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Far North Queensland’s Wet Tropics has amazing pockets of biodiversity.  The Wet Tropics World Heritage Area stretches from Townsville to Cooktown and covers 894,420 hectares of coastal zones and hinterland, diverse swamp and mangrove-forest habitats, euclaypt woodlands and tropical rainforest.  It covers only 0.01% of Australia’s surface area, but has:

  • 36% of all mammal species
  • 50% of the bird species
  • around 60% of the butterfly species
  • 65% of the fern species

This amazing bush tucker trip, where the tropics meets the reef, took us from Cairns to Port Douglas, up to Cape Tribulation and down and around the tablelands. It was effortless touring in our modern and fuel efficient camper, which Sam has duly named Larry – Lili’s boyfriend!

We did plan on heading right up to Cooktown, but having already crossed several overflowing creeks, we came to a halt at Emmagen Creek and turned back. It was impassable without a 4×4 and we didn’t want to forfeit our $2,000 damage deposit.

We spent most of our time wild camping (no campsite) and without the need for a electric hookup.  We had been told by many that this wasn’t possible; either the locals or police would move us on.  Quite the opposite, we met and shared a few glasses of wine with some fantastic locals who were more than helpful in finding us a nice sheltered area where we could park up for free.

We seen some weird and wonderful animals, insects and plant life along the way – too many to mention.  If we said we were not nervous of the prospect of meeting a croc we’d be lying.  Almost everywhere warned of the dangers of this fierce predator and you could tell the environment, especially the swamps, was prime breeding ground.  We did swim in a river where two locals assured us the water was too cold for crocs – we have learned since that that was a load of balony – lucky escape I say.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #19

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This creek we did cross.

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This creek we didn’t!

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Larger than the Great Wall of China and the only living thing visible from space, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world.  The spectacular kaleidoscope of colour stretched along the Queensland seaboard from south of the Capricorn to Torres Strait south of New Guinea.  A BBC TV programme rated it second only to the Grand Canyon on a list of 50 places to see before you die (Lonely Planet).

We (more like I) could hardly sleep with the excitement of diving this spectacular wonder.  A 60km ride off the coast of Cairns meant we had to be up and on the boat rather early. It took over 2hrs to get to get to our first drop off.  Sam signed up for the guided tour as she hadn’t dived since November and felt more comfortable with an instructor.  I took an unguided tour and buddied up with Berry, the guy for the Netherlands.

To be brutality honest it was great but not absolutely spectacular which we were expecting.  The time of year, weather conditions and visibility were not in our favour.  Once in, Berry and I headed straight for the 80m coral wall, passing some nice shallow corals along the way, but once there we were a little disappointed.  Although there was a great diversity of corals we were expecting them to be more colourful and surrounded by many more fish.  That said, we got to swim with turtles and a few white-tip reef sharks which was a first and damn amazing – we soon gulped our air as we chased them around. Sam unfortunately seen neither.

If we get the chance we will try another dive somewhere along the coast.  The photos are a little disappointing and come nowhere near those taken in Indonesia.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #17

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One of the world’s greatest natural attractions, the rock (Uluru) and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas).  The entire area is of cultural significance to the traditional owners, the Pitjantjatjara and Yankuntjatjara aboriginal peoples (who refer to themselves as Anangu).  The Anangu officially own the national park and lease it to Parks Australia and where it is jointly administered (Lonely Planet).

First we went to visit the Kata Tjuta (means many heads), a striking group of domed rocks clustered together to form valleys and gorges.  The tallest rock, Mt Olga, is 546m high and 1066m above sea level and about 200m taller than Uluru. 

After a bite to eat it was on to Uluru for a champaign reception while watching the sunset.  Nothing could prepare us for the great hulk on the horizon, so solitary and prodigious.  It’s 3.3km long and 348m high and if that’s not impressive enough, two-thirds of the rock lies beneath the sand.  As the sun set it illuminated from ochre-brown to a burnished orange, then a series of deeper and darker reds before it faded to charcoal – simply amazing!

The following morning it was a 4am start in time for breakfast and sunrise.  We respected the wishes of the Anangu and completed the base walk (10k) rather than climb to the top.  The caves, paintings, sandstone folds and abrasions made for an interesting and leisurely 2.5hr walk.  It was 40 degrees for the last hour and the flies were unbearable (hence the self-made fly net at the Olgas), but it was so worth it.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #16

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Borobudur

December 28th, 2008 | Posted by Davey in 10-Indonesia | UNESCO World Heritage Sites - (0 Comments)

Ranking with Bagan and Angkor Wat as one of the great Southeast Asian monuments, Borobudur is a stunning and poignant epitaph to Java’s Buddhist heyday (Lonely Planet).

Constructed in the early part of the 9th century, the temple consists of six square bases with some 1500 narrative relief panels illustrating Buddhist teachings and tales.  On the upper circular terraces there are latticed stupas which contain 72 more Buddha images.  Covered in volcanic ash by an eruption in 1006 and only rediscovered in 1814.

Billboards display photographs of its entire re-construction (not sure what year)from just a mound of ash to what we have today – a real credit to the team – and they are still restoring parts of the rear section.  We were unable to confirm whether there is an actual inner temple.  The monument is so large it is hard to believe that are no tunnels or an inner chamber.  We talked with many of the workers and stone masons but they all just seemed to ignore or shy away from the question.  Maybe there is but off limits to tourists.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #15

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Imagine yourself a little hairier and better with your toes and you’ve got Bukit Lawang’s main attraction: the orang-utan (Lonely Planet).

As we had to cut our Malaysian trip short and miss out on trekking in Borneo, we couldn’t miss out on a to visit  Gunung Leuser National Park in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, the only other place on the planet to see wild orang-utans.

Bukit Lawang is one of the most accessible places to spot this reclusive primate, thanks to an orang-utan conservation programme that has been operating on the eastern edge of the park since the 1970s. The national park is one of the orang-utan’s last remaining strongholds, with more than 5000 animals thought to be living in the wild.

We signed up for a two day one night excursion trekking and camping in the jungle. Camping aside, which was amazing in itself (next post), we seen thomas (if that’s right), macaques and plenty of orang-utans.  Wow wow wow.  It was amazing, truly amazing being so close to these primates, so beautiful.  Although some were a little aggressive most were very pleasant and inquisitive.

As you can imagine we were like the paparazzi on acid whenever one was in sight, so we have plenty of photos.

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