to the top end.
We had our first yank visitor last month- Mr. Santilli spent his 4th of July jetlagged in Melbourne like any good patriot should. Kels was in the States and Ory was not participating in the blog so her details shall not be revealed, so Tony and I headed North.
First stop: Sydney. Victorians say the only good thing out of Sydney is the road to Melbourne, and I’m sure there is a bit of truth to that- but the harbour is gorgeous even on a rainy day. The cafes, opera house, harbour bridge, and royal botanical gardens are all worth seeing. The nightlife is apparently world class, but after dedicating 5 years of my life to Athens Ohio my standards are pretty high.
We flew into Cairns in the Far North Queensland from Sydney- they call it the gateway to the Barrier Reef, but there isn’t even a beach there (the mudflats up to the esplanade are known for bird watching but I mean really…bird watching?) If you ever fly into Cairns, do yourself a favor and have the rental car waiting at the air port-all the fun stuff is up north. Palm Cove is about 20 kilometers up the Captain James Cook highway (the british explorer who ran his ship “the endeavour” aground on the barrier reef in 1770- more on him later). Absolutely beautiful, in the rainforest and right on the beach, but like everywhere in far north Queensland-the water isn’t really for swimming. Stingers and crocs are everywhere.
From Palm Cove we headed North to Port Douglas where most of the ships launch for outer barrier reef dives. The coral dates back 18 million years, and there we were swimming in it alongside eels and minke whales. Cape Tribulation is situated in the Daintree National Forest (the worlds oldest rainforest), and is only accessible during the dry season. There is one road that goes through this part of Queensland, and it’s only paved part of the way. Cape Trib was renamed by our old friend Captain Cook- it was known as Kurangee by Aborigines for thousands of years. I can’t imagine how many bottles of rum he killed before he ran over the barrier reef and spent the next months living amongst the Aborigines. It’s like Jurassic park there. Crocs and Cassowarys have survived for millions of years, the rainforest plant life is 120 million years old. I can't even wrap my mind around that.
Mt. Sorrow is a rainforest hike that is described in local guides as “for persons of moderate fitness”. Tony and I thought it would be a perfect way to explore the rainforest. So did Daniel Nute, a British backpacker who in 1997 filled out the same bush hiker forms we did to help searchers in the event that you didn’t return. His body was never found. We limped out of the rainforest with leaches in our shoes and a new found respect for free climbers and jungle people.
Most of the land in far north is still reserved for Aborigines. A far cry from the Native American reservations the US so lovingly set aside for its Natives. To equally offend everyone however, as recently as the 1960’s, Queensland schools used textbooks that described Aborigines as “feral jungle creatures”. They weren’t even included in the national census. Civilization is so uncivilized. Captain cook detailed his time with the aborigines in his journals: “ They may appear to some to be the most wretched people on earth, but in reality they are far happier than we Europeans. They live in a tranquility which is not disturbed by the inequality of condition: the earth and the sea of their own accord furnish them with all things necessary for life…they seemed to set no value upon anything we gave them, nor would they ever part with anything of their own.” In no aboriginal language is there a word for “yesterday” or “tomorrow”. They just exist. And that’s pretty cool.