Monday, June 23, 2008

Daintree Rainforest Hike

Gilligan's Island came to mind a lot while we were stuck on Wilson Island, waiting and waiting for the storm to pass. But it was a beautiful, remote place and we had books to read, and after about seven days we made our way off the island and eventually on to Phase Two of the trip - the Daintree Rainforest in Northest Australia, in Queensland.

It's a World Heritage site and one of the world's oldest primary rainforests, and home to the endangered cassowary bird (sort of like a colorful emu with a weird hat). It's wildlife and species rich and I was hoping to see some critters other than birds and sea creatures.

However, the highlight of this phase of the trip, for me, was a hike we did in the rainforest. We went a long way up a creekbed to a spectacular waterfall. We stayed at an older lodge in the rainforest and their literature said it was a somewhat rigorous three hour hike but worth it for the falls. We wanted to get some hiking in so we talked to reception about it to confirm the route, and set off, telling them we'd check back with them in the afternoon when we returned.

The hiking was in a creek bed with rainforest on either side; I took a photo of the creek bed displayed here. The forest was dense and cool and shady, which was a nice temperature for hiking. In some places the rocks on the side were dry and made good walking, but for most of time crossing the water or hiking IN the water was necessary. I ended up switching from hiking boots to Crocs very early on and doing the whole hike in Crocs. The rocks were slippery and footing had to be very carefully chosen. The farther we hiked, the larger the rocks became, until they were boulders. Some of the medium boulders appear in the second photo - they were larger upstream. Climbing the boulders was tricky, especially when they got water on them, as they became super slick in places. We both fell numerous times, but luckily we were not injured. It would be a bad place to sprain an ankle or break a leg.

After a few hours I began to wonder if the waterfall was an overstatement - it seemed we surely should have reached it, but we hadn't. I feared it oculd be a marketing ploy and the "waterfall" was really not much of anything but a small cascade of water, so each of those we came to I sort of wondered, "Surely this isn't it?" For the first few hours I thought we had a lot of time so I took some photos of fish in the clear blue water, of the red skinks on the rocks, of the red kingfishers who cried out over the rush of the water. But eventually we ran out of animal life except for spiders - those seemed to be everywhere and many of the webs would catch us across the face as we climbed. My husband ran into a web he could not even break with a stick it was so strong. I am sure the forest on either side teemed with creatures, but we didn't see them.

I like this type of hiking best of all because you have to think about it. I always learn something about myself each trip and one of the things I took away this time was a greater understanding of what makes a hike hell or fun for me. If it is just cardio, like climbing stairs, I despise it. If it's not so hot I want to die and I get to think about my footing and be alone in nature and things are beautiful, then I love it, even when it is hard. My hardest hikes have all been in rainforests and all been good.

The problem with this hike is that 3 hours in Australian hiking time = 8 hours in American hiking time, I am sorry to say. We ended up running out of light and having quite an adventure getting back. So Part II of the story for tomorrow. Today, the way up to the falls, we focus on the beautiful part of the hike, the part where I was watching fish with interest, the part where I wasn't worried yet about getting out of the forest, and the part where I hadn't met the terrestrial leeches yet.

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