Try to say that ten times fast. Or even twice.
I apologize for allowing so much time to go by between posts. Ideally, I’d be writing every day or two, but things have been extremely chaotic since leaving Cairns and moving into my new place on the Gold Coast. Things have been great, but I’m going to backlog a little bit as to not tell my stories out of order. So, let’s venture back to last Friday, January 8th, and I’ll tell you a tale of two young American hikers trekking through the rainforest…
It was the day of orientation that was designated for our adventure day activities, and we could choose to do a rainforest walk, ride ATV’s, go on a safari in the outback, go horseback riding, or go white water rafting. After much deliberation, Nat and I decided to save ourselves about $150 (to put toward bikes/surfboards) and take the day off. Besides, I already had a day in the rainforest, I can ride ATV’s in the states, I wasn’t elated about the outback, I’m afraid of horses, and we’ve both rafted in class five rapids and these were class three. We’d rather choose our own adventure, and we did just that.
We heard from one of our leaders that the Red and Blue Arrow trails were good hikes that were only about minutes away. So on the morning of our day off, we left the hostel and started walking down Sheridan Street in the direction of mountains, not quite sure where we were headed. After a a few minutes of walking, we decided to stop and ask for directions. God provided a travel and tourism building on the next corner, so after an embarrassingly long game of “how do you open the door to this establishment?” we received our directions and were back on our way. FYI: if it looks like a pull door and doesn’t seem to open on the first try, give it a push. All handles around here look like they should be pulled. Very misleading. It’s even worse when it’s a glass door so those inside can see you struggling.
After walking through a city scene and the botanical gardens, we reached the entrance to the trail. It started off slowly, and we passed many diligent trail runners out on an extremely humid day. It was very tricky as Americans to stay to the left. Since the 1st grade when you lined up and walked through the halls, you were told to stay to the right. It’s so deeply engrained in us, but we must relearn that for life here. Walking, running, biking, even crossing the street… it effects everything. So we’d say “G’day” or “How ya going?” to the runners or our fellow hikers and all was well. After the lookout, the Red Arrow trail became Blue Arrow and things were kicked up a notch. I’m not trying to be gross, but this just needs to be said: Nat and I discussed how we don’t think we’ve ever sweat that much in our entire lives. Granted, we were wearing bathing suits and cotton tank tops (not moisture wicking material) because we were expecting to go directly to the beach after our hike, but still. We were literally drenched. You know when you can tell that your entire shirt is a different color because it’s wet… yeah. Sorry. It was just a very humid day and we were haulin’. I’m not exaggerating in the least - the entire tank top and rears of our shorts. We were a sight to see at the end.
Anyway, we hiked and debriefed on some aspects of our trip. It was nice to have that alone time together. We also talked about the Bible, our favorite classes at Gordon, people we think we’ll miss most, letters we want to write… and every once in a while, we’d just laugh out loud and say, “We’re hiking in the rainforest in Australia!” or “Remember that time we hiked in the rainforest in Australia?” It was great fun. ‘Round these parts, Nat spotted our first critter. She points and says, “Look, a kangaroo!” I corrected her, because the Blue group didn’t have the rainforest knowledge of the Green group quite yet, and told her it was a wallaby. He just hopped along and was too fast for me to snap a picture. I wasn’t expecting to see him in that environment, but he was awfully cute. A man on a mission, for sure.
Shortly thereafter, we ran into our next rainforest creature - far less cute, fun and active, but equally as agile. Despite his lounging in the sun, I would not be deceived. With my new knowledge of rainforest wildlife, I would not let him fool me. I know what he’s capable of. Nat was hiking in front at this point, and the trail had gotten a lot narrower. Definitely only room for one at a time and there was tall grass on either side of the neat, skinny trail. I just remember Nat turning around abruptly and nearly plowing me over, shushing me and pushing me back. I don’t remember her exact words in that moment, but I looked past her and saw what we were up against. Remember our friend the monitor lizard from my previous entry? I referenced a gila monster just to make Tony laugh (inside joke), but it’s actually in the family of the komodo dragon, the heaviest lizard there is. I’ll post photos soon, but please Google the Australian monitor lizard, or goanna. Here’s an excerpt from some research I did…
“Most goannas are rather large for a lizard, and they all have sharp teeth and long claws. Monitor lizards are predators… Goannas can rear up on their hind legs… Goannas can run very fast over short distances, sometimes using their hind legs only. They are very good tree climbers...”
Wikipedia says, “Almost all monitor lizards are carnivorous.” Oh, awesome.
I’m not sure how one would measure the speed at which adrenaline flows through one’s body, but it was certainly moving swiftly. At this moment, I turned my camera on to the video mode. Nat and I were taping from time to time on our journey, and I’d say this was the climax. Although you can only see a little over a foot of his tail, the goanna battle was taped and the video is blog-worthy. I’ll edit the hike video and post it soon, but this is the part of the show where Nat and I tried to remain calm, and figure out how to continue on our hike past the roughly four foot long carnivorous lizard in our path.
While we searched for weapons (sticks and rocks), he sort of moseyed off the trail a bit so only his tail was in our way. I thought that if we hopped the tail and sprinted until we were long past him, we’d be alright. But Nat wanted to provoke him by throwing a stick in his general direction. Even though he was mostly in the grass, who knew if throwing a stick would scare him off or anger him. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t know all there is to know about these creatures and I wasn’t sure how he’d respond. Regardless, Nat broke a stick and threw it, causing him to move his tail completely off the path. We still sprinted by when we passed (all on camera by the way) and he hadn’t gone far at all. He was only about a foot off of the trail on our right. The goanna episode definitely gave us a fright, but we made it and we on high alert as we moved forward. I felt like all of my senses were heightened - I heard and saw everything. Lots of scary birds making loud noises in the rainforest, that didn’t help.
After only a little over an hour of hiking, we made it to the top! It was actually kind of anticlimactic. We knew that it would be a short hike (only about 5k), but at the top, our view was of the Cairns airport. It was very strange. I’m not used to hiking in that which is unmistakably a legitimate rainforest, reaching the top in an hour, and seeing… an airport. We didn’t linger much at the top because there wasn’t anywhere to sit at all and my camera had died because of the goanna affair. We turned around to hike back down, and after a few minutes we met another unexpected wilderness friend. At first, we thought that it was the endangered and violent cassowary - a large bird of prey that I’ll write about in my next entry. For those who know me, you know that I’d much rather battle a goanna than any bird of prey.
Turns out, it was only a wild turkey. He wasn’t too big, maybe two feet tall, but he definitely didn’t look like he belonged in the rainforest. He was black, had his red turkey wattle, he just really looked like a fish out of water. The goanna was to Nat as this turkey was the me. I was hiking in front, saw him, and turned around in a panic. However it wasn’t too bad - we just talked to him, politely asking him to leave the trail and be on his way, and he obliged. Very cooperative bird. Most adaptable one I’ve ever met. Nat just said, “Good thing he didn’t know what we were doing on November 26th.”
So there you have it! The rest of the hike was great, but nothing unexpected. We saw a bunch of smaller, non-threatening lizards, tons of frogs and walls of bamboo. Like I said, we were absolutely drenched when we left the rainforest, and it was actually quite humiliating as we walked on the main road in search of food and beach. While eating at a small pizza place watching American soaps on TV, we were told that no one in their right mind swims at the beach in Cairns. Ever seen the movie Seven Pounds? Will Smith gets up close and personal with the Irukandji jellyfish, the deadliest there is. And their home is northern Queensland, specifically Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef. Feel free to do a little research on those as well. The size of your thumbnail with tentacles ranging from 3 to 35 centimeters, they’re clear and you won’t see them coming. Therefore, Cairns-dwellers forego the beach and swim in their saltwater pools. Did I mention that? Lots of saltwater pools ‘round these parts. I’m not sure way. Look at my blog- fun, and educational.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to read of my escapades! As you can tell, I love writing things in vivid detail, so feel free to skim if you’re short on time. I actually catalog and process my daily happenings as to whether or not they’re blog-worthy. It’s odd, but it’s a mixture of loving to write, and wanting to share every details with those reading at home. But either way, this will be a great log of events for me to look back on in the future as well! Hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am :)