Rain sprinkled; rain poured. The sun peeked out, but, within seconds, the sky darkened and the rain started up again. For travelers who have come many miles to see the rainforest, we realized that if we wanted to see it, we had to get out there and look – rain or not.
First stop (after coffee for Joe) was the Hasties Swamp National Park’s bird blind. Lucky us! A group from the University of Tampa had arrived earlier, and these bright and enthusiastic students welcomed us and filled us in on all the birds visible from the wooden bird blind – including the plumed whistling-ducks, royal spoonbill, and intermediate egret. Their local guide, Alan Gillanders, of Alan’s Wildlife Tours, invited us to view far off birds with his scope.
We moved on to see the famous Curtain Fig Tree in the Mabi Forest, a place of spiritual importance to the Aboriginal tribal people. A boardwalk protects the roots and allows viewing the tree from all angles. We heard birds chirping all around us, but, in the high canopy, any sightings were elusive.
We drove to Lake Eachem, part of Crater Lakes National Park. A story passed down over generations (for 10,000 years!) and recounted by a Ngadjon Elder, Emma Johnston, told the origin story of this lake:
“Back in the old days people camped where this Lake is now. But there was no water, only scrub. One day, everyone went hunting, leaving the young men alone in their huts. Those young men did a bad thing. Instead of sitting quiet, they saw something run across, maybe a wallaby. They tried to spear it, but speared a flame tree instead. When they pulled out their spear, there was a witchetty grub stuck on it. They were told not to go near the flame tree but they must have been hungry so they cut down that flame tree to get some more witchetty grubs. Things started happening after that. There was a big rumble and all the animals started running. The ground started shaking and the sky went red. Those people out hunting ran back to their huts to see what the bad thing was. There was nothing left. Just a big hole full of water where everything was before. Their huts were gone and the young men were gone too.”
Scientists have determined their origin description for this lake: two volcanic explosions formed the lake 10,000 years ago. This happened at a time when Aboriginal people lived in the area.
The 3 km circuit-trail around the lake proved to be a scenic walk. Little animals scurried across the path. Interpretive signs identified many tree species. Birds flew through the forests, but they rarely stopped long enough for us to get a good look. We saw fish and a saw-shelled turtle in the water.
On the drive back to Kuranda, our car was stopped briefly for road construction. We looked up, took one more (colorful) snap with the camera, and the car started up to take us home.