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May 31, 2006

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                         Daintree Rainforrest & Voyages

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G’day from Queensland, Australia! Last week we left off from Uluru/Ayers Rock (here’s a link to the archives). This week we’re in for another very special -- and adventurous --locale. We visit the only place in the world where two Natural World Heritage sites meet: Daintree Forest and Great Barrier Reef. If you like the tropics and everything that comes with it -- bugs, reptiles, warm water, incredible water and fish – you don’t want to miss this week’s getaway. So turn off your cell phone and put on your sunscreen -- we’re in Cape Tribulation, baby!

Getting from Ayers Rock to Cape Tribulation (also referred as Cape Trib), located in far north Queensland, requires a 2-hour, 25-minute flight on Qantas to Cairns (pronounced "Cans" by Australians). From there, seven journalist friends and I rented two Nissan Patrol 4-Wheel Drives from Avis for $70 AUD ($51 USD) a day. Before making the approximately 3-hour drive we stopped at the local grocery store for snacks. No Australian road trip is complete without Tam Tams!). The drive, hugging Australia’s northeast coast most of the way, was easy and picturesque – even in the rain. Then again, I wasn’t driving. I knew I was in for an adventure when I read the sign on the Daintree car ferry: "No Swimming. Crocodiles." Gulp. Good thing the car ferry took -- literally -- only two minutes. (FYI: The ferry operates between 6 a.m. and midnight every day.)

It was amazing: The moment we crossed the Daintree River and arrived on the other side, the entire landscape changed drastically. We were now in a dense tropical lowland rainforest. It felt as if the road was swallowing us alive, as we drove down its fauna-covered throat. The Daintree Rainforest is over 135 million years old, making it the oldest rainforest in the world – older than the Amazon. Although the Daintree Rainforrest covers 750 square miles, it comprises only 0.2% of the landmass of Australia. (Australia is about the same size as the continental U.S.). The Daintree is home to the largest range of plants and animals on earth. It includes 85 of the world's 120 rarest species of plants, along with 430 species of birds, nearly a quarter of Australia's frog species, and over 60% of Australia's bat and butterfly species.

Cape Tribulation, north of Daintree, is a popular vacation spot with lodging choices ranging from camping to deluxe accommodations. Voyages Coconut Beach Rainforest Lodge, the nicest, is listed as 4 stars. However, after staying there I’d rate it about 3.5 stars. It sits just a few feet away from the only place on the planet where two Natural World Heritage sites meet: the Daintree rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef – and it is smack in the middle of both. Its 66 rooms are modeled after Indonesian long houses. Most are just a couple of hundred feet from the beach, but because they are surrounded by the dense rainforest you would never know it. When we arrived at dusk it was raining and warm (the average year round temperature is 81 F = 27 C). The rooms are large, with polished timber floors and wood furniture. It was nice, but the ants crawling on my pillow and other bugs cruising around the floor reminded me immediately that I was in the jungle.

But it wasn’t until after dinner -- in the spacious, modern, open-air Cape Restaurant that serves pretty good food, including unusual dishes like kangaroo and crocodile soup (the latter tastes like chicken) -- that my adventurous night began. I took a long, dark and lonely walk back to my room, dodging cobwebs and tree snakes. (I didn’t see any snakes, but I heard they were all around. I’m petrified of them -- I know, what a wuss). But after reading on that "Australia has deadly spiders, and of the top ten most deadliest snakes of the world, Australia has six on the list," I was on edge.

Before calling it a night I took a hot shower to remove all my sunscreen. As I rinsed off the soap I spotted the scariest spider I’ve ever seen. It was dark, hairy, about the size of my hand, and a definite sleep spoiler. I’m not particularly afraid of spiders, but this thing would scare Superman. I darted out of the shower like it was about to explode. I didn’t know what to do. I could have run out in the bush, but chose not to. After all, I was naked -- and there could have been more spiders out there. Fortunately, when I arrived I had read the welcome packet the hotel provides. One line said something like: "If you find any unwanted bugs in your room, call the front desk to have them removed."

The guy arrived faster than cops in America -- and it was close to midnight. He shouted, "Bleep! That’s a bugger!" He said it was a banded huntsman spider, and it was not poisonous. He then informed me that they are actually relatively harmless. However, I made it clear there was no way that thing would spend the night in my room. We removed the monster without killing it, but it still put a damper on my night. For the first time in a long while I slept with a light on. Every hour I woke up and waved the in-room flashlight around the corners, under the bed and along my sheets, like I was searching for a criminal. I came up empty every time. Phew! Coconut Beach Rainforest Lodge: rack rates $35O AUD ($263 USD) per room per night; tel.: 61-2-8296-8010; fax: 61-2-9299 -2103, Email:

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Pictures From

The Trip


Flight To Cairns


Drive To Cape Trib


Daintree Car Ferry


Road To Hotel


Coconut Beach


My Room


Cape Restaurant


Crocodile Soup


Unwanted Guests


Spider Buster


Don't Come Back


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