With me in the passenger seat, Malinda at the wheel and Kristen and Lianda in the back, we followed the winding roads through the hills of the Queensland rainforest. Malinda, being the local, was trying to remember where each turn off lead, while Lianda, Kristen and I tossed our colorful tourist map back and fourth – none of us with a clue as to how to read it. At a certain point we simply gave into the idea of getting lost, and thus started the adventure.
I have been to Australia a many times before this, but this was one of the few times I really felt like I was in another world. I’ve never wandered far into any rainforests, and to be surrounded by such lush greenery, unique sounds and ancient trees was foreign and exciting.
With all the awe-inspiring visuals, I completely forgot all about the awesome Aussie wildlife. Koalas, Kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and more! We all had a bit of a laugh as we drove by kangaroo and koala crossing signs, thinking back to our deer crossing signs back home. We then immediately glued our eyes out the windows and to the trees as we drove along, attempting to be the first to point and scream, “Koala!”. Unfortunately for us though, those ninja-like koalas remained hidden.
After just under 45 minutes of cruising along, we took a gamble and followed the turn-off’s onto “less kept-up” roads – ultimately reaching a National Park type area with a few spots for parking and a big board with a map. With the car parked, book bags on and camera ready – we waved off the map and headed into the rainforest. All I needed was a “knife” and I would have done Dundee proud.
As we walked on, we heard water crashing over rocks and a few faints voices in the distance. Curiosity getting the better of us – as it always does and should – we followed the sounds and came across a beautiful river system cascading over different levels of rocks – going as far as we could see.
About 30 feet up, we saw a few brave locals plunging into (what I hoped was) a deep water pool. It was quite an intense sight. Of course there was that one guy doing backflips like it was no big deal. Naturally though, Lianda and I immediately threw on our bathing suites and took to the slippery rocks. Kristen and Malinda stood ready, camera in hand to capture our daring stunt, or impending demise. Seriously though, how often are you in Australia with the chance to jump off a cliff into a beautiful watering hole?! Yup, not often. To the Rocks! There was a bit of a hold-up. Lianda couldn’t decide whether or not to take her sneakers off….10-minutes later, she decided to wear them.
As we started our harrowing climb, we soon realized that water covered rocks aren’t the easiest things to grab a hold of or climb all over. I had to think back to my 3rd grade rock climbing parties and dig up some old tricks of the trade. It becomes a lot more serious when there aren’t any foam blocks under you! We steadily made our way up, Lianda right on my heals as we tag-teamed higher and higher.
Just ahead of us was a portly bloke (Australia for boy – why I don’t know, but it is), offering us insight in foot holds and roots to hang on to. Roots were tangled all along the mountain side. The water had to have been molding this river for tens of thousands of years. Here I was, 25 years old, scaling an ancient mountain.
We finally made it to the top, and spent a few minutes catching our breath. Then, 3, 2, 1….1….1……1… jump! And then you feel it – that moment where you jump in the air, and then your head starts screaming – “Oh my god, why haven’t I landed yet – how high did we jump – this is the end – splash!”
I have some great video of it – but that will have to be added a bit later.
Afterwards the four of us walked barefoot down the stream, through a clearing and to a secluded spot along the river. At this point, Kristen was at Defcon 1 in defense of potential spider threats. Though we did come across some pretty intense 8-legged creatures, we also came across red ants that were massive. You can probably safely assume they can lift human beings and are carnivorous. Below is one of the smaller ones we managed to grab.
After accepting the fact that we may be eaten by insects from the Jurassic era, we dove into the water and floated in one of the most natural settings I’ve ever been in. Like I said earlier, I truly felt like I was nowhere else but Australia at that point. I couldn’t imagine another place like this on earth.