Day 28: On to higher ground

We’ll be leaving Cairns today and as all of our travelling is done by car, we kind of need one of those. And so we were off to the rental people to get ours. We officially rented a standard car (SDAR) but instead got a standard SUV (IFAR), in this case a Mitsubishi ASX. We are quite familiar with those, as we already had one before in South Africa. They are great but have one big issue: our baggage doesn’t fit in the trunk. This one has the same issue, but as we are too lazy to complain about it, we’ll let it slide this time. This car in particular has its own issue though: after the last service at the maintenance place, they forgot to reset the internal service counter on the car. This means starting the car always has an extra quite audible beep and the message briefly flashing on the dashboard saying “Routine Maintenance Required”. It is just annoying, but we’ll live.

Today, we’ll travel South and up, as we will leave Cairns to go to Atherton which is conveniently located on the Atherton Tablelands. This is a plateau above Cairns which has tropical rainforest! This area is a World a Heritage Area called Wet a tropics and is home to a lot of different types of forest and an even bigger array of animals and cultural heritage. It is basically a very rolling landscape with a mixture of really old rainforest, really old regular forest, farmland and secondary growth (really new forest).

Along the way, we stopped for lunch at Lake Barrine where they also have two massive Kauri trees. These ancient types of tree are in this variety only found around the lake, and they are called Bull Kauri. They are closely related to the other Kauri we have seen in New Zealand, but these are quite particular about the location they can grow in, most notable elevation. We are at 600 metres above sea level here!

The rest of the day was lazily spent looking at two other big trees, Cathedral Fig Tree and Curtain Fig Tree. The last one is the most visited place around here, so go figure as to how big it is. Both these are Stranglar Fig Trees by the way, a type of fig Tree which doesn’t have its own timber but starts growth in the top of another tree and then uses it as its support with the roots growing down instead of the tree growing up. The roots will eventually grow so big, strong and tall that they support the entire tree without the help of the host tree. The host generally doesn’t live anymore by then. We have also found a new animal at one of the trees: the Musky Rat-Kangaroo! All brown with a sleek tail, this animal resembles a rat more than a Kangaroo, but they are adorable to watch as they scuffle around the roots of the tree looking for a bite to eat.

We consulted the lady at our B&B for more things to do in the neighbourhood, and she pointed us towards two things: Rock Wallabies and Platypus. Both in the wild! The Rock Wallabies live in the backyard of a campground, on a rocky part of the land. The campground even provides a map and some walking (bouldering!) tracks and charge an entry fee. Even though, it is great to see these animals in the wild! They are tiny! After sitting around them, we checked the clock and saw it was nearing dusk. And dusk is the best time to see wildlife of any kind, so we went to a location given to us by the lady from the B&B in Youngabarra where the Platypus were to be found. And we were in luck: they were there! In reality, they are much smaller than I had anticipated, but they must be the strangest animals we have even seen. Imagine this: egg laying mammal, with a giant beak of a duck at the front and a tail of a beaver at the back. Throw in some webbed feet, and you have a Platypus. What a great find!

Tomorrow, we’ll have to leave Atherton again, and head further down South to Mission Beach.