Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

Wonga Beach looking south

Wonga Beach looking north

The ferry over the Daintree River

View from Alexander Range lookout

The walk on the Jindalbu Boardwalk

Boyd's Forest Dragon

A rainforest basket weaver plant

The canopy of the rainforest

A lesser spotted lurker plant

View of the canopy tower

Our campside neighbours on Wonga Beach


Jeff

The caravan park was basic and clean with the vans in quite close proximity to each other. An extension lead was provided for me as there was a shortage of power points, though plenty of sockets on the ones that were there. The lack of personal space by the van was more than compensated for by the easy access to the beach, just a few yards through palm trees. Interesting rainforest trees were at the end of the site. The site was cheap and the camaraderie was high, with most meeting under shelter at 5pm for an evening drink. It was easy to understand why some travellers stay here for several months.

After enjoying our first evening, we drove north to the ferry to enter the Daintree proper. Once across the ferry, the road became narrow and twisting and the drive up hill to the lookout was challenging. At our time of travel all vehicles were going into the Daintree. The high lookout provided good views but the vegetation prevented the opportunity for good photographs. Unfortunately I was not allowed to cut down the growth; don't they realise we need good photographs for the blog site?

At the bottom of the long winding hill we turned right and past the Daintree Discovery Centre to visit the Jindalba boardwalk. The longer walk needed repair after the rainy season so we had to settle for the shorter rainforest half mile board walk. Following along behind us on this nice leisurely walk was a couple with their personal guide; posh eh! We asked him about a bird sound we had heard. This thrilled him as he could tell his clients all about how the Wompoo Pigeon had just returned to the area for the season. In return he took us back 30 yards to point out a Boyd's Forest Dragon on the side of a tree we had past by within 5 feet. You would have thought it would have coughed or something.

After the walk we went to the Daintree Discovery Centre which is quite unique. It provides an excellent introduction to this remarkable pocket of rainforest. Built in 1989, it is a private enterprise and monies from entry fees are devoted to the ongoing development of the Centre. With 'Advanced Eco Tourism' accreditation, the Centre is widely recognised as a leader in the field of eco-tourism. Well maintained elevated walkways and 'state of the art' audio guides allow visitors, of all ages, easy access to the information of this unique rainforest wilderness. Now all that is a lot to live up, to and it did. Well all except the Canopy Tower, I'm not sure about the easy access for this.

The cost of entry allowed us to return for a whole week and as we had hired audio equipment, we got this to use each time we returned. The audio was like a long TV remote control. After punching in the appropriate number of the site you were standing before, with the volume up we could both listen to the recording. Togetherness and it saved £2.14. A very good book was also provided on entry and this was very informative and to be read when the appropriate number appeared on the boardwalk.

We spent the rest of the day in the Centre and resolved to come again. The aerial walk allows access to the mid level rainforest and links to all other walkways. At the top end of the aerial walkway is the Canopy Tower and the excellent Interpretive Display Centre where the computers could be programmed to one of 10 videos of choice. The DVD theatre showed a film of walkers gaily passing by a basking large snake, totally unaware of its presence; that made me think a bit. The exhibits were good. Unfortunately, because we were now on National Park property, there was nothing to buy and you could not get a cup of tea, you had to go back to the private enterprise bit at the entrance. We tried their award winning 'hot dog'; they should stick to award winning rainforests.

The Canopy Tower did not provide easy access for all ages, well not mine. The book states, 'It is the only one of its kind in Australia. It provides the most amazing insight into the surrounding rainforest - from floor to the upper most reaches of the canopy. The structure is 76 feet high. It is cyclone rated and has 5 viewing platforms, (or if you are me, rest areas with information boards and seats), and can accommodate up to 70 people at any one time. The beauty of this climb was that we could look for the different types of birds and butterfly's that operate at the different levels of the forest. The creepers and vines particularly interested me.

Amongst the plants was one with large heart shaped leaves which if touched will give you a long lasting sting and once the sting has gone, it could return; the boardwalk was out of reach of that one. The 'Wait a While is a climbing palm with hooks and barbs; the more you struggle, the more you are held fast. The trick is to wait a while and then calmly move back towards the plant un-hooking your garment, or flesh. My favourite was 'Vicious-Hairy-Mary which is one of the most common in the forest. What a name. The lower fronds are covered in nasty close spines which when the plant grows large, drop off leaving a smooth notched trunk or 'Rattan'. This is used for making baskets.

We walked the Bush Tucker Trail and the Cassowary Circuit and although extremely interesting, we saw no animals. The weather was overcast and showery but it did not spoil a very good day. It's surprising what we learned, and I never knew a large beautiful butterfly could go so fast. We watched a lovely metallic blue one, the Ulysses butterfly, travel right across the sky at the canopy tower.

I had a desire to travel back on the difficult roads in good light, so at 4.45pm we set off back to Wonga Beach, where we had been told by our friendly Welshman there would be a 'Fish In' tonight. If someone catches a big fish, they are expected to hand it in to the site owner. The next night, he cuts it into friable blocks and batters it. All those taking part take their drink, plates and cutlery to the enclosed 'happy hour' area of the site where the tables are laid with salt, pepper, lemon wedges and bowls of tartar sauce. Some regulars had made salads and these were also passed round.

At the appointed time ladies with large baskets of battered fish and baskets of chips began serving to the plates. By the time we had eaten 1 ½ of our two portions of fish they were back with more. After 7 portions of fish I gave in. I do not wish to pander to the Australian habit of claiming everything here is big, but this fish fed over 30 people and there was some left. The cost was 3 dollars each; £1.30.

What a good night this was. After duly clapping our reluctant fishing hero, he was asked to say a few words. He said, "I'll say a few words, sit down and shut up".

I never asked what type of fish it was but it tasted very good. Tomorrow we move further up the Daintree. Though this was a no frills camp site, the setting was very good and the hosts special.



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