Ancient Rainforest and Waterfalls

At 9.30 am, our Sunday-adventure began. Gary, our local tour guide (very big knowledge, very kind!), caught Mayu, Jenny and me and drove us through the hinterland of Byron Bay to the Nightcap National Park. During our drive, Gary taught us a lot about the history of Australia and Byron Bay. Some facts, I’d like to share with you:

Captain James Cook discovered Australia as the first European. Well, many think so. But there is, just near the coast of Byron Bay, a Portuguese wreck, which is much older than James Cook was. It was not explored a lot yet. People also say, that James Cook used Portuguese maps to find Australia. Also Aboriginal paintings (hundreds or even thousands of years ago) show white men on the Australian continent… Okay, Captain James Cook “thought” he was the first, who discovered the eastern coast of Australia. He was so amazed by what he saw, that he sailed back to Great Britain and wanted the government to set up a colony there. New South Wales was the first part of England, named after South Wales, where it is warm, same like in the southeastern part of Australia. Betweenwhiles, whole Australia became a colony of England. The explorer Matthew Flinders named the fifth continent after the latin terra australis (south land) = Australia.

On this continent, the Europeans discovered animals and plants they have never seen before. They had a very religious view on everything back then: God must have made everything everywhere similar. Australia was different. So, God must have made Australia first. Because of many mistakes (=differences to the rest of the world), he had to improve on the northern hemisphere. They thought that the Australian animals were inferior. But today, we know that here are very successful ones. For example the kangaroo! Mother kangaroos are able to give birth almost whenever they want. If there is a hard time, with just a little food, the mother can keep its babies up to two years. Kangaroos also have a pouch. There, the babies (which can be just seven cm tall when they are born) can stay for a long time. They don’t even have to leave the pouch to eat grass. When the mother goes down to eat grass, the pouch goes down as well, and the baby is able to eat, too. Mother kangaroos also can carry two types of milk in its breasts (high and low fat milk). Depending which baby (young or old) it feeds and depending on the conditions, it can give the right kind of milk. Kangaroos also jump. So, they don’t need much energy because they make use of the kinetic energy.. All in all, it knows how to survive in difficult times. This is, what makes a kangaroo successful. And it isn’t just the kangaroo, there are many more animals and plants that have prevailed through thousands of years.

When we go back millions of years, there was one big continent, Pangaea. The continent begun to break in parts and today’s Australia made its own way. In the time of the dinosaurs, whole Australia was one big rainforest. Thirty million years ago, Australia started to wander northwards. There was no fresh, humid weather from Antarctica. Australia began to dry out. Still today, this continent wanders about 6 cm northwards per year.

Australia always had it’s own animals. It was different to Asia or Africa. There were/are no elephants, no monkeys, no tigers… But there are koala bears, kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and so on. There was and is also the lungfish, which is an animal that made it possible living on the land. It was the first animal that was able to breath oxygen air. It sill lives here.

As the Europeans came, 250 years ago, they cut down everything. In Byron Bay, farmers cleared 99.7% of the rainforest for making dairy farms first, then wheat and other farms. Today, it’s just 0.3% remaining rainforest, which is just terrible. As I looked over the countryside of Byron Bay, I tried to imagine how it would have looked back then…

Let’s go back to our trip. We arrived at Nightcap National Park (click here for more information) and started our 10 km walk. First, we walked through a very dry eucalyptus forest. Eucalyptuses are trees that like to kill other trees in the rain forest to survive. They often burn and are the only ones who survive. Koala bears are often found on those trees. But they are hard to be sighted, because they are the same colour as the trunk and as the leaves when the sunlight reaches them. One might see, if there was a koala on the tree, when there are scratches on the bark. What is interesting too about the eucalyptus trees, is that they are mostly hollow because of the ants. But that doesn’t matter. All the nutrients and the important part of the tree is in the outer part of the trunk. Eucalyptuses live together with ants, microbes and fungus.

We walked further down and suddenly, the ancient rainforest begun. Amazing. It was the same as we imagine from Tarzan and Jane or George in the Jungle. There were vines hanging down everywhere and many birds that tweeted different songs. Ferns were on the bottom of the forest (first plants we had on this planet) and many old and big other trees reached to the air. There were big fig trees that killed other trees - like cannibals - and build wonderful and very special trunks.

After almost three hours of climbing and hiking, we arrived at the Minyon Falls. It was stunning. The water fell about hundred metres deep in a little basin. The water was deep green, almost black and the eroded stones underneath the waterfall looked very smooth. We had our lunch at one of the rocks (they are, by the way, rocks from the wall, which broke down because of the erosion). After that, we hiked up, through the rainforest and the eucalyptus forest and came back to the van. All of us were very exhausted but unbelievable happy. Gary prepared some tea, coffee and Tim Tams (yummi!). After a good break, we headed back home. I can recommend everybody who visits New South Wales to go to the Minyon Falls. Here the link, where we booked our tour.

Also check out the remaining photos of this trip: HERE. Have a nice day and see you soon! Carpe diem!