I have reserved a rental car for our two day trip up the coast from Cairns to Daintree and onto Cape Tribulation. The rental car lot is just a three block walk from our hotel and we are quickly on the road. Driving on the left side of the road is easier the second time around and little navigation is required since our route is straight north following Highway 1. It is less than a two hour drive to Daintree where we have reservations for the night so we have a leisurely day ahead. John shuffles through tourist pamphlets and tells me that he would like to go to Hartley's Crocodile Adventure Park. I tell him that it will probably be "lame," but that I am game! An hour later we pull into Hartley's parking lot, pay the $32.00 adult and $16.00 child entry fee and begin our crocodile adventure. We have tickets for the 2:00 P.M. river boat adventure and there are many other "shows" throughout the day. We spend the first hour walking the nature trails; observing lagoons filled with crocodiles, rocky enclosures of monitor lizards and bearded dragons, ponds with black swans and exotic waterbirds and an artificial enclosure of sleepy koala bears. The highlight for me is the "cassowary trail" and I fall in love with these exotic prehistoric birds. John tells me that they can eviscerate us with a swipe of their velociraptor like claws and I have no doubt. They are large and their claws are wicked; just like a velociraptor and with a fierce beak and a large horn upon their head. Their indigo blue and turquoise head feathers contrast with the long drooping blood red waddles and their iridescent black plumage shimmers. Beady eyes dart back and forth and they chortle and emit a deep vibration that sounds like a sub woofer. John is exceptionally good at reproducing sounds and he chortles back and soon the cassowaries and John are deep in conversation. I am not sure if the little girl watching is more fascinated by the cassowary or by John.
When we entered the park we were "warned" that going on the crocodile farm tour could be offensive to some people. I am offended by crocodile purses and shoes, but John reminds me that I eat meat and that these reptiles are farmed and not poached from the wild. We go on the tour and I take it in stride. The crocodiles here have a 3 year life span, much of it spent in the dark where they are quickly fattened and they spend their short life nose to nose with hundreds of mutually doomed crocodiles. Their environment is sterile and free from sharp objects, lest their valuable hide be damaged. The tour is interesting and enlightening.
It's time for our 2:00 P.M. crocodile river adventure and we cruise a loop in the river while the tired and venerable captain threads chicken heads onto a string, extending the delicacies out on a bamboo pole for the river crocodiles to jump for and devour. The crocodiles preform as expected and those of us on board applaud and take the expected photos. We race from this adventure onto the venomous snake show and then onto the crocodile wrestling show. A trainer in his mid 50's, who should know better, wades into the water and provokes an enormous crocodile. We hold our breath as the trainer takes risk after risk, baiting the crocodile with large chunks of meat and stepping out of harms way at the last second. The show is well choreographed and no blood is spilled but my blood pressure rises. We have spent nearly 5 hours here, but I insist on revisiting the cassowaries before we leave and John chortles his final goodbyes.
It is an hour further to Daintree and we pull into the tiny village at dusk. I ask directions to the Kenadon Home-stay cabins; we drive around the next bend and the woman mowing the enormous lawn, is expecting us. There are a half dozen cabins, all on stilts and facing out to the pastoral valley beyond where cows graze placidly. Ours is a sterile pre-fab cabin with a queen bed and three bunk beds. I take possession of the queen bed and John throws his belongings onto the bottom bunk. All is immaculate and I find milk, orange juice, bread and butter within the small refrigerator. Coffee and tea sit beside the electric water pot. We will be able to eat breakfast before our early morning departure on the Daintree River.
We leave our cabin and walk back towards the village to locate the Daintree River jetty where we will meet for our nature tour at 6:30 A.M. tomorrow morning. We find it easily and watch a family fishing off of the jetty. The young boy catches a river eel and we visit with the parents and an old man, tying up his boat. Multiple warning signs are posted prohibiting swimming unless one wishes to be a crocodiles dinner. It is dark when we walk from the jetty into town and the brush along side the road is alive with toads. John thinks they are frogs, but I flash back to Costa Rica and I instantly know that they are cane toads. John has a marvelous skirmish in the leaves trying to catch a toad on our way to dinner.
There is just one restaurant in the village and it adjoins the general store. The menu is minimal but we both enjoy the fried fish and chips.