Tuesday, 03 July 2012
Daintree Country, Ozzie Style
Rex and I started traveling as grey nomads, caravan style, back in the early nineties. We were complete novices. I refrain from saying absolute idiots as we learned from our mistakes and fortunately no great harm was done to anyone.
The regular arguments when first getting the hang of all the do’s and don’ts of caravaning became a form of released tension in spite of which, we did have a lot of fun.
Traveling around Australia, we realise now, is like trying to conquer the world a country at a time. Each and every state has its own lifestyle and language. All Australian states have English as first language, but that doesn’t prepare travelers for the local idiom.
Southern Queensland conversational English differs greatly from Northern Queensland and that’s just one state. Also, each state seems to have inherent dangers, surf beaches and erratic tides and rips. Cane toads, snakes, cone fish, blue ringed octopus and box jelly fish and don’t forget the midgies all quite unpleasant in their own special way.
Plus the erratic wandering onto highways and byways of our native protected animals which leads to much road kill and frequent accidents. We were lucky, yet had many close misses. But it was the Crocodile we learned to fear most.
Once you cross the Tropic of Capricorn at Rockhampton when traveling up the east coast, the signage starts. We regularly saw “Beware of Crocodile” signs and were amused by them, as most were at the end of jetties or piers where children regularly swam. We would actually sit and watch the kids, having such fun jumping in and bombing each other.
The further north we traveled, the signs became a lot more frequent and we became quite complacent about them. After three months of casual traveling, we reached Port Douglas.
Our plan was to leave our caravan in the park at Port Douglas and continue on to Cooktown in our Landcruiser four-wheel drive. We would drive to Daintree where we would catch a ferry to cross the Daintree River, then travel further north to Cape Tribulation, an idyllic spot right on the coast of southern Cape York Peninsula.
We then would ford the Bloomfield River in the “Cruiser” and take on the final leg up the Bloomfield Track to Cooktown. I was not, at that early stage of this marvelous adventure, overly involved in the finer points of traveling, leaving all of that to Rex. Of course, I found out later, he had little idea at all of what we were embarking upon.
However, I had read in the Cairns local newspapers that on a number of occasions small pets disappeared from places close to rivers and it was simply assumed the “crocs” got them. A bloke in a pub told us in conversation that we were “mad not to be traveling with a dog, as it makes sense to let the dog run free if you’re fishing off a river bank. If anything happens, you just go and get another dog.” he said.
We weren’t impressed at this advice but he also suggested we should go to the local crocodile farm in Cairns “to learn about what to lookout for.”
We did this and came away with a much healthier respect for the wily crocodile and it’s devious behaviour. The words of the song Never Smile At a Crocodile made a lot more sense then.
We prepared for the trip to Cooktown and made the first leg of the journey through Mossman to Daintree. It was all that we had expected - small town, lush tropical forest and humid and hot as hell as it was the end of September and the feel of the imminent wet season was in the air.
We had some time to fill in so we decided to throw a line into the Daintree River, so keen were we to catch an elusive barramundi. Always wanting to be the first to catch anything when fishing, Rex and I were very competitive.
There was a small kiosk at the river bank so we bought sandwiches and decided to give the ice cream a miss even though they said on sign out the front that it was “the best in FNQ (Far North Queensland).” It would have melted too quickly.
We drove down to a track winding along the river bank looking for a likely spot to fish. We eventually found a quiet stretch of grassy bank which was not too steep, already thinking about landing a barra easily with the help of a hand net.
There were some “snags” in the river, which we were positive would be the perfect spot for a barra or two. Also close enough to reach with a good cast.
We excitedly ate our lunch whispering to each other as fishermen do mainly, I think, because these out-of-the-way spots are so quiet and peaceful, a loud conversation would fracture the beauty and, of course, “fish startle easily” I’ve been told.
We were excited, well prepared and had finally reached a major destination on this first big trip up north.
What transpired next, I recorded as a poem after this first effort to catch a barramundi. We were both so unnerved about where we finally were and when I saw Rex was more anxious to stand and watch me fish first, made me even more nervous, realising he was concerned about the crocs. But I didn’t expect him to be so obvious in his desire to save himself first.
Thankfully we didn’t encounter one here, but the lessons learned at the crocodile farm were very useful as we continued our travels. Sadly, we didn’t catch a barra at Daintree.
Barra Fishing at Daintree
At last, we'd made it up to Daintree
the famous barramundi spot,
we had a couple of real beaut lures
to give the barra a shot,
but the signs were all around us
the warnings about the crocs,
on the river bank, the estuary
even outside the ice cream shop.
Anyhow, we found a quiet stretch of bank
and had a real good look around,
for any telltale “croccy tracks
but nothing could be found,
we rigged our lines and ventured forth,
then Rexy said with a sly old smile,
“You go first love, you try out your lure,
I'll stand back and watch a while!”
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