June 2 – Jessica

In Country Blog:

June 2, 2013

This was our last night at our tour guide Paul’s youth hostel: On the Wallaby Backpacker’s Lodge in Yungaburra. We will miss the atmosphere, but are excited to move on to our next destination, Cape Tribulation Beach House. We may be leaving Paul’s hostel but not him; he is staying with us for the next leg of the trip! Departure is at 8 am and after getting the last of our things packed away into the trailer we are back on the bus headed on our way to a highly anticipated Cultural Aboriginal Tour.

Michigan State University proudly holding our flag at On The Wallaby Lodge Backpacker's Lodge

Michigan State University proudly holding up the flag for our last group picture at On The Wallaby Backpacker’s Lodge in Yungaburra

Upon arrival we met with Linc, our guide on this coastal beach, mudflat and mangrove walk to be educated about their Kuku Yalanji culture. He showed us the proper way to throw a spear and taught us about the native plants and animals. Many of the plants right on the beach have medicinal and everyday uses. The leaf of the beach lettuce is used to cool the skin and help to soothe burns. Morning glory, which grows right next to the beach lettuce in long vines, is boiled with water and used to heal sting ray injuries. The flower of the hibiscus plant is edible; the aboriginals called edible native food ‘bush tucker’. The vines of the hibiscus are used for making rope and as a fire starter. It was so interesting to learn the various uses that the Aboriginal culture found for all of the naturally occurring species of plants and animals found in the area. They utilize these items in moderation to sustain their culture and ecosystem environmentally.

Linc showing us the proper way to use a spear

Linc showing us the proper way to use a spear! We went in groups and all tried to aim at a huge coconut that Linc had placed on the beach for us. After we were done practicing, we all grabbed a spear and continued the beautiful tour along the beach.

As we walked further along the sandy beach we came to the mangroves which are a very vital part of the ecosystem for this beach. The trees help to prevent soil erosion, the roots filter salt water and pollutants, and they also serve as a habitat for numerous species and microbes. The mangroves transfer all of the salt to sacrificial leaves using the stomata glands which then turn yellow and proceed to fall from the tree.

Mangroves provide sustainability for the shoreline and surrounding wildlife. They help prevent erosion through stabilizing the sediments with their intertwining root systems. They protect from natural occurrences such as destructive storms, heavy winds, waves, and floods. They also provide a sustainable environment by maintaining the water clarity and quality. The roots provide a constant filtration system, eradicating pollutants and trapping sediments from the land and sea. Without these essential trees the sustainability of this ecosystem would be drastically impaired.

Making our way through the mangroves

Making our way through the mangroves barefoot and sinking into the mud where the mussels liked to hide. We actually had to dig around the roots of the trees with our feet to feel for the mussels and then reach down with our hands and collect them for further preparation.

As we maneuvered our way through the intertwining lateral roots of the mangroves and mud, Linc showed us various snails and mussels that are edible and we collected some. When we made it out of the tangle of mangroves, we reached the inter-tidal zone of the beach.

Cooya Beach

The group walking the coast of Cooya Beach enjoying our cultural aboriginal tour. On the way back we ran into packs of soldier crabs, or Mictyris longicarpus, a small 1 inch wide species of crab that lives on sandy beaches from the Bay of Bengal to Australia. They feed on detritus in the sand, leaving rounded pellets of discarded sand behind them which we saw all over the beach!

As we look out we could see a lot of various sized holes where stingrays were scavenging for food on the ocean floor. Now that the tide was out, these holes became temporary homes for mud crabs. We all spread out and put our spears in the holes to hunt for crabs, as you can see we were very successful!

Liz spearing her first mud crab!

Here we have Liz spearing her first mud crab on the banks of Cooya Beach! After what seemed like about 30 minutes of hunting for crabs, everyone met back together and put any of their catch into a bucket to bring home and cook!

As we concluded our beautiful aboriginal beach walk we headed back to Linc’s Mom’s house with our bucket full of crabs, snails, and mussels. Talk about fresh food, Linc’s Mom cooked our whole catch and served it to us right away! While we waited for the catch to cook we passed around skeletons and shells of animals that live in the waters surrounding the area. Linc was so hospitable and even offered us some muffins and damper while waiting for the crabs to cook. What is damper you ask? Damper is traditional soda bread that was baked by drovers and stockmen. It has basic ingredients including flour, water and sometimes salt and usually cooked in the embers of a fire. It is not routinely available in bakeries and only commonly served to tourists on organized tours. It is best eaten with butter and jam or golden syrup as it is slightly dry and bland. Next thing we knew the crab came out steaming fresh and cooked in a chili vinegar flavoring, so delicious!

We could have stayed there all day chatting with Linc, but we did have to grab some lunch at the road house and be on our way to our next destination, Bruce Belcher’s Croc Tour! When we arrived to the site we all got on a boat stocked with binoculars at each seat, we knew we were in for a treat! Bruce himself took us through the brackish waters of the mangroves. We started off with seeing some bird life such as the beautiful and vibrant rainbow bee-eater, as well as the azure kingfisher. Then we came upon a huge female crocodile basking on the banks of the water’s edge. Bruce explained to us that there were only certain crocodiles that stayed within the 10 kilometer range. There is one giant male that we got to see up close, named Scarface because of the pink scars lining his eye from fighting with other crocodiles for territory.

Scarface, the only male crocodile in the 10k area

Meet Scarface, the only male crocodile in the 10k area! Crocodiles are very territorial and not so tolerant of their own kind, especially the adult males. We came right up beside him, despite his lethargic demeanor at the time, he was very intimidating!

There are 6 female crocodiles that stay in the area as well, the females lay around 70 eggs, of which only 20 will hatch, and If 5 or 6 of those survive the first few months of life, experts call that a successful rate. The crocs have a very low population density and this is why the government has strict policies regarding the animals. The Queensland government enforces that there is absolutely no feeding of the crocodiles and a 10 meter distance must be kept from them at all times. We noticed what looked like a small lizard basking on a log in the sun, Bruce corrected us and let us know it was really a 4 month old crocodile, it was so small!

The group on Bruce's river boat

A quick snapshot of the group on Bruce Belcher’s Crocodile Riverboat tour! We filled the boat completely; there was a small deck on the front of the boat that two people at a time could step up and take pictures from on our tour, that is where I am standing to take this picture.

After the hour-long tour on Bruce’s boat we departed for our destination for the next two nights, Cape Tribulation Beach House in Queensland. The Beach House is a resort located 140 Kilometers (87 miles) North of Cairns. Our accommodations are located within the 110 million year old Daintree Rainforest and sit on 7 acres of complete beach front with direct access to the Great Barrier Reef!

The view from Cape Tribulation Beach House

The view from Cape Tribulation Beach House right behind the Beach Bar and Bistro with direct access to the Great Barrier Reef! Watching the sunset from this location was breathtaking, and in the night sky the stars shined brilliantly.

We arrive at the location to settle down, work on some assignments and papers and enjoy a nice dinner down at the beach bar. Some of us even made it out to the beach front to watch the sunset and see the stars come out all in the same half hour. It was a great way to spend a night at Cape Tribulation and rest our head for the next big adventure tomorrow.

“Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tour” The Bama Way. Online, retrieved May 10th, 2013
From: http://www.bamaway.com.au/KukuYalanji.aspx
The link above will provide you with information regarding the Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tour we went on. You can see an overview of the services they offer along with location and price information about this costal reef area.

“Cooya Beach, QLD” Where is. Online, retrieved May 10th, 2013
From: http://www.whereis.com/qld/cooya-beach#session=MTE=
The link provided above depicts a map of Cooya Beach along with its daily weather reports and information about the surrounding area.

“Welcome” Daintree River Cruises. Online, retrieved May 10th, 2013
From: http://www.daintreerivercruises.com.au/
Visiting the link above will give you an overview of the services provided on Bruce Belcher’s Crocodile Tour. I suggest you check out the gallery to catch a glimpse of other wildlife often seen on these one hour mangrove boat ride tours.

“Daintree River” Wikipedia. Online, retrieved May 10th, 2013
From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daintree_River
I provided a link above to a page about the Daintree River to offer some very interesting information about this World Heritage Area and its vast history.

“Cape Trib Beach House Resort” Cape Tribulation. Online, retrieved May 10th, 2013
From: http://www.capetribbeach.com.au/
When visiting the page listed above, you can read more about the YHA Cape Tribulation Beach House where we stayed at on this day. The site gives information regarding accommodations, location, and activities.

“Back to Nature” Hostelling International. Online, retrieved May 10th, 2013
From: http://www.hihostels.com/hostel/2012/01/back-to-nature-with-cape-tribulation-beach-house-yha/
This link is a more personal view on the Cape Tribulation Beach House. This website is through Hostelling International where bloggers can write reviews on the different locations throughout the world.

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5 Comments

5 thoughts on “June 2 – Jessica

  1. Ian Seager

    It was really cool to actually go on an aboriginal hunt. I will definitely never forget the feeling of plunging my spear in the water and pulling it out with a crab on the end of it. The hunting, preparing, and even eating of the food was so much work. It really gives me an appreciation for how hard this way of life really was.

  2. Mary Beth Kramer

    What an incredible experience!! Learning the proper way to use a spear – how cool is that! Could you easily tell the difference between a croc and a gator like we see in Florida?

    • It was such an amazing experience to get up close and personal with the crocodiles! From a distance I personally couldn’t tell the difference between a crocodile and an alligator. When we got closer to the crocodiles we could see that their teeth stuck out of their mouths and we were informed that this is not the case with alligators. The best part was seeing the baby crocodiles. At one point we saw four next to each other. They were so cute!

  3. I loved how this day was a unique, hands-on way to learn about the way aboriginal people use the environment to their advantage without over using it. The method of hunting and the various plant uses did not require excessive damage to the plants and their ecosystems. We would never have known the uses of these plants just walking on the beach, and it was really cool to realize that you can use naturally occurring plants in many useful ways.

  4. Great blog Jess! The spear hunting was very fun as we learned how to hunt sand crabs with spears. Many people were successful in retrieving a crab, Steve being the first to get one and it was pretty big. Linc taught us many hunting techniques, which included: crab, mussel and clam hunting. He also showed us how to use plants, otherwise known as ‘bush tucker’ for food and medicines. While doing all of this we had the chance to see soldier crabs, there were thousands of these small blue shelled crabs all over the beach. It was a very informative visit on how to live off of the land and Linc was very nice to have let us into his home!

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