What better place to hike than a trail that winds through a 165-million-year-old rainforest - said to be the oldest on the planet. The bird and frog and insect chorus is deliciously maddening and primeval. The plant life is insane - so many things still thriving and vining and still producing otherworldly fruit - fruit that dinosaurs once ate.
The Mossman River with its tumbled granite monoliths and pristine waters makes the most spectacular swimming holes - called billabongs down here, down under. I want to explore everyone single one of them. I want to map them and photograph them and swim in them all. And the forest's 90 percent humidity and plus 90 degree temps make the prospect of a dip in the river all the more inviting.
This morning I'm cutting a fast clip along the Fig Tree Rapids trail before work begins when I am suddenly stopped in my tracks by several snakes crossing the trail. At closer observation (once the glasses are pushed back upon the nose and the humidity cleared) these several become three, then two - until I realize this singular bundle of taught muscle and rolling rib cage is pushing 12 feet in length all by itself. This gorgeous Amythestine python does not budge. Alternatives that allow me to pass do not pass his mind for even a second. He is the guardian of the end of the trail gate - and I am not allowed in.
My motto: do not go where you are not wanted. I will try again tomorrow. It is the journey, not the destination after all. Seconds later on the rebound I would encounter an apparition, a forest ghost of haunting beauty - white gossamer wings shimmering in the forest air and fluttering up toward the heavens. Eventually the white tail feathers are revealed to belong to a buff-breasted paradise kingfisher. Who has ever even heard of such thing? And fetching up on a lower fig tree limb looking like the exquisite offspring of a kingfisher and a bird of paradise flycatcher. In birder's terms - its a major get -and I give my most humble thanks to my reptilian friend. After all, not all our guides necessarily appear in human form. Pay attention and nature will reward. Show up and nature will deliver.
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