The Daintree


There’s a significant problem with a working holiday – when you’re working you feel like you’re missing out on a holiday, and when you’re not working you feel guilty for relaxing. In the last week of our northern adventure, it was time to switch off and give ourselves a true break.

Our collective dreaming list went something like this: immersed in wild nature butwith a touch of luxury, no mobile reception, healthy food cooked for us, hammocks, croc-free freshwater swimming holes close by as well as secluded beaches, walking trails enough to satisfy my desire for adventure, massage, and yoga classes.

A quick Google search revealed ayoga retreat centre within the heart of two world heritage listed ecosystems - the Great Barrier Reef and the world’s oldest rainforest, the Daintree.

The rest of the boxes were ticked shortly upon arrival at Prema Shanti. Two wide hammocks swung invitingly on a large wooden verandah overlooking lush tropical rainforest. The nearby swimming hole was so picturesque blue it could have been photoshopped.

Every morning the ten or so guests gathered in the yoga hall to meditate before breakfast, and then again in the evening for a yoga class before we crossed our legs under the long wooden outdoortable where the hearty vegetarian dinner was served.

While tourist free was on our bucket list, meeting the others became part of the experience. Rather than an anonymous holiday hotel, this felt like a kind of yoga retreat, all of us, including the owners Janardhan and Mara, stretching, ‘aumming’ and eating together.

While I could have easily spent the week mooching between hammock, library, waterhole and yoga mat, exploration of the Daintree beckoned.

Captain Cook it seemed didn’t have such a lush time of it up here, Cape Tribulation so named when his ship Endeavour ran aground on a reef in 1770, the nearby Mount Sorrow similarly named in a fit of despondency.

Perhaps in empathy, I made it my mission to climb to the top – a five hour journey up a steep track woven with tree roots and aided by ropes. At the higher altitudes, the vegetation changed from tall buttressy rainforest to gnarled, wind-blown ‘cloud forest’ where palms draped with epiphytes and moss, and ground lilies, cycads and ferns fell out over rocks.

The disappointing pinnacle was a metal-cage like platform full of lunch-munching Germans. Escaping around the back I followed a narrow track with steep drop-offs on both sides that advanced through a Tolkien landscapeto a lookout at a cluster of boulders.

Alone except for asea eagle, I looked out at the view as if also flying, the rainforest mountains spilling down to overlappinglayers of sand bar, estuary and reef; the land timeless, constant, and abundant.

Returning with burning thighs, I was doubly glad of the evening stretch and delicious curry, and a mobile phone silent and still.