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  • Writer's pictureKaia Colestock

Day 12: Daintree North Side & Cape Tribulation

Updated: Jan 6

Our second whole day in the Daintree and we couldn’t resist going to the north side of the river into the heart of the jungle. A cable-guided ferry pulled our vehicle across the river. First stop was the Jindalba boardwalk, a short loop through dense rainforest. The first bird on the first walk, was a stunner... something we had been looking for since we began the trip - the elusive, buff-breasted paradise kingfisher.

A little further north, the Madja boardwalk was next. Madja guided us through rainforest initially, but ventured into mangroves over deep water, as it was high tide. We heard a pair of shining flycatchers, which we had learned from the Daintree River Cruise. Here they were again at close range.

Male shining flycatcher (above) and female (below)

The third and last boardwalk was Dubuji. You really felt like you’re a small animal under a layer of vegetation from the Cretaceous Period. At any moment, a dinosaur foot was going to descend on you.

On the Dubuji boardwalk we found new creatures, including a lace monitor.

The monitor came down a tree, looked at a patch of sunshine on the ground, and probably thought, “Ah, that looks nice.” And he/she just plopped down to have a siesta.

More beautiful butterflies…

We spent the hottest part of the day out at Cape Tribulation taking in the view.

As the day waned, we started making our way south. We decided to take one more walk in the rainforest at Jindalba boardwalk, the same spot we walked this morning. Only this time, we would walk a longer, more remote loop that goes up the mountain, approximately 2.5 miles. We started at 1630, and had a couple hours before dusk. It was our last chance to find a cassowary. Humidity was near 100%. We immediately hiked up a steep slope with jutting roots, and began to question our life‘s choices. The rainforest keeps everything dark even when there’s plenty of light above the canopy. The air was still and there wasn’t a breath of wind for relief. You could hear every twig snap. I realized I was wearing open-toed shoes - also not a great idea. About a mile into the hike, Elias and I saw a fresh pile of blue scat. Fresh. And I will leave it at that. Now the cassowaries prefer to eat a blue fruit called a quandong in the wet season, which are toxic, but the birds have adapted to cope with the poison. They are the primary vectors for seed dispersal.

We looked at each other, took note of the scat, and moved ahead silently. We reached a plateau near the furthest point in the trail and Elias slowed to a stop. It felt like something was nearby. We listened a moment, and Elias hissed, “OMG I SEE ONE!” Through dense vegetation, we saw the eyes of the closest descendent of the dinosaurs staring back at us. How long it was there, who knows. It may have preferred the trail, but had to veer off when it heard us coming. Cassowaries are known to live up to their name “wary.” They detect humans far before we can do the same. Heat hanging in the air coupled with the intensity of the moment was oppressive. Sweat was just rolling down. We didn’t know if the cassowary would charge us, or what we should do if it did. They are particularly aggressive if they deem you a threat of any kind. If chicks are present, forget it.

A young couple drove too close to a cassowary once on the road and it kicked in the vehicle door. They retract two of their three large toes and leave one nail out for a jabbing tool. In other words, you don’t want to be too close. We didn’t know what “too close” meant, so we didn’t move.

The cassowary continued to stare through our souls. It shook its head every couple of seconds, presumably to knock off mosquitoes, but it held a double meaning for us. “Nope, don’t think so. You stop right there. Don’t come any closer.” We waited. The cassowary eventually tired of us and turned to continue upslope away from the trail, occasionally looking back to ensure we hadn’t moved. I don’t think we exhaled for 10 minutes.

My head stayed on a swivel for the remainder of the hike.

No better way to end this chapter of the trip. Thank you, Queensland.

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