Thursday, October 29, 2009
We got up early again, which was easy since the East-facing window in our room had no covering. The Farmstay has five cabins with ensuite facilities (i.e., their own bathroom), and a couple huts that are not ensuite. Cabin 1 is closest to the main area, meaning it has the least amount of walking. It also is positioned so that it would have minimal light coming through in the morning. Cabins 2 and 3 (we were in 3) are not as good in this respect. Cabins 4 and 5 were a little farther down the road, and we weren't sure about their position in regards to sun coming in. Breakfast was again good, with some soursop, mangosteen, and other fruits.
We were picked up at 8:30 for our Cooper Creek expedition. A lady named Prue (pronounced pru-ee) picked us up - we found out she was the land owner when we got to Cooper Creek. No one else showed up, so it was just the two of us. Prue had a wealth of information about everything on the land - where it came from, how old it was, what the aborigines used it for, what animals were needed to help germinate it, etc. After taking us through her (no longer used) orchard, she took us into the old forest. She told us that while many people visit the Daintree, very few actually get into the old rainforest. Cooper Creek and Noah Creek are two of the places where the old forest still exist relatively untouched.
Her old forest was full of Licuala ramsayii fan palms, which filled in whatever light was not taken up by the trees at the top of the canopy. There were also a bunch of Black palms, Normanbya normanbyi. There were also some Cassowary plums and a lone Gympie Gympie, the most virulent stinging tree in the world, where simply brushing up against it can bring excruciating pain that will last for weeks or months, with flashback pains occuring for months or years - you can read more about it here.
We were walking through at a leisurely pace, when we heard a dog barking bloody murder. From having multiple dogs for so long, we knew that this dog was a little spooked, having seen something that made it excited/scared. We were hopeful that it was a couple of Cassowaries, but after walking towards the barking, we were disappointed to find out it was "just" some wild boars. The dog barking stopped, but we heard some growling. At first we thought it was still the dog, but then we saw a big female boar, then we also saw about a half-dozen others. Wild boar are not native, and Prue was a bit perturbed they were on her land, because they make a mess of everything. The 7 boars got pretty close - maybe 40-50 feet - before scrambling off into the jungle.
Once back to the tour, we started to see some of the real "old" stuff. We saw the Idiot's Tree (Idiospermum australiense), which confirmed what people had thought for awhile, that the Daintree was the oldest rainforest on earth. The Idiot's tree was "discovered" in only 1971, and from fossil records it was already known that this tree had been around for over 100 million years. Northeast Queensland was part of the original upthrust of land a long long LONG time ago, with mountains much taller than Mount Everest, and over time as the plates split and the plates moved, what is now the Daintree avoided droughts, ice ages, volcanoes, and other events that would have spelled its end as a rainforest. There are about 20 prehistoric, pre-flowering plants that exist on earth, and nearly all of them are found in the Daintree. The Idiot's Tree is one of them.
One of the old plants we saw was a Ryparosa javanica, which long ago lost whatever bee or bird or whatever that distributed it, meaning it is now confined to tiny areas in Australia as well as Java. An Australian scientist is advocating splitting the species into two, since the Australian variety is propogated by Cassowaries while the Javan variety (where Cassowaries do not exist) is obviously propogated by other means. We saw some old Gwinkin (sp?) trees, including one with a carved face on the bark from Aborigines. Other old plants we saw included:
We also saw numerous Strangler figs, Cadwillia (one of the canopy trees in the old forest), various Calamus species (the "wait a while" we saw in Kuranda), Blue Kwondong, Bumpy Southern Ash, and Yellow pendas (Ristantia pachysperma) with large buttress roots (including two where the roots had grown together). Prue told us that while much of the large trees in Queensland had been used for timber, the Yellow pendas made it because they had special fibers that made it near impossible for an ax to cut through. Interestingly, the timber industry was so profitable that when the Daintree was up for World Heritage Status in the early 1980s, the Queensland Government did not want the Daintree to be inducted, but the Commonwealth of Australia got its way, and once the United Nations had deemed it a world heritage site, no more logging could be done.
After our walk was over, we went on a boat ride around the mangrove areas, looking for crocodiles. We weren't having much luck, but then we found 2 - an average sized female and a large male (4.5 meters, or roughly 14 feet).
Lunch was at the Daintree Heritage Lodge, nearby Cooper Creek. It was just the two of us and a large van that came by 10 minutes later. There was a 3D Tetris puzzle that Justin spent about 20 minutes with before we got picked up. He thought he was about to solve it when he determined it was missing a piece. He used that as a convenient excuse for not finishing it before we left. In the afternoon, we went back to Prue's land, and looked at a couple of water holes and then had a long conversation about plants, travel, and conservation policy. Justin and Prue really enjoyed it, Crystal stayed awake.
We packed when we got back to the Farmstay, took some pictures of the fruit and plants on the grounds (the breadfruits are huge), then went out for dinner at Cassowary Cafe again. It wasn't especially good to warrant a return trip, but it was much cheaper than Whet. Back at the Farmstay, we opened another bottle of wine (Bridgewater Mill Sauvignon Blanc), and chatted with other guests, this time with Colin (the male proprietor), Simon, and an Austrian couple. We talked about all of the deadly and harmful animals and plants in Australia, and Colin made a point of stating "The deadliest thing in the rainforest is another human." Okay then.