Sunday, April 26, 2009
Easter Weekend Camping
We came to Cardwell to work, to put in as much possible work time for as many days possible over a two or three week period. The Easter weekend hurt our plans quite a bit by taking two perfectly good work days from us, or 1/5 of our planned income for this period. So now, given a four day weekend, we decided to make the most of it and explore the surrounding areas in a four day, three night camping trip. Little did we realize upon departing that we'd face storms, floods, multiple near-death experiences, and being stranded and left for dead atop a mountain in the middle of nowhere! And now, let the anecdotes begin!
We departed Friday afternoon after a much too slow start to the day. We enlisted the company of Sarah, one of our fellow prawn mutilators. Our first stop was the nearby Tully for much needed provisions. The Misty Mountains hiking trails 40km west beckoned to us. The name proved telling given the constant rainfall and foggy countryside. We passed the Tully River, famous for being Australia's top river rafting site. Sandy chugged up and down the hills and barely took us to our camp site. We arrived and it was deserted, a gate blocked the camp site and there was no pay box to be found. We let this deter us not, though we had little choice because darkess was swiftly approaching. After setting up camp, we huddled into a small picnic shelter and enjoyed dinner and a couple of beers while watching the rain fall around us.
Hanani and I went for a short walk to the river to investigate the area. Chatting away, we almost didn't notcie the snake right in our path! I saw it two seconds before Hanani's merely thonged foot came down upon it. He jumped back and the snake quickly scurried into the bushes. I don't know what kind of snake it ws, but for anecdotal purposes, we'll say it was deadly; they all are in Australia. We were lucky, 40 miles from civilization, out of cellphone range, and completely alone, any venomous snake bite would have proven fatal.
Hanani, Sarah, and I slept in the safety of Sandy's bed. It provided great shelter from the rain, but not the mosquitoes. It was also quite comfortable to cram three people into a twin bed. We made it work somehow. There is something soothing and beautiful about sleeping in the middle of the rainforest. So much life surrounds you everywhere, the plants, the birds, the insects. It fills the spirit with such energy and peace. We also had the peaceful sound of the flowing river to woo us to sleep.
The next day, we went for a 10km hike to Elizibeth Grant Falls. The hike itself was not too interesting, although we saw another of the same snake as the day earlier cross our path. We also encountered a small mammal, my guess is a wombat, but it ran to the bushes before I got too good of a look.
After arriving at the waterfal, the hike proved well worth it. Elizibeth Grant Falls has a stunning view of the water pouring from the mountain, only to drop 500ft into the rainforest below. We sat for a while and enjoyed the view until Eline spotted something lurking the bushes.
"Cassowarra!" she cried.
We had joked with each other for the past two days about seeing the elusive cassowary, so we didn't actually believe her cries. The Southern cassowary is a highly endangered bird that only resides in Northern Queensland. Standing six feet tall, with a yellow fin atop its blue tatooed face, the cassowary is the emu's bad-ass punk brother. It is more than just its looks that gives this description. It is equipped with giant sharp claws that can easily disembowel a person with one swipe. It runs at incredible speeds as well. Given that it is one of the few birds to have actually killed people, this flightless monster is ofter considered the world's most dangerous bird. Sadly, deforestation, hunting, and cars have reduced their numbers to under 2,000. They don't often attack people, only if you have food or if you prove a threat to their babies.
Crouching down low, eating my peanut butter sandwich, I saw that Eline's cry was true; just through the bushes a mere ten feet away stood two cassowaries. I looked at my sandwich then cramed it quickly into my mouth. Watching the cassowaries stilly and silently, I saw one move slightly to reveal three chicks. This got my heart pumping. We waited without moving or talking, making sure the park bench was between us and the birds, or dinosaurs by the look of it. The big one, probably the father creeped towards us, with an inquisitive look. It stared us down for a few minutes before turning around and heading deeper into the woods with its family. Relieved, we all pulled out our other sandwich and continued lunch.
Our day was much less excited after that. We drove 1.5 hours to the coastal town of Mission Beach. My friends had stayed at a campsite in town two weeks earlier that was quiet and basically deserted. We arrived to a full house. Four large local families converged at the site every Easter Weekend. They were a good grouple of people. It rained a bit and they helped us out by lending us a tarp and some rope. They introduced us to ghost crab hunting. At night, crabs take over the beaches. Armed with torches and a bucket, we roused them and caputured them. I didn't prove to have much aptitude for the sport.
The next morning, we headed to the Sunday markets where I decided to buy every fruit I had never seen before. The results of my random fruit sampling will be posted in a future blog.
Our original plan was to hit up Josephine Falls and climb Bartle Frere, the tallest mountain in Queensland, though we didn't trust Sandy to take us further North. Instead, we head South towards Cardwell and then to the nearby Wallaman Falls, the tallest single drop waterfall in Australia. The road to the falls was a continuous steep switchback up a mountain. Sandy started strong, but slowly started deteriorating. She climbed and climbed as hard as she could, but it didn't take long before she really started struggling. Then she died and wouldn't start again. We were stranded on a mountain on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.
We rolled backwards down the hill for a kilometer to a parking area for overheating vehicles. After setting up an illegal camp and a pot of hot soup in the rain, we hit the sack.
The next morning, we decided to end our journey. Sandy started fine and got us home safe.