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Saturday, March 14: Day 327 – Where The Rainforest Meets the Reef

For our readers: we are back safe and sound in Cincinnati and there is much going on. I will try to finish the posts of our trip in the next few days. Thanks to all for your prayers and concern. God is in control.

Today we had an all day tour of the Daintree National Forest. Here is Rob waiting to be picked up at our hotel.

It is quite unusual for a rainforest to be right next to an ocean and nearby reef. There are different climate zones crammed into a small area. In most places one needs to drive one day and a half to reach a different climate.

The Rain Forest in Australia is twice as diverse as the Amazon. There are two types of forest – tropical rain forest and cloud forest. The cloud forest is not as diverse.

Our guide is Richard Koser. Richard used to work all over the world writing publications for the United Nations. He had many stories. Aussies love to mess with tourists about dangerous animals. The drop bear is a big one.

There may have been a drop bear at one time as several indigenous tribes have stories about a bear that lived in the trees that would ambush and bite your head off. There was an extinct marsupial lion that could climb trees. Indigenous stories go back to the end of the last ice age.

There is this nasty tasting spread called vegemite. It is brown, made from yeast, and contains a high amount of vitamin B. Richard says that it keeps mosquitos away. I asked if him if I should wear it. We only tell gullible tourists that part. Eating it provides protection.

Australia is the only country that eats their national animal the kangaroo.

The tree kangaroo lives here and is the only hopper that can use its legs independently.

I came across this interesting website which talks about species that were once seen.

Search for Lost Species

This area is called the wet tropics as opposed to Darwin where they have the wet dry tropics. Tropical North or Queensland North or The Cape gets sea breezes and fresh water.

The Wet Tropics of Queensland is listed as a Heritage site by UNESCO. Rain is expected 12 months per year. Last year they had an unprecedented 200 inches. Some years there has been less rain. Extremes are predicted for the future. Only half of the water in rain reaches the ground.

Cloud Stripping

The trees serve the ecosystem as part of the water resources of the area. Clouds are often low enough to enshroud the tops of trees and collect on the leaves and stems and become part of the throughfall, the water that drips to the forest floor and trickles down the trunks of the trees. It has been estimated to be as much as 30%, most of which reaches the streams and rivers.

Port Douglas

In 1872 Port Douglas was an entry point to get to the gold fields. It was the easiest, safest way, not necessarily the shortest way. It was a major city for the first 30 years.

In 1911, a cyclone flattened the town. Back then, hurricanes didn’t have names or at least it was sporadic.

When Did Cyclones Start Getting Named?

Cyclone Name Trivia

Mossman Gorge

Around 200 indigenous people live in the Mossman Gorge. Roy Gibson acts as an official spokesman for the indigenous community. The main group is Kuku Yalanji (k is pronounced like a swallowed g)

Sugar Cane is grown here. There are 1,200 types of trees in Mossman Gorge. Queensland has the highest deforestation rate in the world, greater than Brazil.

There are not many nutrients in the soil of the rain forest. Plants will stop their growth, but when sunlight reaches them, they start to grow.

The trees in the rain forest are knitted together so there is less damage during tropical storms. They don’t get forest fires here because it is damp. In reality, Aussies can’t stop fires, they can only try to protect property.

Calamus australis, commonly known as lawyer cane, is a climbing palm endemic to Queensland. It is called lawyer cane because once it gets its hooks on you it doesn’t let go. It has numerous hooks along its leaf sheath, along its leaves, and a long whiplike flagellum stretching out to 10 feet.

Richard told us about a bicyclist who was riding down a path and went by this plant, and it snagged him right off his bike and threw him into the forest against a tree! He broke his collar bone and was severely hurt. That must have been a shock.

A strangler fig surrounds the host tree and sucks nutrients from it. They are quite big, old and have unique shapes. One was used as the home tree in Avatar.

The host tree dies and the termites arrive. Termite scat is crucial to the rainforest soil. Also, when they hollow out the interior dead tree, it provides shelter for other animals.

As we walk along the trail made from shredded tires, we come across a Boyd’s Forest Dragon. It is unusual that he didn’t move.

This area has pesky March flies that remind me of our biting horse flies. However, if you kill one, you must bury the corpse because, if not, it will attract more March flies.

Snakes like to live amongst the many orchids. They use the leaves to form a basket.

We didn’t see one, but there is a corpse flower that has an odor of rotting flesh and only blooms every ten years…thank goodness.

Yalada is the indigenous word of
greeting and goodbye. The emphasis is on the first syllable.

Mossman Gorge has been in existence for seven years and is 98% run by the local indigenous people.

The local traditional land owners noted that they needed to control the number of visitors that were coming to the wet tropics. They gathered all the tribes to make a collective decision on how to best accomplish this. It took six years of discussions, meetings, and dividing responsibilities. After that it took the federal government 14 years to to come to an agreement and act. The political process is slow and ineffective. The current party had three prime ministers passing 14 different renewable energy laws.

The Mossman Visitors Center houses an educational and vocational training center for remote indigenous communities to learn skills to take back to their communities or find jobs in cities.

Traditional meeting places and meeting times would start by talking about families and looking for a connection. This determines whether they can marry or not or even talk to each other or not. They bring a message stick to announce their arrival. It is like a white flag or coming in peace. Wars were rare. Any low level conflicts were over the issue of women. They would steal wives. Often arranged marriages meant that men had to be 25 before they married. A man must be fully initiated. There are many stages, taking 25 years to complete. They would get impatient due to a 40 year life expectancy in the past. Today they are living longer.

Arranged marriages were done early since the man feeds the family of his future wife for many years.

There is distrust of government officials. Racism is a concern. Many people claim to have Aboriginal descendants, but it’s hard to prove. These DNA testing kits don’t readily test for Aboriginal descendants because Aboriginals don’t contribute their blood for a data base. Phrenology and social Darwinism are a sad part of their past.

Peter Dutton who is the Minister for Home Affairs in Australia had tested positive for COVID-19. Our guide, Richard, said with a laugh that he hopes that the virus is ok. “He is not well liked.”

Daintree River

We rode a ferry from the south bank to the north bank of the Daintree River. Before we got on the boat, we had tea and a Lamington, an Australian cake.

We were in search of the dominant male crocodile named Scarface. Crocodiles hang out under the trees where bats are collecting because the branches in the apple tree mangrove get so heavy that they snap and fall into the water. It is like hamburgers on a tree.

As we are looking for these beasts, our captain said we were likely to spot many rockodiles, stickodiles, logodiles! Ha!

The bone above the eye senses sound great distances. The dominant male will eat anything that is in his river.

And there he is.

If they kill a cow, it’s off to the handbagger, or if they are lucky, a crocodile farm. Usually the skin of a wild crocodile is all banged up so it doesn’t make for good accessories.

In the Daintree River the more docile freshwater crocodiles (freshies) are gone and only the more aggressive saltwater crocodiles (salties) remain.

Female crocodiles will make a mud and leaf litter nest and lay 40 to 60 porous eggs. She urinates on top of the nest that heats up and starts incubation. Snakes can eat the eggs.

In about 90 days during a full moon and when she hears squeaking, she will come dig up the nest and lead them to water where they are fully on their own. Only 1 to 2 will reach adulthood…maybe because the mom and everything else will eat them.

They can grow up to 21 feet long. Their swimming speed is about 20 mph, and they can travel up to 60 miles.

Mangroves means salt tolerant trees. Seventy-five percent of the fish spend time in a mangrove, therefore, it is protected. There are 42 of the 68 species of mangroves trees in the world here.

A small crocodile can take one’s finger off. At last count several years ago, there were 300 to 400 adults in the river.

Crocodiles have 86 teeth and they usually grow back. Scarface has only two teeth left, but his powerful jaws can rip off the legs of cow.

The spikes on their backs are called scoots and can give the age of a crocodile as it has rings like a tree.

One tree has long green-bean-type spears. The seeds germinate in the pod. They fall into the water and land in the soft silt and start to grow.

In Jan 26, 2019, they had 40″ of rain in 12 hours. The ferry runs on a cable. It snapped during the flood.

Crocodiles like to hang around the ferry. The boat stirs up the silt so the crocodiles follow it. When we got to the landing dock, the captain suggested that we hurry to the car. She didn’t need to tell me twice!!

Crocodile Attacks

Never stand at the water’s edge. Eighty percent of crocodile attacks involve one of these three factors. If more than one, the odds increase.

  1. Alcohol
  2. After dark
  3. In summer

There are more crocodiles today since hunting was stopped in the 1970’s.

Daintree National Park

Daintree National Forest has the highest concentration of ancient plants in the world.

The northern zone of this national park is home to the cassowary, an ancient giant flightless bird. They are only found here and in New Guinea. There are about 200 adult cassowaries in the Daintree, but we didn’t see one. They are more active when it’s raining.

Cassowaries can easily overheat. Their helmet is porous to help with cooling. The feathers are more like fur.

They hate dogs and will seek them out. One would not want to walk a dog in this park.

Cassowaries can kill you so you never want to feed one. They would not like it when you run out of food. Also, it is a problem for the next people that encounter them as they have a good memory.

They respect height so if you come across one put your hands up over your head. Clap and yell. Don’t turn and run away. They are faster. People have been killed.

The bigger females live on their own. Both sexes have identical plummage. They mate for a couple of weeks five times per year. She lays about six eggs and leaves. The male sits on the nests for 2 months.

When the father leaves them, they become confused with a solitary life.

The young are completely independent at 2½ years. As they grow, their color changes and the wattle comes in. The rise in the helmet grows as they age. The helmet is used for identification.

A low “dum dum” is the noise that they make to communicate. They eat all types of fruits which helps to disperse seeds. They can eat anything even stuff that would kill us.

If you need to survive in the wild, don’t watch what the birds eat. Instead observe the rats as we have similar digestive systems. That is why they are used in science experiments.

Richard pointed out a section he called a swamp. “What makes this a swamp?” I asked.

The swamp does not have as many big trees or vines. The land dips lower and has been poisoned by salt due to king tides.

King tides

James Cook University has a satellite campus in the area that studies tropical medicine. They took their sign down because people have a “sticky beak”. I guess that means they are nosey.

Jamie Seymour is an Australian toxicologist. He works with all the venomous Australian animals. Watch his YouTube about jellyfish:

James Cook was the first European to survey this land. He scraped the boat and had to ground it. He named this area Cape Tribulation as this is where his troubles began. It took two months for winds to change.

Kolki means meeting place where representatives from indigenous families convene for rulings and judgments. Judgments were not lethal, but punishments were scars obvious to others for the rest of their lives. A special tool with a leaf-shaped blade would be put into the thigh. Wound care is then carried out. The crime may have been eating the wrong type of food. This would certainly be an effective diet aid.

We walked around while Richard prepared our picnic lunch.

Orange footed scrub fowl make huge nests that reach over your head. These compost heaps incubate the eggs and are reused. The male watches over the nest. Within five weeks the male listens for the peeps and digs out the chick. The chick is ready to fly the day it hatches.

The Australian bush turkey also has a similar life cycle.

Shallow water is not good for swimming as there are blue spot stingrays, crocodiles, and jellyfish.

One woman went into the ocean with a hooded swimsuit. A small jellyfish got caught in the hood and stung her in the back. She was in such immense pain and had a sense of impending doom for the entire world. She was unconscious for five days and had no recollection of the event. Organ damage is common.

The white tailed rat will often live inside a coconut which is very hard. These rats can even eat through a coffee tin.

Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkparta is an interesting book that Richard recommended.

Dead Heart is a contemporary comedy film set in the heart of Australia starring an amazing actor who is indigenous.

Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey starred in an Australian movie called Fool’s Gold.

Richard was an extra but he did not receive a credit mention or money. He said that it was a bad movie but the catering was awesome. He gained 20 lbs. in 7 weeks.

Steve Irwin was prounced dead on Low Isles. After he was stung by a stingray, they brought him there since an emergency helicopter could land.

This island is the head of the serpent. (One of many “heads” in Australia.) First People’s Creation time stories which are based on the serpent are not linear.

Eighty years ago, Daintree village was a logging town. Red cedar was known as red gold. Twice a day with the tides, logs were floated upstream on the river. There are people who hoarded the wood to this day that was cut down in the 1950’s and kept it as an investment.

There are lots of cattle but no dairies. It is too hot. The breed is called Brangus which is a cross between Angus and Branham. Branham cattle can withstand the heat.

Daintree Ice Cream Company

We ate ice cream flavored with local ingredients. They only took cash. Note the ATM.

The Mamu are deep rain forest people. When white people first encountered them, they weren’t sure if they were human. They were small, had frizzy hair, had yellow-orange skin color and had fur on their bodies. These were all traits of the undernourished.

David Attenborough’s favorite spot on earth is north Queensland. His last work in the field was about the Great Barrier Reef.

Cassowary Falls

We took a jeep deep into the property of a cattle station where there was a hidden waterfall. After we swam, we fed the fish and turtles.

As we were leaving the waterfall, we saw a Golden Orb Spider. The female is 200x the size of the male. If she happens to detect him, she will eat him. Otherwise, he goes unnoticed during mating.

The anglerfish is also very small and the male attaches to the gonads of the female. It is more of a parasite.

Angler Fish

The Jeep didn’t start so we walked back. Richard was not wearing shoes.

Aboriginal Art

I thought that all Aboriginal Art was covered with dots. That is only from the area around Uluru and is actually a recent development.

Around Darwin their drawings of people and animals are like x-ray and are painted into bark. This isn’t done much anymore as preparing the bark is a long process.

In the northwest, the paintings are big but contain little detail.

Voice, Treaty, Truth

About four years ago the indigenous nations met in Uluru to discuss their needs. Out of that came Voice Treaty Truth.


They wanted a voice in Parliament. Currently, there are two indigenous members out of 220 in the Parliment. They wanted a say in anything that dealt with the land.


Europeans arrived and claimed this “empty” land thinking that it belonged to no one. No treaties are on record.


A public and all encompassing apology for what was, is, and continues to be done to the indigenous people of Australia. This includes the time period known as the Stolen Generation. There have been 12 generations of 300 nations since the Europeans arrived. Their families are fractured!

Government Response: Australian high court would not agree to all three and just moved a little on voice by offering an Advisory Committee.

Indigenous response: We’ll wait for all three.

Sixty-give percent of the Australian people agree to all three but the party that is currently in power represents the other 35%.

The New Zealand Treaty of Waitangi had two different versions; an English one and a Māori one. They were not translated correctly. The Māori of New Zealand speak the same language.

Most signed a Māori-language version. Chiefs signed the treaty because they wanted to control the sale of Māori land to Europeans European settlers. They also wanted to trade with Europeans and believed the new relationship with Britain would stop fighting the between tribes.

Signs of the Times

This sign warns of crocodiles ahead. See Rob?

Relief for stingers!! It is jellyfish season…all year long!!

Funny cassowary crossing sign and bump sign that has been colored to look like a dead cassowary.

An ice cream store featuring the name Dave and features flavors every Dave of the Week saying “What a difference a Dave makes!

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