Tuesday, September 29, 2009

B14: The Great Barrier Reef and Cape Tribulation

(You have to get super close with the underwater cameras. The guide said if you listened, you could here fish munching on the coral... I never heard it. [Mackay Reef, The Great Barrier Reef])


I'm skipping my blurb about school because that's boring. I burst through the school doors and threw my papers and pens in the air in joy for it was uni break! I ran home and packed for Cairns (pronounce "Cans") and was on my flight the next day. Being an airhead, I thought my flight was an hour when in reality it was 4 hours. Boy was I surprised. The next day Michele (Berkeley), Maureen (UPenn) and I picked up our Toyota Altise and drove to Cape Tribulation.

Sunday was all about driving. I (not Michele, not Maureen) drove through roundabouts and yields and left handed off ramps and speed bumps with huge rocks on them and humongous signs with arrows pointing in every direction and didn't die. We stopped at Mossman's Gorge and my inner nerd was revealed as I swam around with goggles and did some "cliff diving' off some of the boulders. That night we made it to Cape Tribulation campground.

(The 2km track was boring, but on a scorcher like that day, it was nice to swim in the swimming hole. [Mossman's Gorge, Queensland])

Monday we climbed Mt. Sorrow. Michele, who jogged half dome, said it was the hardest hike she has ever done and I could tell she was telling the truth because her face was the color of a cherry. We made it to the top, through the tropical rain forest, leech and tick free (it hadn't rained in a while) and saw a rather inspiring view from a dinky platform. Defying all logic and common sense, I jubilantly followed an Aussie through a bush onto a secret trail with a drop off on both sides (like the Devil's backbone at Zion). We made it through, climbed a boulder and I was greeted by this view:

(View from the second lookout of Mt. Sorrow. The drop off from here is freaky... Mom, my tummy went "Wee wee". [Mt. Sorrow, Cape Tribulation])

On the way down I swung from branches and pretended that I was Tarzan.

Tuesday was the reef trip. It was the most jaw-dropping thing I have ever seen I was so happy. I saw dam =selfish, parrot fish, a huge puffer fish (that followed me with one eye), a stunning stingray with blue specks, and some of Nemo's cousins. Some of the fish were as big as my torso and some were as small as my fingernail. The captain of the boat said he saw me diving to the bottom and asked what I saw. He knew what I was talking about and gave me little lectures about the ability of the fish I saw to change sexes, colors, or habitats. I wanted to touch the reef so badly, but I refrained because it damages the reef and would infect my hand. I remember being so caught up in the moment, that I was the only one in the water (everyone had returned to the boat). Time ran out and I wanted to cry because I didn't want to leave. I pathetically kicked my way back to the boat with one leg because I stayed out there so long that I acquired a muscle spasm in my right leg. One of the crew members smiled at me when I got onto the boat… I didn't smile back. I didn't want to leave :(.

(Making a dive. Dad, there was no seaweed to roll around in like in La Jolla Cove. Diving down was always scary because I would take pictures and turn around and there would be coral right all around me. [Mackay Reef, The Great Barrier Reef])

Wednesday was Jungle Surfing (ziplining) and exotic fruit tasting. Jungle surfing was a little lame… but hanging 23 metres in the canopy of the oldest continuous rain forest in the world was pretty awesome. My favourite fruit from fruit tasting was the jakfruit, which tasted like starburst and could weigh up to 40 kilos (90 lbs!).
(This is a jakfruit. Weird, huh? The little ones in the basket are Black Sapote (left) and Soursop (right). Juanita, I also bought some flaxseed oil, but it tastes terrible! Grandma Sevilla, the leche (called Longan) was terrible here, it was nothing like the ones at 99 ranch! [Daintree Ice-Cream Company, Cow Bay])

Thursday was Paddletrek (sea kayaking) and croc spotting. Our kayaking guide Troy was like a little kid and was eager to show and talk about wildlife. He talked about Dugongs, turtles, and crocs, but all we saw were sea hawks, mud skippers, white tailed rats, and crabs. He took us some secret hikes to beautiful rock views and exotic croc rivers. At croc-spotting, we saw 0 croc(s) and I actually fell asleep on the boat. I guess it was a pretty hectic week.

(The dust came all the way from Sydney. They said it hadn't been this bad in 70 years... but the view from sea kayaking is still amazing. [Cape Tribulation, Queensland])

Friday we drove back to Cairns and returned the car. We also visited the Cairns Botanical Garden and walked along the Centenery saltwater and freshwater ponds. We spent the rest of the day exploring the city, drinking tropical smoothies and browsing exotic markets.

I took my 5:45AM flight home and read about 3 pages of "The Fountainhead" before passing out.

This trip to Queensland was all about "firsts". This was the first time that I…:
- have had my luggage lost by the airlines. I got a free t-shirt and I wasn't even that upset. I guess I'm starting to gain the Australian stress-free outlook on life.
- thoroughly enjoyed a good campfire. We met new blokes (men) and sheilas (women) every night at the campfire and they loved talking about America and our backwards governmental system. Frequent topics of discussion included leeches, evading the Australian government, getting "Queensland Feet", salties (crocs), leaving star wars toys on Mt. Sorrow, tea, cassowaries, free diving on the coral reef, drinking, dropbears (imaginary bush creatures), spearfishing crayfish, and good bush tucker (food).
- was embarrassed for not picking up a bug. A woman saw me pushing a huge rhino beetle across the floor with my sandle and she said "it's not gonna bite ya'" and picked it up and put it outside. You don't understand… this rhino beetle was a solid 4 inches and SQUEALED when she picked it up.
- felt sad while snorkeling. Much of the corral was bleached and broken. Talking to Paul, a free-diving spearfisher, he said he didn't' expect the reef to last 10 years. What I saw I might never see again…
- did not freak out over ants. There was an ant the size of my fingernail in my shirt and when I pulled it out I didn't even scream! It was a green tree ant… I didn't quite have the courage to lick its abdomen to get the "lime" taste that they are famous for.
- went croc hunting through the forest by myself. Everytime one of those bush-fowls moved, my head spun because I thought it my be a croc. The fishermen said they were out earlier that morning, but on my solo excursion through the mangroves, I didn't find any.
- had to take a ferry with my car. Cape Tribulation sure is secluded!
- walked through the rain forest barefoot. I pretty much walked everywhere barefoot, shirtless, drenched in sweat. Just like the little bush children. I felt like a true Australian.
- spent over $80 on bug spray, sunscreen, and aloe. Braving the elements is expensive … those mozzies (mosquitoes) are persistent.
- realised that spending money isn't always terrible. I had the time of life and will cherish these memories forever. I can't recall a time in my life when I have ever been so incredibly happy.
(Since I know you all want to see my "Queensland Feet"! [Dreamtime Hostel, Cairns])

Sorry for the long blog entry. I'll try to cut down the next one. Next weekend is another surf camp!

Until then,

Mikey Doo
(Beaches that I dream about. This is one of the only places in the world where the sea meets the rain forest. This looks like a picture that would be hanging in Grandma Suzie's house. [Cape Tribulation, Queensland])

(I took 27 pictures in 10 minutes. I was too trigger happy and didn't get any pictures of big fish or stingrays. Oops! [Mackay Reef, The Great Barrier Reef])

(Aboriginal markings on our bodies. We rubbed ochre (a type of rock) together and it made paint. We also had fresh coconut (as evidenced by the pile in the background). [Paddletrek, Cape Tribulation])

(Epiphytes and buttress roots were characteristic of the tropical rain forest. [Mt. Sorrow, Cape Tribulation])

(Ziplining. Kimmy, it wasn't as fun as you said it was in Hawaii! Upside down I thought I was going to hit my head. [Jungle Surfing, Cape Tribulation])

(Where the "salties" live. The yellow mangrove leaves take up all the salt and fall off. Alexandra, doesn't the water look like the water from the "It's a small world ride" at Disneyland? [Coopers Creek, Daintree])


  1. What a spectacular trip! I´m so glad you had such an incredible time! And yes, that does look like the same water. D-land knows what´s up.

  2. Nice post - great barrier reef photos ..Keep Posting

    great barrier reef photos