocodiles even when they can't see them - they smell of mud and fish, she said.

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Later, we drove along the river which the waterfall feeds, called Bloomfield River, looking for crocs out basking on the banks. It didn't take long for our efforts to be rewarded, although my camera was far from adequate at capturing the results. The first picture is my own, zoomed in as far as it would go; you can just about make out the crocodile about one-third of the way along the bank from the left. The second was taken by the guy doing the driving and emailed to us afterwards. This whole trip really made me realise that while my camera is excellent for taking photographs of buildings, often allowing me to get the whole thing in while people around me are stepping backwards and backwards and cursing that they can't get far enough back to do so, it is dreadful for capturing smaller things like wildlife for the same reasons.

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Anyway, I was very glad after having seen the zoomed-in photo to have been on the other side of the bank from that!

Finally it was time to drive back down to Cairns, but I stopped off half-way down for a couple of hours at the Mossman Gorge Centre. This was still within the Daintree rainforest, in land belonging to the same Kuku Yalanji people as live at Wujal Wujal, and one of the things you can do there is to book a guided walking tour through the forest led by one of them. This time our guide told us the name he goes by amongst his own people, and I tried so hard to remember it, and succeeded for most of the afternoon, but unfortunately it wasn't familiar to me so I have forgotten it again now, and can only record the alternative white-people name he gave us that I already knew: Skip.

I won't forget what I learned from him about his people and their relationship with the rainforest, though. This included things like how he learnt as a child which 40 or so out of the c. 150 fruits in the rainforest were OK to eat; how his people recognise six different seasons of the year, defined by things like hot, cold, wind, rain, dry etc., each with their own different plants and fruits; how in the past they lived in huts in the forest, but would only ever stay in one place for a maximum of three years to allow the ground around them to recover; how they interacted with the plains people and picked up the use of boomerangs from them, but of course couldn't throw them in the middle of the rainforest so just used them to bang for music instead; how they make body-paints from ochre and clay and what the various patterns and symbols mean (e.g. rain-drops, family groupings); and how they collected sasparilla from the forest edge and scrunched it up in water to get a form of natural soap.

The whole picture of a people living in symbiosis with the land until (implicitly - he didn't say this, but didn't need to) white settlers came along and ruined it all was incredibly humbling, particularly coming on top of having gaped in awe at the teeming life of the reef in full awareness of how much of it has already been destroyed by pollution and climate change. Australia is certainly a stark lesson in the impact of British colonialism if you're willing to take it. Anyway, I didn't take a photo of Skip himself, but these are his paints. I just hope there will even be anyone around with the cultural knowledge he has another generation from now.

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Date: Saturday, 26 August 2017 22:21 (UTC)
thanatos_kalos: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thanatos_kalos
That sounds like an absolutely brilliant trip! :) I'm so glad you got to enjoy yourself!

Date: Sunday, 27 August 2017 02:55 (UTC)
sovay: (Haruspex: Autumn War)
From: [personal profile] sovay
[I did not set this picture up, or indeed touch the coconut in any way - I just found it exactly as shown.]

It is an excellent coconut.

Thank you for sharing your trip and the things you were told.

Date: Sunday, 27 August 2017 03:19 (UTC)
amaebi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] amaebi
Amazing. Thank you.

Date: Wednesday, 30 August 2017 12:12 (UTC)
lady_lugosi1313: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313
wow
am smiling at 'mud and fish' :-)

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