Rain Forests and Coral Reefs – Days 2 & 3
Australia has a fearsome reputation as regards customs. Television programmes on British TV have ‘fly on the wall’ coverage of passengers opening their bags to divulge a pig’s head in aspic or snake testicle powder being confiscated as a health risk. With some excitement we were advised about a camera crew from Channel Seven filming another episode on landing at Melbourne. We did actually see the cameraman shooting and a customs officer wading through the suitcases of a traveller. He was probably in the process of giving up various body parts of pickled goat for the bin and receiving a large fine.
The journey continued as we had a further flight up to Cairns. This was a c1,500 mile domestic shuttle with Australian holiday makers heading north. At Cairns was the collection of the hire car. Previous experience has taught me not to select the smallest, cheapest car. It took a few missteps to learn this. I’d plumped for a Nissan Duke or equivalent. Imagine unalloyed joy when the key fob bore the BMW logo. Due to a shortage of motors I got an upgrade to an X3. Anna was less excited by my good fortune as I kept minimal attention on the road as I paired the iPhone with the car’s Bluetooth and looked for Car Play. This latter facility immediately enables the phone’s Sat Nav, music, UK radio and telephone. The first stop was to buy a SIM card for our stay. For $30 (£17) I got 40GB of data and free calls back to the UK. From here it was a drive of about an hour up to Port Douglas.
We let ourselves into the flat and attempted to stave off going to bed until, in my case, 7pm! The next morning started at some time after 4am and shortly thereafter Anna revealed the day’s itinerary. It was heading north to the Daintree National Park. To get to there we had to take a ferry for 150 metres crossing of an estuary. For this we paid $45 (£25) for a return ticket! Clearly there must have been an error as I never meant to buy a share of the ferry company.
At the Daintree Discovery Centre we had a long conversation with a native (disappointingly not wearing a wide brimmed hat with corks on strings hanging down) about his move from Melbourne, his fireman grandfather from Hackney and his inexplicable enthusiasm for Arsenal. We ascended to walk a steel platform in the rain forest canopy. The graphics and accompanying audio explained the plants and animals that grew or lived here. It was very educational and thought provoking. The threat to cut down these forests globally is heartbreaking. (Australia would never contemplate such a thing.) The forests helpfully absorb CO2, have unknown, as of yet, medicinal properties in the plants and many unique species of animal. If the alternative is logging back to bare ground for cereal farming and cattle ranching it’s a terrible, irreversible, waste.
However, as with all these natural world plights there are people involved. The average life span of an indigenous native in a rain forest is probably 20 or 30 years short of those in ‘civilisation’ and in those years they receive poor health care, little education and live in difficult environments of flooding, cyclones and diminishing stocks of food and space. The possibly patronising misty eyed view of their being ‘one with nature’ and ‘living the dream’ doesn’t wash. Imagine living in the 13th Century in your current location knowing what the 21st offers despite it’s tribulations? Clutching my hurting head with such profound thoughts we visited the beaches nearby and they looked like film sets for ‘Castaway’.
The next day saw us take to the water. We set sail for an hour and a half from Port Douglas to see the coral off the beach of Low Isles, so named by Captain James Cook. The catamaran had over 50 tourists on board. It was a brilliant day. The boat was luxurious and the crew fabulous. It appeared nothing was too much trouble and customer service was the name of the game. When we got there we were fitted out with snorkel, flippers, lycra suit, mask and in my case a life jacket. (Tony’s a poor swimmer and the crew decided in the sea I’d be best to have some buoyancy! By comparison Anna is part fish.) The lycra suit was mandatory to avoid jellyfish stings: ‘tis the season apparently.
The coral was beautiful as we hovered above it. I drank probably as much sea water as the fish as I took some time to work out the top of the snorkel pipe should not be put in the water. There were many different types of coral and lots of tropical fish of many varied colours and sizes. I have to say it was just like the many documentaries I’m sure you’ve seen. Wonderful.
When we got back to boat we had a splendid buffet lunch and then went out again on the sea in a glass bottomed boat to see more coral and fish. Amongst the party were Americans and the question was asked ‘what species was Nemo?’ Other questions included ‘could you hunt any of the turtles?’ At this point I felt I could have made a living selling tickets for this dialogue.
Anyway to the accompaniment of live music we returned to shore. That’s another ambition ticked off.
2 thoughts on “Australia & New Zealand 2023”
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Thank you. Getting cooler as we get further south. Lots to come. xxx