21 July 2017
Today’s Daintree Dreaming Tour promises “a real Aboriginal cultural experience combined with the pristine natural beauty of the World Heritage Listed Daintree Rainforest”. Although we booked through Billy Tea Safaris for our whole trip, this trip is run by Adventure North Australia and we are picked up at 7.20am by two delightful women: Kate (who is in training for this tour but an experienced guide) and Bridget (who is half aboriginal but not originally from this area). Most of our tour participants are being picked up at North Cairns beaches or from Port Douglas, so we sit up front chatting with Kate and Bridget and get lots of local information as we again travel the beautiful Captain Cook Highway.
Cooya Beach is just north of Port Douglas near Mossman. This beach is known as Kuyu Kuyu to the local Kuku Yalanji people and is a traditional fishing ground. This unique coastal place has three diverse ecosystems – beach, mangrove and coastal reef – all connected to each other by ever-changing mudflats and tidal lagoons. We meet Brandon Kubirri Warra who is going to share it with us today, taking us out to teach us traditional fishing and gathering techniques. We are each given a bamboo spear and after a quick lesson we head down to the beach where the tide is going out quickly. Our first target is soft-shell crabs and we are shown the little hollows where they will likely be and how to prod around until we get something. Unfortunately although we walked a long distance along the beach spread right out across the broad sandy mudflats and tidal pools, it seems like the crabs have stayed up in the mangroves today but we did get three crabs – including one I caught. We don’t have time to go right into the mangroves but we do skirt around the edges looking for fat juicy cat’s eye shellfish that are on the mangroves and add those to the bucket to take back. On the way back to Brandon’s house, we also collect some passionfruit, native almonds and coconuts. Brandon cooks up the crabs and shellfish for us in a special chilli lemon sauce and we all get to try them with some freshly made damper bread; and of course the passionfruit, coconut and almonds. This has been a magical morning: a hands on experience of aboriginal life in a spectacular environment. It didn’t really matter that we didn’t catch many crabs because it was a beautiful walk along the beach.
Although we have just finished tasting all our gathered treats, our next stop is lunch at the Mayi Cafe at the Mossman Gorge Centre where they serve locally sourced produce infused with indigenous bush ingredients – my salad is absolutely delicious. Gill and I are surprised to discover that we have a different afternoon planned than the rest of the group; we are going on a Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk with a local indigenous guide into a special area of the Mossman Gorge that the general public are not allowed to enter. We go by bus to our starting point where we are greeted with a traditional smoking ceremony – conducted to welcome people to their land. It is a ceremony of spiritual cleansing, to ward off evil spirits and ensure we are accepted and honored while on their land. As we go on our 2 hour walk through the rainforest, our guide explains traditional plant uses and stories of the area, demonstrates how they communicate through the rainforest, and shows us various spiritual areas such as where the young boys go for their initiation. Unfortunately, this in ‘man’s business’ so he can’t tell us more than the basics. He does show us how they make bush soap and how they use ochres for painting traditional designs on their skin. Before we head back we have some bush tea and more damper bread (this time with jam and cream!).
We are dropped off at the board walk area that the others have been visiting and make our way down to the swimming hole at the end in time to meet them just as they are about to come back. The river is beautiful and we spend a bit of time just soaking in the ambiance of the rainforest before we head back to join our bus and the drive back to Cairns. On the way back we stop at a few lookouts along the spectacular Captain Cook Highway and to look at a field that was covered in hundreds of grazing wallabies.
Back in Cairns we decide to treat ourselves to a seafood feast (with wine of course) at a waterfront restaurant – to celebrate our last night and a very enjoyable stay.
Our itinerary for the week:
Arrive in Cairns, Tropical North Queensland
Kuranda Scenic Train and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
Chillagoe Caves and Outback Tour
Daintree, Cape Tribulation and 4WD Bloomfield Track
Magical Outer Reef Experience to Moore Reef
Atherton Tablelands and Waterfalls Tour
Daintree Dreaming Tour with Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk