Hiking and Swimming in the Tropics

I went on a day-tour that took us on several hikes in the Tablelands near Cairns. The waterfalls and scenery were amazing! We swam, hiked, and saw the largest tree that I've ever seen!

Day 423

It was time for another day-tour in Cairns, this time with Barefoot Tours, which goes to the Tablelands. A van picked me up at my Airbnb. The driver and tour guide, Gabs, told me that I could sit in the front with her if I wanted since I was the first person picked up. The brightly colored van was medium-sized, holding about 15 people. I sat upfront with Gabs, and we chatted while picking up others. 

Gabs appeared to be 30-35 years old. She was spunky with the left half of her hair shaved. The other half of her hair was medium-length dark blonde tight curls. Gabs doesn’t shave her legs, and the blonde hair was illuminated in the sunlight. And she was actually barefooted! 

As we chatted, Gabs told me that her partner worked as FIFO (Fly In Fly Out), so she was in Cairns for two weeks and then flew to a job site for two weeks. She does it because the money is good. 

Once we picked everyone up, there were nine of us (and the guide). Two of the couples were from the U.S., which struck me as strange. While in the rest of Australia, I rarely came across Americans. People told me that Americans usually only visit the east coast, and I found that to be true. 

As we drove to our first destination, Gabs told us about the Cane Toads. In 1935, Australia introduced the species in an attempt to kill two beetle species that were destroying all of the sugar cane crops. Unfortunately, as invasive species go, they started to eat native insects, bird eggs, and even native frogs. They couldn’t jump more than two feet high, so they couldn’t even reach the beetles that live high up in the sugar canes. 

The toads have poisonous sacks on them and have killed native animals who try to eat them. The toads have stretched to New South Wales and the Northern Territory. Australia has a broad range of species that aren’t found anywhere else globally, and the toad is considered the biggest threat to these unique organisms. 

Our first stop for the day was at Devil’s Pool. I walked down the path through the forest to the pool. Gabs told us that 17 people had died there because they underestimated the current. When I arrived at the natural pool, I looked around and took pictures. I wasn’t going to get into that water. 

On the walk back to the van, I talked with a couple who were from the Netherlands. They were around 30-years-old, and the woman was a school teacher. They were really friendly and sometimes struggled to remember the English word for something. The couple was on holiday. I warned them about the stinging nettles plant, so they didn’t accidentally get poisoned. 

We drove to our next spot and also had to hike to a water pool. On the hike, I talked with Marian, who was from New York. A german guy guessed that she was from Queens based on her accent, and he was correct! She was a high school teacher and was traveling solo. 

When we arrived at the water pool, I took off my clothes because I had my swimsuit underneath. I got in and swam around, and it was so cold! Swimming in the pool reminded me of my ten-day tour in the Kimberly region, and I missed that group. 

Gabs had moved the bus for us, so it was parked near the pool. She pulled out bananas that she bought from a stand on the side of the road and made us tea. A huge duck was begging for food and giving us funny looks.  

There was a natural rock slide at our next destination, where people were sitting down and sliding on their bums into the pool. I decided to climb up the river on the rocks and try out the slide. It was challenging to climb up because the water was coming down the rocks, and I was afraid of slipping. I climbed up with Marian, the solo traveler, and Margery. Margery was traveling with her boyfriend, but he passed on doing the slide. She was beautiful, had dark hair and huge boobs. She looked like she just walked out of Baywatch. 


We made it to the top and slowly sat down at the same time on the large, smooth rock. On the count of three, we slide down the smooth-ish stone to the bottom. It was a bumpy ride, but it was fun. 

We got back on the bus to drive to our next destination. The whole area was beautiful, with green farms and mountains surrounding us. We made a stop at a tea stand, which was like the banana stand. The farmers leave food in the stands, and people put cash in the box. 

During the drive, I talked with Gabs about the food industry and vaccines. She was against the food industry putting chemicals in our food and being forced to take a vaccine. She’s seen so many chronic illnesses that have resulted from vaccines; she doesn’t believe they’re safe. I agree. Gabs told me that Australia is like the little brother to the U.S., and they tend to mimic what the U.S. does, just several years later. Unfortunately, they started to put more and more chemicals in their food like we do in the U.S.  

Gabs had been working for Barefoot Tours for four months. She told me that she’s done all sorts of work in almost every industry throughout the years and doesn’t stay at places very long. She has degrees but dropped out of business school twice. While getting her other degrees, she moved around a lot, switched jobs, and finished her education early. In addition to working for the tour company, she worked a few days a month helping the elderly use electronics like Facebook, the internet, and smart T.V.s. 

I enjoyed talking with Gabs because she was cool and told me all about crazy things in Australia. For example, there is a black bean with arsenic, but Aboriginal people wash it for days and bake it so they can eat it. Gabs also told me that Cassowaries (giant flightless birds) are the world’s deadliest bird. A cassowary killed one Australian man, but recently a Florida man took one home as a pet and was kicked to death. 

I laughed so hard when Gabs told me that a Florida man was killed by one because of the “Florida Man Challenge.” I’ve had several people around the world do this challenge. You Google your date of birth (month and day) and “Florida man,” and there will be a crazy headline. For example, “January 1 Florida Man.” Mine is, “Florida man arrested after hitting girlfriend in face with burrito” and “Florida man carrying steroids and marijuana crashes van while attempting to flee Cumby PD.” Of course a Florida man was also killed by a cassowary. 

Part of the drive was on the road up the mountain with 263 turns that I had driven when I came to Cairns. This time, I could look around stress-free. Gabs told me that the rainforest is the oldest in the world, and maybe some secrets lay in wait.  

We arrived at our next stop, which was the most beautiful waterfall that I’ve ever seen! It was perfectly spread out, cascading down a cliff. It was at least 50 feet across and fell like it was a piece of art. I got into the water and braved the cold. The small pebbles hurt my feet as I got deeper into the water. There were other people there because it was easy to access. 

I swam to the waterfall, and the force of the water was unbelievable! It roared, and the mist sprayed into my face and eyes. A few people were climbing on the rocks behind the waterfall and underneath it. I got close but didn’t climb the rocks. After 30 minutes, I was too cold and got out of the water. 

Our next stop was at a lake. We hiked around part of it before arriving at a dock and a section with grass to lay down and soak up the sun. There is a single crocodile in the vast lake, and it’s a saltwater croc, which isn’t as deadly. They think some guy released into the lake, and now they can’t get it out. 

I slowly stepped into the water for a little bit, but it was cold! I was on the steps that were partially in the lake and watched a little boy trying to catch the small fish swimming around us. He was using a plastic box, and I helped him for a while. We were unsuccessful, but he was cute and reminded me of when my nephews were little. Then I decided to put my towel on the grass and enjoy the sunshine. I laid there for 30 minutes and fell asleep. 

Our final stop for the day was a massive tree. In the previous post, I said that a different giant tree was the inspiration for the tree of life in Avatar, but I was mistaken (it’s now been updated). It was this tree. The filmmakers did take pictures from the gondola and used the Daintree Rainforest as inspiration. But this tree was the inspiration for the tree that connected everyone on the planet in the movie.

The tree was magnificent, and it was easy to understand why they were inspired by it. There were branches of all sizes, making it appear that the tree had veins connecting it to the earth. The spaces inside the tree were so large that you could walk into it. It almost looked like it was several trees that merged into one.

Gabs drove us back to Cairns after a full day of hiking and swimming. She dropped me off at my Airbnb.

I ate some leftovers and relaxed. It had been two busy days of sightseeing, and I needed to unwind. The tour was great because I got to see a lot of the rainforest and do some more swimming in the natural pools. I had another full day scheduled for the following day – diving in The Great Barrier Reef! 

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4 Responses

  1. Wow, what spectacular landscape… and that tree! The photos are great, Christy. It looks like there are other trees growing in the upper branches of the large tree, is that correct? Also, the rock formation behind the waterfall, looks exactly like the type found at Devil’s Postpile Natl’ Monument in Mammoth, have you been?

    1. It was hard to tell where one tree stopped and another started. I think that one had trees intertwined, which definitely made me think about Avatar and how that tree of the ancestors where all connected by the roots.

      You’re right! I didn’t notice that before but it does look like Devil’s Postpile! I saw it when I hike the John Muir Trail in 2016. It’s crazy to see similar formations around the world!

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Throughout her wild 3-week journey backpacking 220+ miles in the California Sierra Mountains, Christy encountered freezing temperatures, pelting hail storms, and losing her way, but found trail family, incredible views, and experiences that would change her life forever. Hiking up and over ten different mountain passes gave Christy a lot of time to think about why her nine-year marriage was falling apart, gave her the chance to truly embody her individualism, time to make new friends, and the strength she would need on and off the trail. Her life could never again be the same.
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