As a student of SFS, I remember the first field trip being exhilarating – we were going turtle monitoring, sleeping in (admittedly very janky) tents, snorkeling, and running around in boats to and from our camp site. We ran around preparing food and coolers, learning about turtles and packing like it was going out of style. Our first field trip was…not exactly like that. There were janky moments; our trailer popped open and spilled pasta all over the access road. There was learning; our students learned about mangrove forests, crocodiles (and why they weren’t allowed to swim at the beaches), and cassowaries. There was definitely packing like it was going out of style; see the trailer. In between all of this, there was a lot of chaos and insanity. We headed from the centre on Tuesday morning; our professors took the lead while Mookie and I, hauling the trailer, followed. Dan and Ashley, driving the sole automatic vehicle (seemingly in this entire country) were the caboose. Not even five minutes after we left, the trailer door popped open, spilling macaroni, shoes, and pots and pans all over the access road. I ran frantically ahead to alert the lead van only to find that they were…nowhere to be seen. We fixed the trailer and hauled it out, finally caught up with the lead van, tied the trailer together with climbing rope, and headed to Mareeba. Somewhere along the way (this isn’t even forty-five minutes from the centre, mind you), a blinker fell off the van in front of us, to be eternally lost (In other vehicular drama, by the end of the trip, the clutch in FZB [pronounced fez-bah] was no longer working properly and Mookie and I each almost stalled the car [clutch fully depressed!] in the middle of traffic).
Once the vehicles were all officially on the road, things managed to go reasonably smoothly. We made a stop at the lovely Mossman Gorge for lunch and a swim. I skimped on the sunscreen this whole trip, so I elected to skip the swimming, but enjoyed the beautiful view of the river. From Mossman Gorge, we took the ferry across into Daintree National Forest, where we stayed at the Crocodylus Hostel (I can highly recommend Sally’s chocolate cake, if you’re there and need sweetening up). Crocodylus is literally in the middle of the rainforest, and cane toads, large huntsman spiders, and snakes come as a part of that. As long as you’re game for that sort of experience, it’s a lovely place to stay.
The next day, we headed to the Daintree Discovery Centre, which was lovely. They have created incredible walkways above the rainforest to avoid damaging it. There’s a good possibility of seeing cassowaries there, although unfortunately, we were not lucky enough to see one. The forest itself is incredibly beautiful, however, and I highly recommend a trip there, if you have the time. You can climb a tower so that you can see the top of the canopy, which is wonderful; there are also a number of starling nests up there, and with a good pair of binoculars, you can see them very well. In the afternoon, we took the students to work on their interviews, but also managed to stop at an exotic fruits ice cream store, which was delicious. Ash and I tried wattleseed ice cream, which was amazing and tasted a bit like coffee.
On Thursday, we headed to an exotic fruit farm, where Digby, the owner, held a fruit tasting for us. Among the fruits, we tried West Indian lime juice, bread fruit (a starchy fruit, similar to potatoes in consistency), star apple, Davidson plum (my personal favorite, which is very sour), rollinia, and soursop. There were several others, but those were the ones that piqued my fancy the most. We headed to Cape Tribulation itself (considered to be the place where the rainforest meets the reef) for lunch and a short lecture. While we played at several beaches, we were unable to actually swim due to the presence of crocodiles, which was quite…alarming for some of us. The beaches in the area are exceptionally beautiful, and are very flat, so they make wonderful places to go on short runs. Later, we spent some time at a self-sustaining rainforest house (which was not only sustainable, but beautifully constructed) and wandered through a mangrove forest.
Friday finally came – the week was lovely, but felt like I was forever waiting to go back to a place of comfort (and minimal sunscreen use). We headed to the Daintree river for a cruise. I was thrilled to finally get on the water, in a boat, etc. We didn’t head to the ocean, but wandered through the river with our excellent guide, looking for wildlife, learning about mangroves, and finally! Seeing crocodiles! We saw several juveniles, and one big mama. It was incredibly lovely, and I can also highly recommend it. Our drive back was mercifully uneventful, and was incredibly pleasant. While the entire experience often felt very stressful and nonsensical, it was a lovely trip, and I am excited to do it again next semester, albeit with a little bit more experience.