Monica and The Rainforest– April 24th, 2006 –
After an uneventful overnight flight from Perth, Emma and I arrived bright and early at Cairns airport. There’s nothing to do in most airports, but Cairns is the exception. There is absolutely nothing to do, especially at 4.30am. Even sleeping was out of the question due to the constant beeping of the xray machine as hordes of tourists forgot to remove their belts. Anyway, we waited until 8am then went off to pick up our campervan for our six day trip in the tropical north of Australia.
The campervan itself was a great bit of kit. A long wheelbase Mercedes van converted to comfortably sleep two - It even has it’s own shower, toilet and fully equipped kitchen. It took a bit of getting used to driving something so large, but after half an hour or so, things were fine. That was until it started raining.
Cairns, and where we were heading, The Daintree National Park and Cape Tribulation, are situated in the tropical north east of Queensland. Like most tropical regions, there are two seasons here; wet and dry. We’re at the tailend of the wet season and with impeccable timing, we’ve managed to coincide our trip with an impending category three cyclone called ‘Monica’, which was due to hit land about 300 miles north of here. The winds were quite light, but I have never seen so much rain. Ever. It has rained non stop for four days. Not your typical British ‘fine rain’, but big, fat, soaks-you-to-the-skin-in-two-seconds tropical rain. Mind you, I feel sorry for the people who live here, apparently it’s been raining for about sixty days. More on that later.
So, Monday was spent driving to Port Douglas to find a camp ground to get settled in before our trip up to Cape Tribulation the following day. An unevenful night really, it rained.
Woke up to light rain on Tuesday, which quickly turned into heavy rain, and we headed off up the coast road to The Daintree.
The landscape here is simply stunning. The Daintree National Park is the world’s oldest surviving rainforest (no idea how they know that, but they do apparently). The road winds its way past huge trees supporting the rainforest canopy hundreds of meters overhead. The crossing over the swollen Daintree River was interesting, in part because of the large ‘Beware: Crocodiles’ signs present on the side of the river. We stayed in our van. Cape Tribulation was disappointing though. In part because the amount of time it took us to get there, the weather and because there’s nothing there; not even a pretty beach or a view. Maybe that’s the point.
Wednesday and Thursday were shocking days weather wise. Monica hit the top end in the early hours of Wednesday morning with winds up to 240km hour. Apparently nobody was hurt, but there’s been substantial damage to the forests. It continued to rain, heavily. Emma and I headed up to the Atherton Tablelands from where we were staying in Port Douglas. The drive was terrible; couldn’t see a thing. What we did see was a very different landscape. Lush rainforests made way to rolling hillsides and fields. In fact, it looked a little bit like the UK in parts which was very odd.
The good thing about record rainfall is it makes for spectacular waterfalls. On Thursday we visited Mirraa Mirraa falls, which was ok, but the Barron Falls, just outside of Kuranda, were awesome. A trip to the butterfly sanctuary in Kuranda also made for an interesting hour, even if to escape the rain for a while.
Stories of the cyclone were on everyone’s lips over the next couple of days. Cairns had suffered (and continues to suffer) recordbreaking rainfall and flooding. The Bruce Highway is closed going north and south out of Cairns. This is one of the reasons we’ve had to cancel the reason for this trip to the north of Australia: diving on the reef. After my bust wrist in Portugal and now a bloody cyclone, something is telling me I’m not destined to dive. Although I think we made the right decision. Two metre swell and 30-35 knot winds does not make for a good day on a boat.
We cancelled our flights and are now flying into Sydney a day earlier. This way we get a full day on Saturday in Manly before meeting up with old friends on Sunday for a BBQ and a few drinks. It’s been an adventure and we’ve mostly enjoyed our trip up here but we’re looking forward to getting out of the rain and back to a place where we lived for six months over seven years ago.