My girlfriend and I flew into Cairns in May 2006 and there wasn’t a kangaroo in sight. It was overcast and grey, which made Ciara question whether she was in Australia at all, though our taxi driver was the spitting image of Alf Stewart (of Home and Away fame).
The atmosphere was relaxed and the lifestyle slower compared to the madness we had just experienced in Vietnam.
Attracted by the tropical paradise brochures and a great review we read in TNT Magazine, we decided to go to Cape Tribulation, up in the Daintree rainforest, to experience the Indigenous culture, unique wildlife and visit the Great Barrier Reef.
All was going to plan until half-way through the tour, when the monsoon rains started and they just didn’t stop. However, we still managed to spot some crocodiles when crossing the Daintree River. They look so peaceful on the riverbank, half-asleep, half bored, but always waiting. There were noticeboards everywhere highlighting the necessity to be “croc wise in croc country”.
The notices emphasised not provoking crocodiles (as if we would), not feeding them scraps (no chance), not dangling your arms over the side of the boat (easy) and not swimming where crocodiles live. When you hear the stories of the locals, you realise that the absence of a warning sign does not mean the absence of a crocodile.
Sometimes the locals steal the sign as a souvenir! And often they use the sign to hang their towel on.
We stayed at the Beach Lodge in Cape Tribulation, right bang in the middle of the jungle. And jungle is “croc country” so I needn’t tell you we were on our guard. Captain Cook had every reason to call this place Cape Tribulation. We kept close to the boardwalks while out walking and spotted colourful giant lizards, killer spiders, green snakes and walking leaves (insects) before the rains poured down.
With all activities cancelled, we decided to leave Cape Tribulation a day early, though no cars could cross the creeks as the rivers were flooding all exit roads. It was looking like another night in the jungle when a couple from Brisbane, seeing our plight, offered us a lift and we had our bags in their jeep and our safety belts bolted before they could reconsider.
Warren and Anne were great fun and managed to navigate their rented jeep through the raging waters successfully. They actually brought us to all the tourist stops which the bus was scheduled to make on our return voyage and invited us to visit them (and their asthmatic cat) when we made it down to Brisbane.
Three weeks later and for no other reason than to say thanks, we contacted Warren and Anne, who we were now referring to as our Queensland Rescuers. Then, somewhere along the way, the telephone wires got crossed and we ended up being invited to dinner at the home of Warren’s mother! Later that same evening we sat down to Irish stew, which had been specially prepared for us.
Part of me was delighted when Warren’s mother (aged 73) served up beef stew to my vegetarian girlfriend! It was too awkward to refuse their generosity. I kept telling her that there’s nothing like a home-cooked meal.
The evening was really great fun, and the lady played us an Irish medley on the harp, including “Danny Boy”, “The Sally Gardens” and the “Irish Rover”.
Warren and Anne are two of the most generous people we have ever met and they even offered to drop us back to our Backpackers Hostel in Brisbane city centre. Of course that would be too easy so en route they provided us with an evening tour of their beloved city. We got back to the hostel stunned at how friendly these strangers had been to us and how lucky we were to have bumped into them on a wet and windy day in Cape Trib.
They rang Ciara the next morning to tell us they had called Warren’s brother in Sydney and he’d be expecting a call from two Irish strangers in the next few weeks. Now there’s a call we’re looking forward to making…
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