Thursday, February 20, 2014

How Hard Can It Be

The people we are house-sitting for have all the small volumes of the local hiking guides. Generally, I look hikes up in the book, but leave the book behind, both because I don't want to damage books that aren't mine, but also because I always think, “how hard can it be, it's a trail?” On two occasions, I have missed part of what I set out to see on hikes because I left the book behind. The first occasion was on the leech slaughter-fest (our blood loss not the leeches) walk to Lambs Head when we didn't know to follow the track down to the look-out over Lake Morris. Admittedly, we were at that point half mad from leech bites. The second was today, when we walked only part way to Hartley's Creek Falls stopping at the first set of obvious, yet small, falls on the creek. On the latter occasion, we were half mad with heat and sweat. 

 Big saltie lizard

We spent the morning at Hartley's Crocodile World, which is kind of gimmicky and touristy sounding, and has all those elements, but, is also a good place to go see some big crocodiles both saltwater and freshwater. There is also a very successful crocodile farm on site which sells all of the 2,000 crocodiles per year that they raise to Loius Vuitton for making upscale consumer goods. It is, of course, a crazy world where an animal is raised simply so somebody with too much money who is too removed from the natural world can swan about a too big city with a handbag for which she/he payed too much money. However, if it is going to happen, I would rather the animal was raised and killed, not slaughtered to extinction (as nearly happened in Australia) in the wild. Apparently, all of the animal is used (although that might be just a nice thing to tell the tourists), not just the skin. Certainly, the crocodiles appeared to be living out a much better, albeit short, life than most other animals that humans farm. 

 Smaller freshie lizard

Seeing big saltwater crocodiles up close is pretty chilling. Although they don't appear to move very fast on land, they sure can move fast in the water. There are many tales of sea kayakers having encounters with saltwater crocodiles when paddling in far north Queensland or the Northern Territory. In fact, of all the people who have paddled a sea kayak around Australia, I don't think there is a single one who didn't at least one crocodile encounter. Dave Winkworth, who paddled with a group of friends from Cairns to Thursday Island, and wrestled – yes really wrestled – a large saltie who had attacked his mate off a tiny island halfway between Cairns and Thursday Island undoubtedly has the grandest story to tell. Unlike grizzly bears, a person is natural prey for a crocodile and, after watching them today, it is really easy to understand how no-one sees them coming. 

 Tall grass at the start of the trail

After all we had seen all the tours, exhibits and interpretive displays at Hartley's Crocodile World we drove 500 metres up the highway and walked up towards Hartley's Creek Falls. This is where we should have taken, or at least paid more attention to, the hiking book. I'll admit I was hungry, hot and thought my head was going to explode walking uphill in the midday sun. When we got to some pools on the river all we could think about was diving in. I'll have to go back on a cooler day, or at least earlier in the morning and walk all the way up. Where we were was, however, pretty nice with lots of big and small pools and small waterfalls running down slabs. I managed to cool off enough that my head stayed on until we got back to Cairns where it felt way too hot, too still and too sticky. 

 Natural jacuzzi on Hartley's Creek

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