Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Viva Moss Vegas!

The beautiful raintrees of Mossman

It is exactly four weeks since I rode the ferry North across the Daintree River and became a rainforest-dwelling wwoofer. Today I took the ferry South, heading for an exciting day of shopping in Moss Vegas, as the nearest actual town with actual shops and actual services is known to locals. I was hitching a ride with Alison, the wwoof host I stayed with a couple of weeks ago, who lives around the corner from my current Hideaway home and makes a weekly trip to Port Douglas via Mossman.

Being driven along Cape Tribulation Road generally strikes me dumb with awe and often moves me to tears with its beauty. Today gratitude for the long-awaited ride kept me making conversation despite the distractions of several types of dense forest crowding and overhanging the road. Every trip across a creek or river involves craning my neck for a glimpse of a crocodile, especially on the short ferry ride, since the Daintree River is the only place I have ever actually seen a croc in the wild. But the conversation was riveting and enlightening, thanks to Alison's comprehensive local knowledge, and I learned a lot about the history and hidden complications of power supply, generation and usage North of the River (more on this another time).
Sugarcane with Daintree National Park on ranges in background

South of the River, the landscape changes dramatically and abruptly to a sugarcane monoculture (where 170 years ago there was only rainforest). And then of course the exquisite coastline appears on the left, today a silvery mirror of placid sparkling Coral Sea, highlighted by densely forested islands and headlands visible in various directions. And then the ute coasted to a gentle halt on the side of the road. Diagnosis: fuel filter problems. Attempted solution: kangaroo hopping a couple of hundred metres at a time in slow motion around a several kilometres of narrow windy coastal road, causing some lip-chewing near misses as impatient fellow travellers passed us at speed on blind corners. Final solution: pulling up at a safe spot on Rocky Point, with great cellphone reception and calling RACQ (equivalent to NZ's AA).
View North from Rocky Point to Snapper Island (so called because it resembles a croc gliding through the water...)
and Cape Kimberly hiding behind the tree

While waiting to be towed Alison and I admired the view, enjoyed the sunshine and then the shade, I scrambled down the rocky slope and dabbled in the warm water's edge for a while, and then we both realised that we could take advantage of the cellphone reception so utterly lacking at Cape Trib. Alison had a hilarious video call with her sister's dog and I texted my daughter and my best mate in NZ.
Flat-bed Tow Truck lifts Hi-Lux

The tow truck driver and Alison shared increasingly outrageous shark and crocodile tales all the way into town and then, at last, I was let loose for some retail therapy on Mossman's main street. As well as my own extensive and diverse list of needs I had various errands to run for two friends. So starved am I of consumerism and sophistication that Mossman's choice of not one but two chemists, two haberdasheries, two clothing shops, two electrical shops (etc) was unbearably thrilling, and shopping was not the chore I often find it to be in more regular circumstances. I found some great books and an orange fleece jacket in the one op shop and managed to get all the other important things on my own list, as well as a television aerial and shower unit(!) for Rob.

Mossman having only one supermarket and one organic cafe, Alison and I bumped into each other twice before our arranged meet-up at the library. Sadly for me, the ute didn't take long to repair and I only had a few minutes to flick through the two excellent books I quickly found on rainforest and indigenous values before I was collected for a beautiful and uneventful ride home.
Daintree River from the ferry, with tourist cruise looking for crocs

I just had time to copy into my notebook this quote from Marius Jacobs, which articulates my own nascent ideas so well:

Knowing a tropical rainforest is like 'knowing' a city. To grasp all that happens is impossible, yet a good deal of understanding and meaningful knowledge can be gathered as a basis for what we do... good or bad.
In the process of getting acquainted, this relationship develops according to the interest, capacity, keenness, curiosity and fantasy of the person and to such a relationship there is no end...
[S]he then realises [s]he receives more than [s]he gives, an affair with terrible difficulties, to be sure, but which, once overcome, results in something sublime.

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