Friday, August 21, 2009

Daintree -- world's oldest rainforest

The Daintree Rainforest starts about 40 kilometers north of Port Douglas and extends a great distance north and northwest. There is a small car ferry that takes you across a small river and from there onward you are in Daintree Rainforest. There is also something called a river train that takes you through some parts of the rainforest, but we did not do that and don't know exactly how it worked.

Much of the rainforest is accessible only with a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. Since we had rented an old van, we had to stick with the asphalt roads. And what narrow roads they were! With drop-offs that were camoflauged by the dense jungle growing right up the the edge of the road. But if you peered through the dense foliage you could see drops hundreds of feet down. Scary with oncoming trafic on the tight curves.

Daintree is the oldest rainforest in the world. It is estimated to be more than 500 million years old. So you can imagine the ecosystem contained in this special place. And the strange wildlife. Very unusual flora and fauna. There are numerous lodges within the part system and these are very popular with the backpackers. It is not possible to see even 10% of Daintree in one day so most people stay in one or more lodges whenever they visit the park. We were not going to stay in a lodge and our visit was limited to one afternoon, so we saw only a very small part of the rainforest. But it was enough for all of us. All that walking and climbing stairs with the kids wore us all out. I'm sure that Lynn was more tired than the rest of us since she had the baby strapped to her chest while walking all day. I got tired enough just carrying myself around; glad I wasn't also carrying a 10-12 pound baby. That has got to be a back breaker.

We stopped at a cafe in the rainforest for a quick lunch and then visited the walkway through the rainforest. I don't remember the name of this particular attraction, but it is the one that has an obversation tower. There are suspended walkways and raised walkways winding through the dense forest. It is pretty elaborate.

There are two sets of numbered signs posted every few feet along the various walkways. One set of numbers correlates with the written pamphlet that describes what you are looking at in that particular area. The other set of numbers is for an audio self-guided tour. We paid for 4 adults and 2 children, but that got us only 4 audio units for the self-guided tour. Guess they figure 8-year-old kids aren't capable of operating an audio unit hanging on a halyard around their necks. Elisabeth didn't want either a pamphlet or a headset, so she didn't care. But Zachary preferred the audio tour, so Bill was a nice grandfather and gave his unit to Zach. Bill read the pamphlet and the rest of us listened to the audio guide. Most of it was the same information, but sometimes one or the other would give something different.

In the center of the complex was a building with various information/computer stations. One of the more interesting was the information on Gondwana. This was the southern precursor-supercontinent that was comprised of what is now known as South America, Africa, Madagascar, Antarctica, India, other parts of South Asia, and Australia. At one time it even included Florida and most of Southern Europe. Look it up on Wikipedia for more info if you are interested.

We climbed the 5-level obversation tower, which affords views at various levels of the jungle canopy. Funny how different everything looks from above tree level vs. down at ground level.

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