Greeting from Down Under!
Yesterday, we had a FABULOUS time on our rain forest trek! We met up with Steve (no not the Croc guy, he's dead ya know) at 8 & climbed into a Land Cruiser, picked up a few more people to fill the 8 seats & headed to the bush! That's right, I said "the Bush!" Ha! Did you know that the "bush" refers to the area of jungle/forest before the climate changes into the rain forest? Absolutely beautiful! Full of towering eucalyptus trees & cedars, ferns, palms & more! Usually this is where we'd see kangaroos, but it's getting late in the season for them, so no luck yesterday.
When we got to the actual rain forest, the entire scene changed! jungle so dense that you couldn't imagine Atherton driving his 100 cattle & family across this untamed land hundreds of years ago! Or any of the number of explorers that were commissioned to do map & rail surveys! Our guide took us on a couple of walks through the rain forest - the first one being the most treacherous...Some of you might know that Australia is home to hundreds of deadly species, from plants, to bugs, to fish & reptiles & we got to see one of those things yesterday. There's a plant here called the Stinging Tree & it only grows here, in North Queensland & over on Papau New Guinea. It looks like a harmless little plant with yummy raspberry-like fruit growing from it. But it is extremely painful if you touch it or brush against it! The entire plant is covered with little silica hairs that are filled with poison that causes such excruciating pain for up to 4 months! Legend had it that a surveyor & his horse galloped through a patch & the horse went mad in seconds, having gone head first into the plant. They had to put the horse down on the spot! The poor rider was in hospital for months! So, Steve-the-guide was keen to point those out on our walks so as not to have a casualty!
Here's just a little list of the things we could have encountered on our trip:
1. Stinging Trees
2. River Crocs
3. Red-bellied Snakes - Aggressive snake w/deadly venom if not treated immediately
4. Taipan Snakes - also very deadly & aggressive
5. Cassowary Bird - not just any bird, but a SIX FOOT ostrich-type bird that will charge you & lash out at you with his middle finger that has a protractable 3" claw on it!!! Sounds like a Velocoraptor to me!!!
6. Deadly plants that seem to contain sustainable food to eat, but if you do you die
That all I can think of, but I am sure there is more! This land is crazy! But the Aussies don't think twice about it anymore. They are raised to be aware, but not terrified of it all.
Overall, it was an amazing trip. We stood next to a 1000 year old palm tree that looked like rhubarb stalks with palm fronds on it. We walked around a 750 year old strangling fig tree that had encapsulated a 900 year old cedar & dropped its vines to secure itself to the forest floor as it slowly sucked the live out of the host tree! We saw the type of vines that Tarzan used; other vines that corkscrew around another tree until the other tree grows right over it & looks like someone lifted the tree & twisted it!
We also saw a man that gave up all his worldly possessions & went on walk-about one day & disappeared into the bush. Then one day he was seen running into town. He does that now every few days, although he doesn't run anymore, to gather supplies. Everyone in Cairns knows his story & one of the hostels puts him up for the night & gives him a shower. One year, the local Today show tried to interview him. They waited for him to come down the mountain to do the interview, but he wouldn't stop for them! He just kept running & the reported had to run with him! Amazing!
This truly is an amazing country! The people are super friendly & the accents are thick, but oh so fun to listen to! Today I hope to hang in the glorious sun for a bit, watch the harmless birds fly around me & absorb some more of the culture with no Stinging Trees nearby!