Written by Jo Hurford
Photography by Jo Hurford
As I drive up the tight, windy road to Paluma Village I often find my attention drawn to the car thermometer. Despite the day warming up in Townsville, the more I climb the more the temperature drops. On this trip though the thermometer didn’t drop as much as I would expect, and I wasn’t greeted with rain, or mist, or even clouds. A crystal clear blue sky awaited. Never have I had such perfect weather in Paluma. It set the tone for a pleasant stroll on another Townsville Hike and Explore adventure.
As a beginner hike suitable for all ages and fitness levels, forty-three hikers, including one 18-month old, disappeared beneath the rainforest canopy for a 14-15km hike from the edge of Paluma Village to Paluma Dam. Walk leader, David, performed quick, and more importantly, accurate maths to organise the car pool that would ensure enough cars were awaiting us at Paluma Dam to bring everyone back to the starting point.
The first feature of the hike was Ethel Creek Falls. We arrived at the top of the falls after only 30 minutes. Ropes guided the steep descent and aided in the steep ascent. The base of the falls had plenty of rocks to sit on and enjoy. Being so early into the hike we didn’t sit for long, before becoming enveloped within the main feature of the hike, the rainforest.
Having stayed a little longer at the falls to take photos I was already back of the pack and wanted to stop on dozens of occasions to photograph the trees. (Sorry you had to stop so much to ensure I was still with the group 😉 ) What fascinates me about the rainforest is the way trees and plants use another, maybe to climb in order to reach the light, or to cling to so they can access needed nutrients. Vines dangle down and around trunks like dread locks. Trees strangle another, in a criss-cross pattern. Some trees look like they’re wearing a shaggy jumper made of ferns. Remembering to look down and ensure you don’t trip on a sneaky vine can be challenging when there are so many trees to admire, bird calls to discern and a hidden Boyd’s Forest Dragon.
Boyd’s Forest Dragons are endemic to the wet tropics of North Queensland. Their range begins just north of Townsville and extends to Cooktown. Different to other reptiles, it thermoregulates through ambiance, matching the temperature of the vegetation. This is a camouflage mechanism to ensure one of it’s main predators, a python, can’t sense it’s heat-signature as it is the same as the occupying vegetation. I have wanted to see one for a few years. Despite everyone stopping, I still couldn’t discern it from the thin tree trunk it was hugging. As I photographed it shuffled slowly around the branch, away from the lens so only it’s eye remained, tracking me.
Lunch followed a quick creek crossing, where shoes came off to cool down the feet. Despite everyone sloshing through, the creek remained clear making it easy to cross and spy the soft sandy bottom or rocks to avoid. With bellies full the final section of the walk was a slow ascent, until we joined the trail that runs from the dam to Crystal Creek Falls. While we didn’t detour to the falls or the rock garden, I highly recommend both on anyone’s next adventure to Paluma Dam.
As we emerged from the canopy at the dam, the perfect weather had remained. For some on the hike, this was one of their longest hikes with Townsville Hike and Explore. With smiles on their faces I am sure we will see them again on another adventure.
Thank you to Dave, Michael and Jim for their hike leadership, organisation and ensuring everyone made it end to end safely and happily (and a special shout out to Dave for his singing rendition about hiking with Mike).