Journey Through The Past
The second leg of our recent Australian trip was in Queensland. We had a free day before heading to Adelaide, so we decided to go really “old school” and visit the Daintree Rainforest.
The rainforest, named for Richard Daintree, an Australian geologist and photographer, covers 460 square miles. It is a beacon of biodiversity, with a dozen families of primitive flowering plants and seven ancient fern families. Within the refuge of the rainforest, many of these plants maintain their ancestors’ primitive characteristics.
We booked our tour with Discovery Tours Australia and our tour guide Warren showed up with another couple in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. This is how we like it. No giant tour buses with megaphones and scads of tourists – just a small group splashing and bumping along the backroads of an ancient forest.
While rainforests cover only about 2 percent of the world’s surface, they include about 50 percent of the species found on earth. Humans rely on rainforests to produce most of Earth’s oxygen. One tree produces about 260 pounds of oxygen a year. The fresh oxygen during our trip was energizing.
Along The Rainforest Road
Our first stop was an overlook of Barron Falls to observe where the Barron River cascades down craggy rock formations. The viewing point is reached by a short trail that passes by a variety of trees and ferns, including the giant King Ferns, a prehistoric species that grows up to 16 feet tall.
The road we were on ranged from a nice wooded path with a shaded canopy of trees and Emerald Doves flittering to and fro. Occasionally it was reduced to a muddy mess blocked by streams one to two feet deep. As responsible passengers we urged Warren to splash through the creeks and gun it up the steeper slopes.
Our highlight was a hike on the Clohesy River boardwalk to view the soaring strangler fig trees. These trees shoot their roots downward while also growing up toward the top of the forest canopy. They envelop the host tree and sometimes, as in the case of the giant we saw, kill it. This leaves a central cavity. In the case of the Clohesy strangler fig, it is big enough to provide a shelter for sleeping or a campfire. Of course, that’s not encouraged.
It’s easy to see how this tree could be the inspiration for the Tree of Life in the movie Avatar, a tidbit related by Warren. Just off the boardwalk, we could view a large earth mound that serves as a nest for the peculiar looking Australian Brush Turkey that we earlier saw along the road.
A Glimpse Of Prehistory
Sunlight filtered through the towering trees and ferns and exotic bird calls sounded from from somewhere in the foliage. The air was damp and fresh with wisps of mist rising skyward. It is easy to picture this as a prehistoric landscape.
As we emerged from the shade of the rainforest, we stopped at Copperlode Dam, where a scenic lake provides the water supply for Cairns. In the eucalyptus tree the Laughing Kookaburra had a perfect vantage point overlooking a beautiful Australian vista.
Daintree Rainforest is a World Heritage site and an outstanding attraction in the Cairns area of Queensland. It’s inspiring, rejuvenating and a reminder why stewardship of our earth’s resources is increasingly important.