As you take shade under the giant fan palms that tower above, the occasional heavy bead of rain will eventually roll and drop off its leaf, landing with a splash on your face. Nature’s reminder that, despite the 25C heat in the rest of northern Queensland, Daintree is a rainforest with climates that can drop 20C from day to night – and it rains. Not just a light scattering to cool things down and keep the tree frogs happy. I mean it really rains.
Keen to find out more about this rainforest, thought to be over 150 million years old, I headed to Mossman Gorge, a lush valley in the heart of the Daintree Rainforest. During the day, visitors flock to the area to experience the fragrant landscape, hike and rock climb, or swim in one of the natural swimming holes. The area is one of Australia’s greatest unspoilt beauty spots but the area really comes alive at night when the jungle is illuminated by the violet glow of the moon.
The town of Mossman is also home to many of Australia’s Indigenous population who eat, drink, play and work on the land. Our tour guide, the comedically named (to us, anyway) Rodney, was about to lead us through the muddy trails to show us how life works in the rainforest. “You’re going to get very wet,” he warned as we rummaged for our waterproofs. I doubted whether we’d need our ‘I love Queensland’ cagoules, since it was a typically warm, bright Aussie evening. It wasn’t long before I understood why Rodney and his tribe, the Kuku Yalanji, had survived here for thousands of years and I hadn’t…
Five minutes into the Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk, the heavens opened and gave us a fine soaking of fresh, weighty forest rain. “It smells alive,” Rodney grinned, waving manically at the sky. And he had a point. It was a unique scent of trioxygen, wet soil, moss and tropical plants – like a magnificent natural greenhouse.
And rain, we’re told, is great news if we’re feeling hungry. A major part of the tour is learning how to find and cook ‘bush tucker’. The rain brings out many of the 12,000 inspect species found here, as well as frogs, reptiles and marsupials. Haunted by the vision of glamour models eating grubs on Saturday night TV, I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic, but thankfully this more rural idea of supper was merely explained to us, and we were served a far more pleasant billy tea and damper (tea cooked in a steel pot and bread toasted in the smouldering fire ashes).
Rodney entertained us with stories from his childhood in the trees and, of course, played the didgeridoo. Before we left, we were treated to a traditional smoke ceremony to cleanse and banish bad spirits. But all I wanted was to banish torrential downpours as I dragged my soggy trainers back to the visitor centre.