Diving in

Diving into Cassowary Falls

You know that old platitude about feeling the fear and doing it anyway? The picture above embodies that for me.

But alongside the fear, it was a moment in which I felt intensely, joyously, indescribably happy and alive. Pretty much as only diving into a hidden, waterfall-fed pool in the middle of the world’s oldest rainforest can make you feel.

So while fear and that incandescent spark that punches you in the lungs with joy every now and then are uncomfortable bedfellows, they are fellows nonetheless. For me, anyway.

I actually did this trip to Far North Queensland 12 months ago (and yep, have been meaning to write about it since then – I am not awesome at keeping up at the moment) but as we are about to embark on another couple of trips I feel the clammy hand of fear and worry mixing with the sweet anticipation. I kind of accept that this is how it will always be for me now. Post-Bali bombings I am a much more frightened, cautious person. But if I let that go to its natural conclusion I would also be a hermit. I’m tempted sometimes.

Creek fed by Cassowary Falls

Instead, I keep on diving in. Because I just cannot let the fear take up the whole bed. I deserve at least half the space. And all the doona.

The trip to this waterfall was extraordinary.

We usually go to Far North Queensland for our annual family holiday anyway but this time I had tagged along as a spouse on a conference handsome husband had been asked to speak at.

The conference organisers arranged for the attending partners to explore either the rainforest or the reef. I was the only one who chose the rainforest tour. Which meant I got a private 4 hour tour of a part of the world I am obsessed with. My idea of total heaven.

Coincidentally, the group booked to run the tour, Daintree Discovery Tours, was the company we have always gone out with the three other times we have explored the Daintree and my guide that day was the owner of the company, Grant, whom I had met before. So when he realised it was just me we changed all the plans (as I had already done a number of the things he had planned) and devised a custom trip instead.

The highlight of which was Cassowary Falls. The falls are on private property and access to them is very limited. We drove in through the rainforest, across a croc-infested tributary of the Daintree River and onto farm land.

I have always loved the farm land in this area. It’s such a beautiful contrast:  the manicured green pasture with the wild rainforest in the background.

Daintree River tributary and pasture

It’s not all green and pleasant though. The cows that graze along this river are sometimes taken by crocodiles if they stray too close to the edge. Yep, they’re bloody big crocs.

So we drove in and then swapped cars for the final kilometre into the falls.

This was the view behind us – and you can see it’s a serious truck with those roll bars…

Daintree pastoral land

and this was what lay ahead.

The track to Cassowary Falls

We forded creeks, and bumped our way over muddy tracks through fields and into the forest again.

Crossing the creek to Cassowary Falls

You have to walk the last 100 metres or so and then, suddenly, you find yourself in an oasis. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to stand on the rocky edge of a tranquil pool, the falls thundering down and the rainforest looming all around, lush and persistent.

And not another soul. It was pretty much a religious experience.

Turtle on a log - Cassowary Falls

Grant convinced me two swim over to the falls and then dive back in. I knew the minute I saw the place that I was going to do that.

I mean, I knew it was safe to dive where I did because Grant did it first and showed me where to aim for a shallow dive. And I knew it was too high and cold for crocodiles. But still.  There are cow-eating crocs just a couple of kilometres away and, well, what if genetic mutation has bred a cold-water tolerant, waterfall pool-loving man-eater of some kind?

It’s funny, the fear is there but something else takes over: the overwhelming desire to experience, to make the most of the moment regardless of the risk – real or perceived.

The next shot gives you a sense of the scale. You can see my little head floating below, looking back in wonder at the falls. Actually I’m watching a water dragon lizard scramble up the rocks but you can’t quite make him out.

Cassowary Falls in the Daintree

So if there was a croc lurking in the deep he did not grab me. The turtles sunning themselves on logs stayed well clear and my only wildlife encounter was with the tiny leeches that attached themselves between my toes. Again. What is it with me and leeches? Grant said he’d never come across one in all his time bringing people into the falls.  I, however, as this post attests, have now had more than my fair share of encounters with these suckers in this part of the world.

This photo makes me laugh.

Zebra truck

I mean, any day you get to go off-roading in a zebra truck is a good day.

The road to Port Douglas - sugar cane fields

After Cassowary Falls we had lunch at a private spot at Mossman Gorge. Once again, a beautiful experience. And once again I got to swim in the crystal clear waters of the gorge all on my own. I still can’t quite believe it.

Mossman Gorge through tree

 

Aboriginal artefacts

The year before when we were in Port Douglas for our annual family holiday we did a guided walk through this part of the rainforest (near Mossman Gorge) with one of the elders of the Kuku Yalanji tribe, the traditional owners of this land. It was one of the highlights of all our trips there.

Tall trees in Daintree

I know I’m swiftly running out of superlatives but this part of the world does that to you.

Daintree canopy

Our guide was Harold and he is a revered elder and a renowned medicine man who not only uses the rainforest as his pharmacy but is also used by the North Queensland police as a professional tracker in hard-to-crack cases. He uses his peoples’ traditional song lines to navigate and locate people who are lost in the rainforest.

Harold the healer

A thick book Harold showed us at the end of the walk attests to the fact he has healed hundreds of people from all over the world. As an interesting aside, he is also Cathy Freeman’s uncle and officiated at her wedding!

Aboriginal body paint

Here’s a hot n’ sweaty baby Betty!

Hot baby Betty in Daintree

She appreciated the swim at the end in this magical place.

Mossman Gorge

Harold was a superb  guide and pointed out the eleventy billion things that can kill you but also talked about all the natural remedies and tools he uses ranging from plants and berries through to the pincers of the ubiquitous green ants that can be used in place of stitches  or surgical staples to keep wounds closed.

Daintree flora on a tree

There are berries that look so similar that pretty much only a Kuku Yalanji member could tell apart; one heals, the other send you blind. There are cancer-inhibiting plants. These are just starting to be explored by western medical interests. Happily, any profits that flow from future medical discoveries  from this area – and the potential is HUGE –  will be fed back into this community. That gives me comfort.

As we walked through dense forest the rhythmic echo of wood on wood became louder and louder. Suddenly a clearing emerged; a natural amphitheatre and there we listened to stories of the aboriginal dreamtime from this area.

IMG_5012

I can’t recommend both of these tours enough. Daintree Discovery Tours  for a general tour of the area and a Dreamtime tour with the Mossman Gorge Centre.

I don’t know why I feel such a strong pull to this part of Australia.But I just can’t get enough of it.

Cane fields with burning off FNQ

Here are some of my other posts about Port Douglas and surrounds:

Our Holiday

I survived 

Far North Queensland

Summer Snapshots

Summer Snapshots 2

River Drifting 

Listen to Sir David Attenborough’s endorsement of the Daintree Rainforest over and above even the Amazon!

So tomorrow morning we head to the airport for our next adventure. One familiar place and one entirely new for us.

Deep breath. Dive in.

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An idyllic weekend in the Cotswolds complete with English summer fete

Arlington Way Bibury

A few Saturdays ago I was somewhat shocked to find myself sipping Pimms by a stream in the sunshine in the English countryside.  Shocked because I felt as though I had left Melbourne just a few hours before and yet here I was; ensconced in a vignette of Cotswold life so achingly beautiful and perfect and seemingly quintessential that I truly felt as though I had stumbled onto a movie set.

Bibury house and garden

It had been, in fact, some 35 hours earlier that we had left Melbourne for this most green and pleasant of lands . But long-haul flights do funny things to your perception of time. Cocooned in the warmth and half-light of an aeroplane cabin dimmed for sleep, time seems to compress as you fly from afternoon into an ocean-crossing night that stretches for 20 odd hours.

Cotswold-road

The trip started brilliantly before we had even touched down. The sun was rising just as we flew in to land at Heathrow. Out of the window the first thing that came into view as we pierced  through the clouds was green farmland with the Thames, gleaming a dark olive in the weak dawn light, snaking in a thick band through the countryside.

Bibury Lane

I’m somewhat obsessed with rivers. Especially rivers so old and venerable as the Thames so it was miraculous for me to be able to follow this vast waterway virtually from its mouth, up through green fields until it glittered below in its familiar loop in the very centre of London itself. As the sun rose higher and gave bright colour to the landscape below, we cruised over Hyde Park and began to circle.

Hemlock

I literally had my nose pressed against the glass of the window as I drank in the scenes below me. Deeply green fields, mist lying in the lowest depressions and occasionally something truly spectacular like a castle with its own lake. A lake so large it had formed its own weather system and two small clouds were reflected in its mill pond-still surface. Or a small town with cathedral on a river, the white points of which reached skyward in gothic peaks.

summer-flowers-in-a-garden

But back to terra firma.

Cotswold's wall

By 6am, my handsome husband and I were in our rental car and headed straight from Heathrow out into the English countryside. Cotswold's meadow

Walk in Bibury

By 7am the dulcet tones of our GPS had guided us to Bibury, a charming Cotswold village. We did a three hour loop walk through the town, the nearby woods and fields. It was utterly beautiful.

Ash copse

English countryside. There. is. nothing. like. it.

Stone manor bibury

I confess that I cried. About 6 times. I was overwhelmed by the sheer beauty and a deep-seated sense of being so ridiculously fortunate.

Sheep in field in Bibury

Feeling pretty tired after that we decided to head for the place we were staying: Lords of the Manor in Upper Slaughter. When you are saying “Lords of the Manor in Upper Slaughter” you have to do so in a Penelope Keith-type accent. It’s the law.

Stone wall in meadow

On our way we saw a sign to the remains of a Roman villa from the 3rd century. We detoured. I was in heaven:  nerding out on Roman history in the middle of an Elysian setting.

Roman ruins - Chedworth Villa

Continuing on along tiny country lanes lined with stone walls and flower-filled hedgerows we arrived in Upper Slaughter.

Cotsewold's wall and road

It is a tiny little town.

Sign-to-Upper-Slaughter

As we turned into the main street  a sign read “Upper Slaughter summer fete – today 3-6pm.” I looked at Andrew in disbelief. It was too good to be true. “If there is British bunting and a church jumble sale, I will die” I said.

Then I died.

Upper Slaugher fair river view View-from-slope-to-Upper-Slaughter-fair

And then I died again because in addition to the above there were rubber duck races along the rush-lined stream, a Pimms stall AND Morris dancers.

Morris dancer

Duck race on the River Eye

So you’d forgive a lass for sitting in the sun with her Pimms and pinching herself. And you’d forgive her if she shed another little tear at the sheer perfection of it all.

Andrew-drinking-Pimms-in-Upper-Slaughter

Fete Upper Slaughter

The next afternoon we wandered down to the stream again. In Australia you would see the grass strewn with cigarette butts and crushed beer cans. Of course in Upper Slaughter, all that remained was this:

Pyramid of Pimms bottles

a neat pyramid of empty Pimms bottles.  LOVE.

I have a few more UK posts coming up. Stay tuned to see whether Loooords of the Manor was as frightfully as it sounds, a little more of the stunning Cotties plus a quick trip to Bath (where I again totally nerd out on all things Roman),  and then on to London.

But first, tomorrow I’ll be posting a quick craft tutorial. It’s been a long time between crafty drinks hasn’t it?

Spring crafts with fresh flowers

One thing I really notice about bringing our kids up in an urban environment is the lack of flowers you can pick. Growing up on the bush outskirts of Melbourne we always had flowering plants somewhere in our huge yard and we picked them as we pleased. In retrospect, possibly  not as my mum pleased though.

On  our walks around our local area I feel like I’m constantly saying to the kids “don’t pick those flowers” or “they belong to the person who has grown them” or  “leave them there so everyone gets to enjoy them.”  Every now and then we sneak a cheeky daisy where the flowering is so prolific that no one is likely to miss it, but that’s about it.

So when we spend time at my parent’s place on the Gippsland Lakes, it’s as though they’ve been let loose in a veritable flowering garden of Eden. And while I do subscribe to the theory of leaving beautiful things be for everyone to enjoy, there’s nothing like gathering a big bunch of flowers from the garden, feeling the stickiness of stems and sap, the velvet touch of petals against your fingers and inhaling the scent all to yourself.

After a recent gathering spree we dissected some flowers . Well, not so much dissected as simply reduced them to their constituent parts. It’s remarkable just how many tiny bits and pieces make up a seemingly simple flower.

The inspiration to pull our flowers apart came from this post to which a  lovely friend recently linked me after tipping, correctly, that I’d love it.

Another flowery craft that harks back to when my mother was a whippersnapper, is this gorgeous plate of fresh blooms.

Sophia made that one and it lasted with all the flowers in pristine condition for four days next to our bed. Such a beautiful thing to do for guests who are staying.

You simply lay cotton wool balls on a plate, spray them (generously but not so much that they are saturated) with water and then layer your petals, or indeed whole flowers, on top.

And yes, as you can see, you can draw a cheeky face on a rose bud to make your plate that much friendlier.

Other beloved Spring activities are running through sprinklers…

and playing EXCITING ball games.

And yes, thanks for asking, I am actually thinking of a career in digital graphic design after such a sterling effort on Olive’s little top there. The more I botched it the more it made me giggle and so the more I did. I think the scalloping is an especially subtle touch don’t you?

And here’s the patch we got the daisies from. I call this photo “I am smiling, mum”.

The baby Bettys in the Children’s Garden at the Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens

Spring is really springing here and we’ve had a few days of really gorgeous weather. But, because this is Melbourne, they are predicting hail and gale-force winds with patches of 40 degree Celsius heat tomorrow. Well not quite but you get the unpredictable picture.

With the warmer weather my mind is turning to picnics and one of the best places to spread your rug in Melbourne is at the Royal Botanic Gardens.

These photos were taken in the Children’s Garden at the beginning of last Autumn  – right before it turned wear-your-socks-to-bed cold.  It’s such a great space; I really  love it. As do the Baby Bettys. Which is a always a bonus when you’re dragging them somewhere for the morning.

There are so many different colours, patterns and textures, not to mention hidden spots to explore and, well, hide in but all pulled together in a somehow tranquil way.

The stream is a highlight – perfect for sailing leaf boats down and paddling in  – and there’s no stopping them, no matter how cold the day. So I don’t even try.

Each end of the stream leads to a different world: one to a tiny rocky island with secret paths through child-tall reeds,

the other to a slightly weird and lumpy fountain. The spouts of which the littlest one delights in stopping with her finger to freak out her big sister with the threat of a sudden soaking.

It’s a special spot within the greater Gardens) and I am making a vow now that this year I will do a proper picnic there one weekend. And when I say proper I mean one with  pink lemonade or, – as I like to call it – Moscato.

PS: Click here to go to my guest post during the Northern Hemisphere Spring a while back on The Salty Pineapple blog for the how-to for my ultimate, portable picnic dessert: trifle in a mason jar.

Fork the garden

So very many potential  jokes to be made with the word “fork”  that my head is spinning. But I shall attempt to refrain. Well, I’ll do my forkin’ best anyway (I believe that is what is referred to in hilarious circles as a “forkin’ fail”). BOOM TISH – I’ll be here every night this week folks.

I ordered these lovely forks from Made It seller me2 as the final touch in my upcycled wooden planter I told you about in this post.

Melanie was a delight to work with and happily agreed to my request to stamp exhortations on my pretty forks rather than names of herbs.

The thing I just love about these forks is that as well as looking really pretty and glinting in the sunlight in a most fetching manner, they can be used for actual gardening. The baby Bettys just love using them.

So if you are planning on going and getting yourself forked in the garden (and who doesn’t contemplate it at some stage or another) I can recommend these lovely tri-pronged tools.

Ooh err, missus!

Afishionados

We went to get two goldfish and came back with a heater, a lamp, water conditioner, water buffer, live brine, a scoop, cleaning thingies, special dried fish food and two temperamental but very beautiful Golden Balloon Rams which are not, despite their name, of the ovine variety. They’re fish.  And thank goodness, really. It took a little bit to convince my handsome husband that we (ie, he) would love cleaning the tank every week. I think bi-annual shearing would have really been stretching the friendship.

They really are the funniest little fish. They’re territorial but they do chat to each other if they happen to meet in the tank. And when they do, the iridescent blue spots on the back half of their bodies and fins light up. It’s pretty amazing.

I love this next photo because if you look carefully on the far left, you can just see Lucy’s head in the reflection of the tank wall. She spends a lot of her time hiding behind her jar. While if you squint at the right hand jar, you can just see Lucy suspended inside hers. Hiding. Or so she thinks.

Oh yeah, did I tell you they are both named Lucy? Yep. They’re both named for our beloved Lucy who looks after the girls two days a week while I’m working. So now we have three Lucy’s in the family. And we feel very lucky indeed.

Scenes from our summer holiday

It just wouldn’t be summer without…

golden twilights on the deck,

at least one bloody huge Huntsman spider in our room (the kids’ screams alerted us to its presence),

thongs,

dreams of crayfish caught if not the actual crustaceans themselves,

spectacular sunsets,

sandcastles; this one for mermaid fairies complete with mussel shell swimming pool,

shrieks of joy running under the sprinkler (which was running in strict accordance with all applicable water restrictions I hasten to add).

I hope everyone had a lovely start to 2011 and I’d like to wish you all a safe, peaceful and joyous 2011 full of good stuff.

I’d also like to say a HUGE THANK YOU to all of you, my treasured readers. And a special thanks to everyone who has taken the time to comment. Your encouragement, feedback and just plain kindness is paramount in keeping me krumping in time with the music. Because, let’s face it, some people have the confidence to krump it up in the middle of the dance floor all by themselves, but most of us prefer to dance with someone else. So I’m very grateful to those of you who twirl along with me in this jig.