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Going north on a south bound safari.

AUSTRALIA | Monday, 15 December 2008 | Views [2128]

A croc gets airborne for its lunch before becoming a burger and handbag combination at the sanctuary / meat farm.

A croc gets airborne for its lunch before becoming a burger and handbag combination at the sanctuary / meat farm.

Easily earned, easier spent. With no particular goal entertaining my imagination, hoarding my savings seemed counter productive to me personally solving the world economic crisis. Not much was happening in Cairns, except for some hobo picking a fight with me for being in the wrong or right place at a time too early or too late for his satisfaction.

Most people left Bowen loaded with cash and headed to Airlie Beach. They would then head further south a few days later broke, hungover and crawling with bed bugs. We were the exception by going north aiming to be broke and hungover as well, but at least seeing something different. Too rich to look into self travel, my new travel mates in Shane and Kei joined me in booking a 2 night trip to Cape Tribulation.

Friday night saw Shane and I go to great lengths to make drunken fools of ourselves. A rushed pack after three hours sleep and we were more than regretful enough to wish we hadn't gone to any length to get drunk. Barely out of Cairns and our guide revealed his stereotypical Australian side. He started off charming and funny. A few suspect jokes about female genitalia later and his dirty old man credentials came to the fore. (Stereotypically Australian or stereotypically me?) He enumerated many uninteresting rain forest stories that bored Shane and Kei to sleep within five minutes. Kei wasn't to wake again until we arrived at Mossman Gorge. A quick sprint through the bush, more inane facts and unfunny jokes then back on the bus with about three photos to show for our trouble.

By 1pm we were dropped off at a hostel our booking agent believed would best suit our tastes. It seems he read us as well as a deaf and blind mute would. Staff welcomed us with an attitude of utter contempt and the first patrons we encountered were a gathering of loud and drunk Australians, admittedly the most common situation to find them in.

We spent the day in the pool as it was as wet as the surrounding air but slightly cooler. We had moved on from the constant sheen of moisture that Bowen and Cairns encouraged out of the body, to find the weather there was hotter still to produce permanent and profuse rivers of sweat. Smelling funky and feeling dehydrated, we passed up partying with the all day drunks and invested our energy in cooking. That would have been a more productive endeavour if the kitchen was stocked with more than a few hot plates and a vegetable peeler. No plates, bowls, cutlery or anything that might be deemed necessary to cooking or eating. The meal that resulted from the most awkward and cuss-riddled preparation in history was far beyond expectations but even further from satisfaction.

Our only full day in Cape Tribulation started with a long walk to a swimming hole. A real stroke of luck really as we were actually trying to find a boardwalk through the mangroves. A couple of back stinging flops into a fresh water creek and we headed off to find the boardwalk one wrong turn closer to our destination. We eventually found it signposted like a Vegas casino from the opposite side to the one we initially approached from. A lazy and languid stroll was then enjoyed while Shane and Kei scared off all wildlife by poking each other with sticks and trying to prove which one of them was the most gay.

After another night avoiding revelers drunker than we cared to strive for, we went for another walk the following morning. A lookout on Cape Tribulation itself was promoted in the tourist literature as a place well worth losing three litres of sweat to visit. A signpost detailing the fifty metre walk up the slightest of inclines had alarm bells ringing early. The viewing platform happened to sit a paltry five or so metres from the beach being perched just above the canopy growing at sea level. The uninspiring view of a rather average Cape Tribulation beach framed by mangroves was easily surpassed by the rain forest covered hill that loomed behind the platform and taunted the observer with far better but inaccessible viewing spots. Circling around the Cape we scrambled over some rocks seeking a better justification for the days sun burn and dehydration. A Brahminy Kite sat as silent sentinel over the best vantage point and escaped my envious eyes. The beating of its large tawny wings slapped the air like loud heartbeats as it left us to find a tree branch less exposed to incredulous and sweaty pink flesh puppets like us. It was the most peaceful spot of the whole weekend but after five minutes our bodies over rode any conscious choice to seek out the pools cool, chlorinated cure for the claustrophobic climate.

On the way back to Cairns we did another forest walk / run through in record time while listening to a different guide share the very same rain forest facts but a different array of jokes that failed to illicit any laughter. A crocodile spotting cruise on the Daintree river became another discussion on trees when the crocs failed to pose for the camera or appear at all. Being cold blooded they are literally and figuratively 'on heat' in the summer and use the time to get down to business away from any humans voyeuristic curiosity.

I was determined to see the one creature that inspires equal measures of wonderment and underwear endangering fear. So back in Cairns we hired a car and made a 40 km trip to Hartley's crocodile sanctuary. Feeding time was amazing as a few four and half metre monsters flew out of their watery camouflage to snap fish from a keepers fingers right in front of my nose. One keeper even strove for eternal moron status by getting in the enclosure to reclaim a fish that 'Big Louie' had overlooked in the confusion of catching fish on land instead of under water.

My first sighting of a cassowary was somewhat anti climactic. Constantly circulating stories of disembowelments and savage slashings had me visualising a towering bundle of aggression dwarfing prehistoric proportions. Approaching the enclosure to see a docile overgrown feather duster clucking around like a domestic chicken stopped me in my tracks. Out of disappointment I made the following observation after closer inspection of the bird. The middle toes are indeed menacing claws capable of claiming a vital organ or two. Their stature is topped by an emus, the head is a smurf caricature gone horribly wrong and their jowls are the most elongated old-mans-ball-sack looking monstrosity I've ever feared being witness to. At least the menace of a man eating crocodile was barely diminished by such a close proximity impossible in the wild. The purpose of the visit was well fulfilled and justified the increasing speed with which I fly towards poverty like a long lost friend. Rockhampton is the next destination and Cairns proved to be a very good place to burn some hard(ly) earned Bowen cash.


Tags: beaches & sunshine, friends, on the road, relaxation, sight seeing

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