12 June: Treats in Daintree Village

Author: Mrs A

Location: Daintree Village, beside the Daintree River, Queensland

Tuesday morning saw us hitching up and pulling out of Newell Beach and heading north, but not before we received a very generous gift from a stranger.

While out walking last night, we had a chat with a lady who lived in a house beside the campground. She had heard our plans to head across on the Daintree River Ferry, and let us know she had some spare tickets…so just before we left, she hobbled across the road (she had broken her ankle!) and gave Mr A four tickets (two for the car, two for the Zone), accepting no payment. It really restores your faith in humankind when such kindness comes out of nowhere.

The actual river crossing is tomorrow, today we have treats. We drove up to Daintree Village, a tiny little settlement on the banks of the Daintree River, about 10km past the ferry which takes you up to Cape Tribulation.It is such a sweet area, with tin roofed pub/cafe/Australia Post, an information centre, general store and campground. Right beside the campground (which has a viewing platform across the river) is a boat ramp and wharf, which from the 1800s up to 1933 (when the road from Mossman was opened) served as the main route in and out of the settlement. It was from this wharf that residents exported butter (it is a dairy farming area) and brought in everything else they needed to live relatively comfortably. Today it is where small craft take visitors out on crocodile spotting tours, or bird and wildlife spotting tours if you choose to go with a local expert as we did.

Our first task for the day was to pick up our Vinomofo delivery from the ‘post office’. If was quite surreal collecting our fine wine over the counter beside a menu for crocodile curry and pies!Next we travelled back along the road to Daintree Eco Lodge and Spa. I had booked in for a two hour session as my birthday gift from Mr A. Needless to say it was luxurious, a massage with essential oils, body scrub, hot mud and washed down with warm water from the local waterfall, followed by a more intensive massage and deep conditioning hair treatment. I emerged smelling like a geranium joss stick, tingling all over with slightly greasy looking hair!

From here, we returned briefly to camp, before wandering down to the boat ramp and our bird watching cruise on the Daintree River. There were only three other guests on the cruise as well as the skipper, so it was easy to explain my perfumed and conditioned hair status!What a cruise. Not just the birdlife (to name a few we saw Striated Herons, Wompoo Fruit Doves, Great Egrets, a beautiful Sacred Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eaters, Sunbirds, Spotted Catbird…) but the stories of other wildlife (the snakes, the bats, the crocs) and the flora (Ylang-Ylang tree flowers – the main ingredient in Chanel No 5, the numerous fruits and seeds from the mangroves, the reason for the changing colours of the native hibiscus – yellow on day one, which drops off once pollinated, turning to orange and later a deep pink on further days until pollination is successful).

We spotted four saltwater crocodiles – two huge males (around 5 metres long) have their territory in this section of river, and two females (only about 3 metres). They looked pretty relaxed on the beaches, warming up their bodies in the sunshine ready for a cool night of hunting ahead. I definitely would not fancy going swimming here.Apparently several years ago, Crocodie Hunter, Steve Irwin, flew up the Daintree River in a helicopter checking out the crocodile numbers and investigating all the waterholes on the way up. They found crocodiles as far up as 40km from the estuary in a waterhole at the top of a high waterfall – somewhere that traditionally people (including us) would have thought was safe from crocodiles. It made us re-visit all the beautiful waterholes we have swum in across the Kimberly, Lichfield and Kakadu in a new light!Sunset was a whole new deal. Our skipper asked whether we would mind heading back a little late so we could watch the incredible phenomenon of the flocks and flocks of Eastern Great Egrets flying along the river to their roosting spots. Absolutely incredible. The breeze had totally dropped and as we sat there waiting the sky changed dramatically, from salmons and peaches to a deep Pinot red. Even the locals raved about the sky later on and the following morning! The birds were also magical, and kept on coming…the photos do not do it justice, you really need to hear the flap of their wings and the frantic cries of the stragglers asking their mates to wait up.

We returned to camp for showers (revealing my extremely silky hair after its long condition!) and dinner. What a memorable day!

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