Stinging Tree

Stinging Tree

While exploring my uncles property in the rainforest west of Cairns, I suddenly felt an irritation on my leg that becomeCairns Day Tours increasingly painful. Assuming I had brushed against a toxic plant, I immediately washed the area with clean water only to find the pain becoming increasingly worse. I had brushed against a stinging tree – a small  insignificant looking scrub with largish heart shaped leaves and no spikes or liquid that I could see – the pain could best be described as a burn from a cigarette that wouldn’t go away.

The leaves are covered with tiny silicon hairs that carry a neurotoxin stimulated by the heating or cooling of the skin and this is why washing with cold water became so painful and although the pain subsided after a few days and left no permanent mark, I could still feel the effects from the sting for months afterwards and have heard of some feeling the effects for up to two years. These hairs can also become airborne causing  allergic reactions, pain and nose bleeds, even a dead leaf can sting.  It’s claimed to be the world’s most painful plant and found in six forms from shrubs to trees along the east coast of Australia. I was told by an aboriginal elder at the Daintree that the stinging tree was used as a punishment and could cause death, also stating that he would rather suffer a spear in the leg as was the custom with other tribes. It’s also believed to have been considered as a weapon during WW2 – incredibly their pink/purple fruit can be eaten but retrieving it would be difficult for humans, dogs or horses but no problem for native animals. I have never found out why the stinging tree is so painful. It can’t be to protect its fruit because native animals have no issues eating both fruit and leaves.

Stinging Trees seem to flourish where there has been freshly disturbed soil such as around the base of a fallen tree or the bank of a stream. Never stray from rainforest walking track as beside tracks is a favourite and although it’s stated that they only grow in rainforest, stinging trees are found in the limestone caves of Chillagoe and believed to be remnants from when the rainforest covered Australia. Everybody seems to have their own remedy but if they have actually been stung and tried their remedy may be another story. The most common way to get relief is to repeatedly use a hair removal wax strip.  My cousin was badly stung and got his back waxed every month for 2 years.

More information can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dendrocnide_moroides

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Edmund Kennedy

Edmund Kennedy

When my brother and I were young, we would play Cowboys and Aborigines and if you happen to be the aboriginal, your name was Jackey Jackey – I never remembered who won the various conflicts in the games we played but I remember the name Jackey Jackey and it was much later I discovered that Jackey Jackey was Edmund Kennedy’s guide on his final exploration journey. Perhaps I should have paid more attention during history classes because I now find the life of these early Australian explorers so very interesting.

Kennedy arrived in Australia from Britain in 1840. He was a surveyor, talented artist and deeply religious man. By the age of 30 he had already participated in fruitful expeditions of discovery where he displayed excellent leadership skills – perhaps the reason he was asked to lead an exploration party to Cape York mid year 1848, mapping the eastern coast and perhaps finding a way from the Gulf of Carpentaria to Sydney. The expedition was well equipped but because of the unknown nature of the land was not well planned. The expedition consisted of 13 men, almost 30 horses, 3 carts and a herd of sheep. Departing from near Cardwell, (about 200kms south of Cairns) the party immediately struck difficulties getting off the coastal plane due to the thick rainforest, mangrove swamps and steep escarpments that are consistent with the eastern coastline. They travelled along the coastal plains searching for a way up the range to the tablelands, pulling the carts through areas of sand and mangrove swamps, crossing streams and traversing steep slopes of crocodile infested rivers and tidal streams. It was a difficult task not to mention the early tropical rains, stinging trees and leeches. Eventually, Kennedy found his way to firm ground and into the thick rainforest that covers the eastern face of the Great Diving Range before one of the carts broke down and the other two became hopelessly bogged. He abandoned the carts and some of the heavy equipment and in doing so, the already exhausted horses found the burden of carrying the extra load too much and became overly fatigued under the strain. After 2 months, the party reached the Tablelands and out of the rainforest but they had travelled just 10kms north towards their destination and due to their ordeal both man and beast were exhausted. The party’s bush survival skills were sadly lacking with only Jackey Jackey (their aboriginal guide from New South Wales) being able to make any significant contribution with the capture of food but he was also in unfamiliar territory so living off the land was not an option and they were forced to begin to eat some of the more exhausted horses. They entered the country near the Undara Lava Tubes and began following the water courses downstream through the Irvinebank area. There is a historical marker Edmund Kennedybeside the road at Emu Creek on the way to Chillagoe as well as at one of his campsites on Emu Creek Station. As the party continued to follow downstream they had their first negative encounters with local aboriginals who continued to follow at a distance. Kennedy headed towards to coast and along the way Jackey Jackey shot a Cassowary and bought it back to the camp to eat. This was the first Cassowary seen by white man.

After 6 months, eight of his exhausted and starving men became too sick to go any further. They killed the last of the sheep and left two of the weakest horses for the men to slaughter and eat when needed, also sharing up the remaining supplies. Kennedy had intended completing the journey to the tip where the HMS ‘Bramble’ was waiting to bring them home and could pick up the sick men on the return journey. As the remainder of the party proceeded north, one of the men was badly wounded when his gun accidently discharged. Kennedy and Jackey Jackey had become quite close and decided to leave the remaining men in an attempt to rendezvous with their supply ship and return to pick up all the survivors. By this time Kennedy was driven by his deep sense of responsibility for his party but was soon overcome by starvation and sickness and at times Jackey Jackey carried Kennedy for up to a kilometre at a time.

The hostile aboriginals who had been following the party and lighting fires behind them since a skirmish further inland were not pleased about Kennedy passing through their land and eventually attacked, spearing Kennedy in the back – he died in Jackey Jackey’s arms. Though wounded himself, Jackey Jackey hid Kennedy’s papers in a hollow log then managed to meet the HMS ‘Bramble’. After hearing his tragic tale, they returned on an urgent rescue mission to pick up the survivors that Kennedy had left behind but only 2 from the first group had survived. They also visited the spot where Jackey Jackey had buried Kennedy in a shallow grave and although some damaged maps and notes were recovered the grave could not be found. Jackey Jacky’s achievements were officially recognised and was honoured  with a pure silver breastplate plus 50 pounds. He never wore the breastplate or assessed the 50 pounds but fell into the vices of alcoholism and died some time later after rolling into a fire while drunk. 

More information can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmund_Kennedy

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Aussie Drifterz

Aussie Drifterz

 Aussie DrifterzI did the Aussie Drifters tour out of curiosity because I wanted to see why Peter rated so high on Trip Advisor. I was meant to be incognito but Peter had done his research and knew I ran tours. He asked me about my tours to Cooktown, Chillagoe and the Outback but I got no special treatment (as it should be).

The adventure began south of Cairns in an area that only locals would know about and reminded me of the Bloomfield Track. I certainly couldn’t complain about the cost considering the limited numbers and overheads. The day was rainy and although everybody was going to get wet anyway, Peter probably made appropriate adjustments because I saw snorkelling gear in his raft that we never got to use. There were just 7 of us (I think the limit may be about 10) and it became like a team building exercise  with individuals able to have conversations as we all drifted down the river. I would imagine that Peter would have to be very aware of the weather pattern and it must make future bookings difficult during the wet season.

Peter is a likable character with good people skills who began Aussie Drifterz  6 years ago and gives a nice feel of safety in the Aussie Drifterz way he handles his guests. There was nothing scary or dangerous about the experience, but Peter was aware that a person could drown in a teacup and after making a mental assessment of everybody’s capabilities, shared his time and attention accordingly while also being polite and listening to everybody’s stories.

All in all, from my limited expositor to this tour, I felt that the tour was not just tubing but was also a genuine Aussie Experience for the uninitiated.

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Bump Track

The Bump Track

History

Cairns Tours

Rainforest

The ‘Bump Track’ – strange name with quite a history and is believed to have originally  been an aboriginal trail connecting the coastal plain to the tablelands and was discovered by white man when a more assessable route was required for goods and services to the newly discovered Hodgkinson Goldfields to the west and was the catalyst that led to the creation of Port Douglas in 1877 when traders from the Port of Cooktown quickly relocated to continue servicing the mineral fields. Bullock and pack horse teams laboured up and down the steep track until an alternative way was offered in 1891 in the form of a railway that was constructed through the Barron Gorge to Trinity Inlet that we now know as Cairns. That Railway is now a popular tourist attraction called the Kuranda Scenic Rail. The track was then utilised to service the telephone line and was mined during WW2 to hinder the progress of any invaders. 

The Bump Track today

No matter what, if you want to travel west of the Cairns Coastal Plain, you have to climb the coastal range and all roads are windy and steep. The Bump Track is now a popular 6kms horse riding, mountain bike and walking track down the range behind Port Douglas and  I find it amazing that this historic track remains in use. Although I often refer to the Bump Track during my tours, I have never walked it and very much look forward to the adventure so that I can share the experience of those early travellers. From all the reading I have done, it appears to have spectacular views and passes through  eucalypt and rainforest with a chance of spotting a Cassowary. The track is quite steep at parts with Stinging trees being an obvious hazard if you wonder off. Although it is recommended you allow 5hours for a return walk, it takes just 5 minutes for an experienced mountain bike  rider to ride down the track. Cars and motors bikes are prohibited. 

 

More information at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtMQ6TztxKk

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Port Douglas

Port Douglas

Port Douglas Port Douglas provides an important link to Far North Queensland’s historic development. After the Palmer Gold Fields began to fail, more gold was discovered by JV Mulligan further to the south that would become the Hodgkinson Gold Fields. Access via the original Port of Cooktown wasn’t practical so an easier path was discovered down to the coast to what would become Port Douglas in 1877. Traders quickly relocated from Cooktown and timber cutters took advantage of the port access to exploit to transportation of Red Cedar trees from the surrounding area. However, access to the Mineral fields was still difficult and a railway was constructed along the shortest route to the Trinity Inlet and Cairns flourished. Port Douglas was no longer an essential port and dwindled to be a sleepy little fishing village with population of just a hundred or so by 1960 with port facilities for the sugar cane grown on the coastal plains around nearby Mossman.

Port Douglas Today

In the 1980’s when the Japanese economy was strong, the township was rediscovered by Christopher Skase who’s company Quintex was investing heavily in anything and everything to do with tourism. Construction on  the Sheraton Mirage resort facility began, but Skase made some poor decisions and was eventually convicted of white collar crime to become Australia’s number one fugitive when he left Australia for Spain after serving just one day in jail. Nevertheless, this was the catalyst that reignited the Port Douglas economy and it’s now grown to a population of over 4,500 that can double at times due to the tourism influx. The town is now based totally on tourism and can suffer from effects such as the GFC, strong Australian Dollar and visitor trends.

More information can be found at http://www.portdouglasinfo.com/?gclid=COGi_ZKLnbwCFURvvAodHxEAYQ

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Cairns Rainforest

CAIRNS RAINFOREST

Bloomfield TrackThere are two types of rainforest – tropical and temperate. The rainforest in the Cairns rainforest is ‘Tropical Rainforest’.

Guests who choose to do the Outback Tours with Perentie Tours get a rainforest experience. The Dutch knew about the west coast of Australia well before Captain Cook arrived  in 1770 but never claimed the land as the west coast is barren due to the absence of mountain ranges and prevailing winds. There are as least three basic factors required to form a rainforest:

  • High temperature/humidity
  • Mountains
  • Prevailing winds

Perhaps the most bewildering element is the Mountains. It’s because the shape of the mountains are directly related to the amount of rainfall that falls in any particular area and can be quite specific. As the prevailing winds in Australia (trade winds) blow from the south-east, they need to rise sharply to pass over the Great Dividing Range that extends up the East Coast. This sudden lift causes moisture in the form of mist, fog, clouds or rain. Examples of this can often be seen along the coast, but one ofCairns rainforest the best examples I have seen was at Uluru (Ayres Rock), where the cloud that forms as the air has to rise over the rock, extends for many kilometres, sometimes raining on just one side of this huge sandstone formation.

Because of the dramatic variations in elevation along the East Coast, vegetation in the Cairns area can vary from  tropical rainforest, open eucalypt forests, wetlands and mangrove forests. The base of the range adjacent the Cairns coastal plain is initially eucalyptus with rainforest often beginning quite abruptly where the moisture begins the form. That moisture runs down the mountain slopes to create more rainforest in the gullies and coastal plains in addition to mangrove forests and wetlands, therefore the rainforest on the tablelands is very different from that on the coastal plain.  There is no rainforest after the land begins to level out on top of the range and it soon becomes wooded savannah relying on seasonal rain depressions from the monsoon. This all happen less than 100kms from the coastline. Many think that the further north from Cairns, the more rainforest but this isn’t true because there are no ranges along the coast towards the north. 

For more than 200 million years, successive climate changes have resulted in the contraction and expansion of rainforest throughout much of Australia and during the drier ice ages, many plants and animals didn’t adapt to the new conditions and were driven to extinction. But in Cairns and the surrounding area, the cloudy wet mountaintops and deep moist valleys provided refuge from these climatic fluctuations for many life forms. Those that survived have evolved into the plants and animals in the region today, many of which have changed very little since those ice-age ancestors. Some recently discovered plants are not found anywhere else in the world and can provide an insight into the evolution of flowering plants, which began about 120 million years ago. This is one of the main elements that inspired the Daintree area (including Cape Tribulation) to be classified as a World Heritage National Park.

To learn more, have a look at the Perentie Tours home page

 

Skyrail

Skyrail

Cairns SkyrailThe Chapman family began feasibility studies to create the Cairns Kuranda Skyrail in the late eighties. They had access to a number of decommissioned railway carriages but couldn’t think how to use them in this project so sold them to Jerry Collins who was developing themes for the Undara Lava Tubes at the time. Construction began in 1994 and as one would expect there were protests by environmentalist with the thoughts of the Bloomfield Track still fresh in everybody’s mind. The environmental impact took priority throughout the project with tower sites being selected to coincide with existing canopy gaps and heavy-lift Russian  Helicopters used extensively so there was no need for roads to the construction sites. In 1995 and after a total cost exceeded $35 million and 15 months of construction the Skyrail became the world’s longest gondola cableway.

This multi award winning tourist attraction has become iconic and guests often combine their journey with the KurandaCairns Skyrail Railway.

More information can be found at http://www.skyrail.com.au/

 To learn more, have a look at the Perentie Tours home page

 

Kuranda Railway

Kuranda Railway

Kuranda TrainCairns Half Day Tours Kuranda

is a popular tourist attraction. The Kuranda Railway was created as a direct result of mineral finds to the west. The Hodgkinson Gold fields required a reliable way of transporting goods and ore to the coast. For a while, there was a pack horse track through the Barron Gorge but this proved too difficult and an easier way was found to the coast along the Bump Track to what would become Port Douglas. Construction began on the Kuranda Railway 1882 and being a government project, all details are well documented. This difficult project included 15 tunnels and 37 bridges and was completed in 1891 after the loss of many lives. Another privately build line connected Kuranda to further mineral deposits in 1901 which then became a network of lines connecting to all the mineral fields to the west. These tracks are now closed except for the historic train journey labelled the Savanahlander.

Kuranda Railway today

Today the Kuranda Train is a popular tourist attraction with two trains running the track each day. They stop to view theKuranda Train Barron Falls, pass a number of other small waterfalls and is complete with commentary  and LCD televisions to explain the history of the train track. As the journey is undertaken, it’s amazing to think this railway was built over a hundred and twenty years ago and carried extensive loads of ore and timber.

To learn more, have a look at the Perentie Tours home page

 

INNOT HOT SPRINGS

Innot Hot Springs

Innot Hot Springs are natural mineral springs found in Nettle Creek that runs under the highway between Ravenshoe and Mount Garnet about 160kms by road south west of Cairns and on the way to the Undara Lava Tubes. If you blink, you may miss it as its not well posted and to experience the hot springs is quite unique. There is a strong smell of sulphur in the air, the temperature can alter dramatically in just a few meters and can be hotter than 75C. On one side of the creek is a the Innot Springs Pub and on the other is a Leisure Park with six thermal pools of different temperatures but when I visit, I simply dig a hole in the sand of the creek bed where the temperature is desirable and make myself comfortable.

Many have been aware of the springs for years and at one stage the water was bottled at Townsville in the Innot Cordial Factory and exported to Europe. As one would expect, the springs have stories of healing properties and weather this be true or not, to sit in its naturally heated water is very soothing to both body and mind.

For more information visit www.ravenshoevisitorcentre.com.au

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Undara Lava Tubes

UNDARA LAVA TUBES

Although the Undara Lava Tubes is not a regular tour for Perentie Tours, they are significantly important and well worth mentioning in a blog. This region approximately 240kms Southwest of Cairns passing through Innot Hot Springs and contains over 160 volcanoes, vents and cones and lava flows can easily be seen from the highway. Although the origin of the lava tubes was unknown until recently, white man was aware of their existence  since the late 1800’s with intermittent and unsupervised visits.   The tubes are considered to be the longest and largest known in the world, originating from a single volcano and was once over 100kms in length. The tubes were created by volcanic lava flows as recent as 190,000 years ago also forming a light weight rock called quinkang as the magma was suddenly exposed to the air. The flat landscape and slow flow rate of the lava was conducive to a tube formation. The surface of the lava was cooled by the air and solidified while the insulated interior became a pathway for the molten rock. When the eruption ceased, the molten lava drain away leaving a hollow tube. The tubes are well known by the aboriginals and the subject of Dreamtime stories. The word Undara is a local aboriginal word for ‘long way’ and even today aboriginals in the region are frightened of the Quinkan Men who must live in those dark and mysterious chambers that are exposed by various collapses along some portions of the tubes. Examples of the Quinkan men can be viewed at some aboriginal galleries near Laura some 250kms to the north.

UNDARA TODAY

The first white man to visit the area was Edmund Kennedy in 1848 during his journey to the tip of Cape York. Some poles from the Old Telegraph Line still stand on the property. Original mapped by the Chillagoe Caving Club, the tubes are located on a cattle property that has been owned by the Collins family since the 1860’s and the fourth generation station owner Jerry Collins instigated the creation of a National Park in the region and in 1989 purchased eleven decommissioned railway carriages from the Chapman family who were about to embark on their tourism project –the ‘Kuranda Skyrail’ and tastefully  placed them in line to create unique accommodation thus developing a tourism attraction based around this amazing and unique natural geological phenomenon.

There are various operators who visit these amazing tubes and more information can be found at http://undara.com.au/

 To learn more, have a look at the Perentie Tours home page