ROAD TRIP DIARIES # 17
Acres of pine forest, herds of Brahman cattle sauntering down the middle of the road and the wettest rainforest we had seen so far were all I could remember about driving from Tyto Wetlands to our camping ground the previous day. I woke up a tad disoriented about where we were. I must have drifted into sleep on our way to the campsite and it didn’t help that it was already dark when we arrived.
I felt like I was in another world when I pulled away the curtain inside our camper van. I could not see a single thing beyond the cold glass windows. The whole campground was cloaked in thick fog with only the relentless rain dripping on our roof reminding us that we had finally made it to Girringun National Park.
It had been raining the whole night and this morning was one of those days where snuggling under warm sheets, reading my favourite book while sipping bottomless hot jasmine tea seemed way more appealing than venturing into the wet and cold surroundings. Charles and I agreed to wait a bit for things to clear up, which didn’t take that long really because our restlessness stood in the way.
Still drizzling, we set off to the lookout all excited to see Australia’s highest single-drop waterfall. Despite the forlorn weather, the thought of exploring a World Heritage Area was enough to drag us out of our hibernation. Wallaman Falls is part of the Wet Tropics and is home to some of the oldest rainforest on earth and many rare plants and animals.
After finding a parking spot, we dashed to the nearby lookout only to find a massive abyss of nothingness. There was nothing to see! Much to our disappointment, the 50 million year old geological wonder was all veiled in clouds, completely hidden by the impenetrable haze. We could hear, however, the thundering sound of the raging falls and sense how enormous the gorge was into which it plunged, but that was all.
There was another lookout at the base of the falls but I reckoned with this kind of fog our chance of seeing it down below was also bleak. I was about to give up and propose moving on to our next destination, but then Charles suggested it would still be fun to do the rainforest walk to the base of the falls.
The track was quite challenging and perhaps the most difficult walk we have done so far. The first section of the trail was a gradually descending paved path, but the rest was steep, rocky, muddy and slippery. It was an impressive rainforest – dense and constantly dripping with the rain. There were interesting bits of information posted along the path about Australia’s flora and fauna.
It was through this walk that I learned the mystery behind those patches of burned forest we had seen on our previous treks. Apparently controlled burning stimulates the growth of some desirable trees and reduces the likelihood of serious forest fires.
On the way down, we met another trekker who told us that he was able to see the falls from the bottom. He raved about how spectacular it was, which somehow gave me renewed energy and enthusiasm to pick up my sluggish pace. The thundering surge of water became louder as we approached its base. And then we saw it… a 305 meters single drop waterfall plunging into a magnificent gorge.
The sheer size of the ravine was breathtaking; we were likes drops in a bucket in the scale of things. Although the top section of the falls was still covered in mist, it was still a very rewarding trek. We were the only people at the lookout and were able to enjoy the scenery in silence. After a while another couple arrived at the lookout and with one last glance, we bid our farewell to Wallaman Falls and braced ourselves for the tough ascent.
We were back to civilization by noontime, replenishing our food supplies, filling up petrol and catching up with the World Wide Web. An online friend who lives in Queensland found out we were in Ingham and commented on my status to check out 5 Mile Creek. It was on our way to Cardwell and easily accessible so we visited it after lunchtime.
It was a struggle in the beginning but I did it! After two weeks on the road and countless swimming holes, I finally plunged myself into my first freshwater pool. It isn’t that cold once you are in the water, you just have to get past the initial quiver. It was a refreshing way to end the day. Now, if only I could work out the crocodile part then no creek would be left untouched from now on.
5 Mile Creek: To Dip or Not to Dip?
(This is part of our 6-week North Queensland Road Trip Series, which took place July- August 2010)
Australian Road Trip 101: A Vantastic Beginning
Road Trip Diaries # 1 – An Encounter with the Strangest Animal in the World
Road Trip Diaries # 2 – Of Strangler Figs, Leeches and Long Holidays
Road Trip Diaries # 3 - Exploring Finch Hatton Gorge
Road Trip Diaries # 4 – Cape Hillsborough: On Bush Walks Beach Strolls and Star Gazing
Road Trip Diaries # 5 – Cape Hillsborough: Sunrise and Wild Kangaroos
Road Trip Diaries # 6 – Airlie Beach: Beaches Babes and Backpackers
Road Trip Diaries # 7 – Ocean Rafting to the Whitsundays
Road Trip Diaries # 8 – Unexpected Encounters
Road Trip Diaries # 9 – Exploring Bowenwood
Road Trip Diaries # 10 – Townsville: Finding Nemo and the Sunken Pandora
Road Trip Diaries # 11 – A Visit at the Billabong Sanctuary and Castle Hill
Road Trip Diaries # 12 – Magnetic Island: What Captain Cook Missed
Road Trip Diaries # 13 – Paluma Range National Park: A Walk in the Clouds
Road Trip Diaries # 14 – Of Didgeridoo, Exotic Fruits and Why I love Camping in the Bush
Road Trip Diaries # 15 – Jourama Falls: A Gray Nomad Affair
Road Trip Diarues # 16 – The Bird Man of Tyto Wetlands