It’s hard not to enjoy yourself no matter where you are in Queensland, but I particularly enjoyed my time exploring the Tropical North – including Port Douglas and the surrounding areas. A big part of any travel experience in this lush part of Queensland is the remarkable Daintree Rainforest. The Daintree Rainforest is part of the UNESCO recognized wet tropics and is one of the oldest rainforests in the world. It’s a lush and adventurous place, where plants and animals found nowhere else in the world exist here in abundance, just as they have for millions of years. More than just admiring it though, spending an afternoon on a Dreamtime Walk through the Mossman Gorge section of the rainforest was a highlight of my time in the Tropical North.
Australia is a country of superlatives, so it shouldn’t have surprised me to learn that Mossman Gorge contains the oldest, continuously surviving rainforest on earth. The forest has somehow survived for more than 135 million years, containing plant life that exists nowhere else on the planet; snacks once enjoyed by the dinosaurs. That alone should be enough to interest folks to visit, but there’s a lot more to Mossman than just the plant life.
Thousands visit every year to wander through the jungle, enjoying the many swimming holes and appreciating the beauty of both the towering canopy as well as the Mossman River itself. The water streams over giant granite boulders, creating any number of beautiful moments. I didn’t explore it alone though, I joined one of the special walks through the forest led by a member of the Kuku Yalanji people.
The Kuku Yalanji people are the Indigenous inhabitants of the region, and have a history that dates back 50,000 years to the earliest human occupation of Australia. Just stop and think about that number for a moment – 50,000 years. The Indigenous people of Australia predate every other culture on the planet and have shared their stories and histories from one generation to the next orally; a feat that boggles my mind.
In Daintree Rainforest, the Kuku Yalanji culture is built around a deep respect for nature and a profound understanding of its cycles. The Dreamwalk is an opportunity for outsiders to not only see the best of the jungle surrounding Mossman Gorge, but to also learn more about the Kuku Yalanji people and that culture. Keeping the rainforest in pristine condition is vital, and today that is accomplished through tours booked via the Mossman Gorge Center. Eco-friendly shuttle buses provide access into the gorge, as well as the Ngadiku Dreamtime Walks, thereby employing members of the community and creating sustainability in a variety of different ways.
Ngadiku translates to mean stories and legends from a long time ago in the local Kuku Yalanji language, and it’s this walk that is so important to learning more about the area. We met our guide at the visitor center and spent a few minutes chatting before heading out into the forest.
Before we could start though, we had to go through a traditional smoking ceremony to cleanse everyone and to ward off bad spirits. We then followed a trail through the jungle, meandering through the stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site, learning more about everything we saw all around us, as well as the local Kuku Yalanji culture itself. We listened as stories about the creation of the rainforest were taught to us, and looked on in amazement as our guide showed us the many traditional uses of native plants from food sources to soap and even insect repellent.
Midway through we stopped of at the Mossman River to cool off and enjoy the scenery. Queensland never fails to delight, but there is something so special and unique about this region in particular that really drew me in. This is the area in Queensland where two UNESCO sites converge: the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. Where the forest meets the reef is special not only to visitors, but to the original inhabitants as well and the stories and tales we heard only made me love this area that much more.
The walk was an easy one and while it was hot (it’s always hot) it was a great way to spend the morning. Of course being outside is the best way to appreciate the Daintree Rainforest, but learning about the indigenous culture was just as meaningful. We finished our walk with some tea and cakes, not traditional but a nice break before bidding our goodbyes to this very special place and the people who call it home.
Australia is about much more than just the natural splendor on display around every bend. It’s about getting closer to that nature and understanding it on multiple levels, including the important cultural components. I’ve participated in many activities around Australia designed to teach visitors more about the Indigenous culture, but the Dreamtime Walk at Mossman Gorge was one of the best I’ve experienced.