Travel Stories Eco-Tourism in Tropical Queensland


Queensland is like childbirth - awful at the time, but a glorious miracle in hindsight. I'll tell you the worst part first. We stayed at a picturesque eco-resort in the Daintree Rainforest Wilderness Area. (The Daintree Cape Tribulation Heritage Lodge; I recommend it).

We arrived in the evening and got our first clues about the kind of experience we would have pretty quickly.

One: No lights. The bus driver dropped us off a short way from the main office (the bus would not fit on road) and there were no lights at the drop-off point. The bus driver had to dig through piles of suitcases to find ours, and he hadn't brought a torch (flashlight). But he was pleasant and didn't complain the way an American would have.

Two: No porters (you carry your own bags down a dirt road to your cabin). At this point we figured that although this was not exactly what we had anticipated, it would be fine as long as there was air conditioning. After all, we were eco-tourists, and the bungalows were charming.

Three: No air conditioning. Although we had spent several hours on an air-conditioned bus en route, we were both dripping with sweat before we had walked the 15 meters from the drop-off point to the office. And we weren't even carrying our bags. (At the driver's suggestion, we had left them sitting by the side of the road.)

Four: No television, no radio, no clock, and no phone. But there was an adequate mini-bar. Exhausted from a day of travelling and unaccustomed to the extreme heat and humidity, I decided on a cup of coffee. But the Nescafe Blend 43 instant coffee packet contained a thick, sticky muck that was completely unpourable -- completely unusable, actually. Could the humidity actually have penetrated the plastic package? I settled for a gin and tonic.

Five: A sign in the room requesting that we leave the lights and ceiling fan on at all times to help inhibit the growth of creeping jungle rot. (Well, they did let us turn off the lights at night. But we had to leave everything on whenever we left the room.)

Six: A big box of salt in the room and instructions for using it to remove leeches. Whoa! Filled with trepidation upon seeing the de-leeching instructions -- hungry, weary, and weak from the heat and humidity -- my husband Jim and I both sat down on the bed, turned to face each other, and asked, simultaneously, "Whose idea was this, anyway?"

Dinner at the lodge was lovely. The bar/dining room was open-air, with a tin roof and ceiling fans to help moderate the climatic conditions. We brushed jumping ants and small spiders off the chairs and made ourselves comfortable in the bar. It contained a small library with good books on the natural history of the area. Only problem was, the books were almost impossible to read: the pages, limp with humidity, fell like rags in our hands. (Now we know why the "paper" money here has such a high plastic content!)

A French chef (no kidding!) prepared wonderful fresh vegetables, bread, seafood, and meats. There was a nice wine selection, too. As we were enjoying dinner we began seeing shadows swooping out of the corners of our eyes. Was it the wine? Nope. Bats. Big ones. They didn't come too close to us and we figured they kept the mosquitoes away, so we stayed calm. Indeed, between the bats on the veranda and the geckos on the wall, the bugs seemed to be well under control. We got no bites!

The next morning it was still hot and humid. The clothes we had worn the day before (and hung in front of the window to air out) remained wet (not damp; wet!) with perspiration from our short walk from the bus to the cabin the night before. We tried to find dry clothes to wear, but everything was damp. So Jim used a hairdryer on two sets of our shorts and shirts. (This was to become a regular procedure.)

Then we ambled to the main "office." ("Slowly, slowly," I said to Jim. "Please walk more slowly." I'm a bit of a baby when it comes to heat. And a big baby when it comes to mosquito bites. But I'm getting ahead of myself.) On our short walk to the office we passed a huge bush, brilliant with red flowers and the preferred feeding ground for 8 or 10 beautiful butterflies. The Ulysses and the Cairns Birdwing (Ornithoptera priamus), both plentiful here, are unbelievable. The Ulysses has metallic sky-blue wings edged with velvet black, about six inches across. Birdwings are even more spectacular -- bright metallic green with red, yellow, and black markings, and a wingspan of 8 inches or more.

The office was open-air (it did have a roof) and the proprietor, Tim, was a sweetheart. He was sympathetic to our situation, and suggested that we spend the morning soaking in Cooper's Creek just down the hill in order to "cool your inner core" (acclimatize to the heat and humidity). Also, he assured us that the local leeches were only small, the kind that just bite you and then fall off. "No worries."

The creek was clear and beautiful, the swimming hole perfectly located in a gentle, accessible bend surrounded by lush tropical vegetation, and shaded by magnificent tall rainforest trees. The water was cold, as Tim had promised. Very cold. (And I'm a bit of a baby about plunging my body into icy leech-filled streams.) By this time I had lost my sense of humor. I failed - completely - to understand why access to a freezing creek was supposed to make me feel better about the sweltering heat. Hadn't these people ever heard of moderation?

Eventually, I submerged, and the water was great! With my mind finally off the oppressive heat I relaxed, looked around, and began to think: Who would live in a place like this, anyway? Were they all crazy? Desperate? Had they been kicked out of other towns, or even other countries? Visions of early shiploads of convicts filled my mind. But Tim seemed nice enough, and like a regular guy, too.

After sitting in the creek for more than an hour, we finally felt better. So much better, in fact, that we decided to take a nature walk.

Great adventure

This sounds like a fascinating trip. A bit different than we would normally expect to find in this age of comfort and service. Waiting for the remainder of your post.

Thanks for sharing this adventure with us.

NUVI 2595 & 2599