13 June: Arriving in the Daintree

Author: Mr A

Location: Diwan, Cape Tribulation, Queensland

Wednesday morning we awoke to a thick fog shrouding the surrounding hills and even reaching down to the Daintree river that we overlooked. Just when you thought this place couldn’t bring you another feast for the eyes it did. The weather changed before I could brew up, and once again we were in bright sunshine.

We packed up and headed off to the ferry that would take us over the Daintree River, making sure that I pumped up the suspension to give clearance when we went on. I need not have worried though as it was high tide and hardly an articulation in sight.This was Tassie’s first trip across water, she was looking a little puzzled out of the window, not too impressed with seeing water in all directions.

I had got a little anxious about the next part of the drive, having been told a variety of things ranging from “I wouldn’t take our van over there” to “you’ll have no problem”. It’s actually hard to know what to believe, as people have such different ideas of what they and their rigs are comfortable to tackle. I needn’t have worried on this occasion though, it was a simple enough road with a few tight bends and a couple of hills, with one eye up at overhanging branches and the other in the lovely big Clearview mirrors ensuring the Zone didn’t cut in too much. The only real risk as always on bendy roads like this was, is Harry Nutter trying to prove how “manly” he is (or just not caring?) travelling too fast from the other direction on blind corners, and we have had our fair share of those on our trips. My tactic is just to drive at a speed that gives me some time to manoeuvre out the way. So far, touching my head, it has worked.

We were finally in the Daintree National Park proper, and there’s something symbolic about crossing that ferry. We had expected it too be a little more “out there” than it was though. There are cafes, lodges, ice cream factories times two (noted) and all the trappings of civilisation. Still, with some nice little twists though, like the tea plantation selling their products at the side of the road using an honesty box system. Tea picked and packaged in less than 24hrs, was their claim. I like the sound of that, I thought, and we can vouch for the freshness of the flavour having tried it later that day. About as far as you can get from the bits of tea dust that Bushells seem to put in their tea.The caravan park we had selected (oddly called the Rainforest Village, given it was a petrol station and a lovely open space for camping) was the furthest pet friendly one travelling north along the Cape Tribulation road.The bitumen ends in another 20km or so, then its a rough four-wheel drive only track surrounded by National Park all the way to Cooktown.

This camping spot is a relatively new one that has sprung up to provide a central base to explore the area for those like us travelling with fur children. We really liked it, lots of trees, big sites, thick lush grass, bird calls from the plentiful trees. More importantly Tassie gave it an eager paws up by jumping out the car and casting an approving eye and twitching nose over her new home for the next few days.

After a quick set up and lunch (thank goodness for Coles bake at home bread – all the way from France – when you need a quick, tasty filler) and headed off back down the road a short distance to the Daintree Discovery Centre.

We were immediately given the pitch from one of the staff to justify the $35 p/person admission (and $3’s off for oldies like me). We paid up and I’m so glad we did, it was so worth it to learn on our first day here from all the educative displays, and the audio you were given on a little device to carry around with you. As we walked in one of the staff who brings her Eclectus parrots to work (now thats a phrase I doubt you have read before) offered us some quality perched-on-our-shoulder time with them. They are indigenous to only this area of Australia and quite beautiful.We spent several hours here, it could have easily been longer, there is so much to see and read about. For instance, the Daintree Rainforest contains 12 of the 19 oldest plants on the planet and many other species found nowhere else on earth. The fauna coverage is also huge as well, the Daintree has 20% of Australia’s bird species, 35% of its marsupials, frogs and reptiles and 65% of our bat and butterflies species!

The Centre is owned and operated by the local aboriginal community, and partnered with people like CISRO for research being conducted there on climate change impact, and no good news in that, as you can imagine.We could have stayed longer – much longer – but we decided to head off for a walk, hoping really for a cassowary sighting. Alas, it was not to be. However, we did get to experience again the majesty of being immersed in this unique ecosystem. Some of the trees we spotted were huge, especially next to the lovely little package of Mrs A. Some of these are over 500 years old apparently. Brightly coloured cassowary plums littered the floor, and crystal clear streams regularly meandered across our path.Spotting birds up in the canopy isn’t easy, particularly when you have my poor eyesight, but thankfully eagle eye Mrs A was there to draw my attention, and my trusty bins soon picked them out.

It was then a quick dash to the ice cream place that fellow Zoners Wendy and Frank from Cairns had recommended, the Daintree Ice Cream Company. Given Mrs A’s dairy allergy, I got the better deal here having the special of the day from fruit all grown on their property, a delicious combo of coconut, mango, wattle seed and black sapote. If you are not familiar with the latter it basically tastes like chocolate mouse. Amazing…Mrs A was not quite as blown though away with her rosella fruit sorbet, well at least she didn’t make noises like I did.Back at the Zone we then spotted two Wompoo Fruit-Doves up in the tree next to us. Their calls are very distinctive, which is a good job as despite being so colourful, they are hard to spot once they are stationary up in the canopy.As I hope you will have decided by now reading this blog, if you haven’t been to this area before you simply must. It’s hard to describe in words just how special it is, Mrs A does a much better job with her images I think. It’s sensory overload from the sights, to the sounds and then those smells unlike anything else.

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