Exploring Australia Part 3: Kewarra Beach

October 9, 2013
Our next stop was Kewarra Beach, only about a 20 minutes drive north of Cairns. I booked it basically with the intention of enjoying Cairns and the surrounding area some more, just from a unique location. When we arrived to our new jungle hut location, Herbert the Cane Toad welcomed us.

I’ll be keeping my eye on you.
What are you smiling at?

I was really impressed by the construction of our accommodations (ie: get ready for tons of pictures). Carine and Ian were our hosts, and clearly had put years of sweat and effort into this place. No amenity was left out, and the decor was unique and beautiful. There was a really peaceful quality to it, I think because of the indoor/outdoor flow. Although there were real walls, there was no closure from the outdoors. The bathroom was fully outside. Thank goodness for beautiful tropical weather!

Our first morning in Kewarra Beach we slept in until 6:30am. That’s as long as the birds would let us sleep. We had a leisurely morning, but tied our running shoes on around 10am and headed to the beach. We found that Kewarra Beach was a long stretch of sand, which went for 6 kilometers unbroken, until you arrived at Palm Cove. There was a pier at Palm Cove that we could easily see from Kewarra, and we said those famous last words: That doesn’t look so far.
Running on the sand was actually lovely. I intend to start doing it here in Christchurch. The 6k went by pretty quickly, and we enjoyed a smoothie in Palm Cove before heading back.
Between the 30 degree weather and the humidity, we were pretty worked after our run. We took our time recuperating, but eventually made our way up into the Kuranda rainforest. We spent some time looking for cassowaries (more on that later), and went on a wee jungle walk out to Barron Falls.
Barron Falls
Bush turkey, we meet again
Barron Falls was just a bit more than a trickle due in part to it being the dry season, but also because the Barron Gorge Hydroelectric Power Station has got a weir behind the head of the falls. Regardless, I still thought it was impressive.
What do you do when a big spirally vine is hanging in your path?
What would Tarzan do?

One of the major benefits of booking accommodations with a kitchen is saving money and eating in. This by no means meant we had to scrimp. For half of what it would cost to go out, we made ourselves a lovely dinner and I baked chocolate chip cookies. Oh, how I’ve missed ripe tomatoes, fresh basil and real mozzarella. Summer in NZ can’t come soon enough!

The following day we drove up to Mossman Gorge because we had been told by heaps of friends and strangers that we absolutely could not miss it. Apparently, neither could the rest of Australia. We were met by probably 200 cars and a big, brand new welcome center. For only $6, they would drive you the massive distance of 2 kilometers so you could then walk the massive distance of 2 kilometers in the rainforest. Sure you could walk the 2k to the gorge for free (I was told that under no provisions would we possibly get a lift back if we hadn’t paid $6 upfront, so I better be prepared to walk it in both directions) but clearly only crazy people would give up the shuttle ride. We were put off by the copious amount of people and commercialism of the whole thing- and so we actually just turned around and left.

Upon the recommendation of our host, Ian, we chose to do the Stoney Creek hike (near Mossman) instead. It’s a hike that’s made it into the trail guidebooks and onto the internet, but it is unique because there is no trail. It’s simply a rock-hopping track up the creek for 2.5k. This may sound easy, but let me tell you, it was slow going! There’s a bit of fancy footwork and actual thought that has to go into rock jumping and non-ankle twisting!

This hike was unique for it’s creepy animal count. Besides the cute turtle that we saw first, everyone else was slithery or spiky or 8-legged. Ick!

Can you spot the Lace Monitor? He’s right in the middle of the picture. He’s a massive lizard!
Photo of the “trail”
Tree snake that we thought was definitely poisonous because she looked so mean. But she’s not.
Stoney Creek Falls

Although we had one more day left staying in Kewarra Beach, we decided to spend the next day up in the Daintree Rainforest. I’ll talk more about that in the next post. The drive from Kewarra Beach to Daintree was nearly all coastal, and offered stunning views, as well as miles and miles of barely populated beaches.

When we arrived in Daintree Village, we somehow expected a village with cafes and shopping and maybe a hotel or two. What we found was 2 burger stands, 1 information booth, and 4 different crocodile tours. Right.

After a surprisingly tasty homemade hamburger, we decided When in Rome… and we booked ourselves a croc tour. We’d both been hoping to see one without really meeting it- so obviously this was the best way to go about that. We lucked out again, and got a tour guide all to ourselves. He took us out on a pontoon boat on the Daintree river.

A bit about crocs: they’re very territorial. They will live in the same 1-2 kilometers of river for their whole life. Which is about 100 years! This makes them a bit easier to spot- and the guys on the boats know each croc individually and have named them. This by no means makes them safe or tame.

The crocs in the Daintree River are saltwater crocodiles. The males can reach up to 7 meters, while females grow up to 4.5 meters in length. Their age can be determined roughly by how long they are in feet, so the 10-footer below, is approximately 10 years old:

Crocs have been on this earth for 200 million years… with no real evolutionary changes in the last 80 million years. They are essentially living dinosaurs (and they look it!). They are not picky eaters, and will devour anything from fish, to birds (the guide referred to the blue kingfisher as a “flying chicken nugget”), to calves and cows, to your dumb human who hangs off the side of the pontoon boat. They have insanely powerful jaws that will end life in an instant, and an even more powerful tail that will propel them from 0-50k/hr in an instant if they see something they’d like to eat.

An interesting fact about the female: she can be impregnated by several different male crocs at the same time. (I think there’s another word for this in our language…. but never mind). The guide said this is an evolutionary tactic that allows the species more genetic diversity. So it’s actually quite advanced. Also, the sex of the young is determined by the heat of the sand they are incubated in. Cooler sand produces females, and sand above a specific temperature will produce males. As with all species, more females = survival of the species. Mom will sit near the nest, not to incubate, but to protect. But only within a day or two of her young hatching, the hormones in her brain will switch off (that’s the technical term, right?)… and if her young haven’t swam off- she’ll eat them!

This is Rusty, a 40 year old female who is currently knocked up (no idea how they know this)…

Rusty is basking in the sun (it was hot this day). She stores the heat from the sun in the “tiles” on her back. When she’s warm enough, she’ll dive underwater where she can sleep for up to 5 hours without breathing. When she gets cold, she’ll emerge again to warm up. Crocodiles are so lazy (until they don’t want to be) and have such a slow (cold-blooded) metabolism, that some only need to feed a few times per year to survive.

Rusty sunbathing and napping.

The other cool animal we saw on the croc cruise was this Great Billed Heron. They’re known for being elusive and shy, but they’re actually Australia’s largest heron, and can be up to 3 feet tall! This one appeared to be every bit of that. The guide told us that they’re quite rare.

So that concludes our time in Kewarra Beach. Our last stop, about an hour north into “Far North Queensland” was Port Douglas… coming soon.

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