November 22, 2017
After packing up our soaking wet and muddy tents and taking one last walk around Paronella Park to see it after the night of torrential rain, we squished back into our tiny but mighty rental car and headed to the Mamu Tropical Skywalk. Just a short 20-minute drive from Paronella Park, the Skywalk is located in the Wooroonoon National Park and made for the perfect second day activity of our two-day mini road trip.
We arrived around 11am. In return for showing our double park passes, we received a pair of binoculars, a rainforest plant ID booklet, and individual audio-tour handsets. With our handsets set to track one of eleven, we began our journey along the Mamu Skywalk. I felt immediately transported deep into the rainforest as I listened to music by the Mamu aboriginal people, who are the original stewards of this land, that was playing from the audio-tour. At first, I thought that being “plugged-in” in such a natural setting where I would rather be technology free would detract from the Skywalk experience, but much to my surprise the audio-tour enhanced my overall experience and was very informative. The audio tracks coincided with specific points along the walk. One of the tracks explained the environmentally-friendly planning that went into designing and building the Tropical Skywalk. Amazingly, the entire skywalk was built without cutting down any rainforest trees. The layout of the walk was built along an area that had already been naturally cleared by a cyclone. And, planning for future cyclones to come, the 10-meter long cantilever in the image below was purposely built to sway with the wind, making it more resistant against future cyclones. While my friend Uli and I did not mind the slightly swaying structure, our friend Julie was not quite as keen. But, we all made it out to admire the view, even if it was only for a moment, as in Julie’s case. Although, for the rest of us, this was a prime photo-opportunity. My favorite environmentally-minded feature of the Skywalk is that the floorboards are made out of recycled water bottles. This is such a perfect example of how recycling and reusing materials can be done even for large-scale projects. As we continued to stroll along the 350 meters of elevated walkway, Julie got a little more comfortable with the idea of being 15 meters above ground level. But, to be honest, for me it did not even feel like we were that high up. The canopy was all around us, above and below, so it felt as though we were really walking among the tree tops. I kept peering over the side looking for a cassowary below, but I didn’t happen to be so lucky. At the end of the elevated walking path, we came to the 37 meter tall observation tower. From the tower’s two viewing platforms, we were able to see incredible views of the North Johnstone River gorge, that over look a landmark that is culturally significant to the Mamu people. Beyond the gorge, rolling hills of rainforest extended as far as my four eyes could see. We decided this was a perfect snack spot to allow for more time to admire the incredible landscape.
However, although it appears to go on forever, rainforests worldwide are at risk of being over harvested. While we were admiring the view, Uli said, “One of Earth’s lungs is the ocean; and the other is the rainforest.” This statement is absolutely true. It is very important that conservation parks such as the Mamu Tropical Skywalk continue to educate people on the importance of rainforests and protecting the natural landscape through setting examples of recycling and reusing materials. However, it is even more important that people make changes in their own day to day lives to reduce their environmental footprints. Just like humans need two lungs to breath, so does the earth. If we continue polluting the oceans and cutting down the rainforest, the earth will not be able to function at the same capacity. Atop the tower, Julie managed to walk to the railing just long enough to smile for a photo, where she was visited by a rainforest friend. However, she was not super keen about how it said hello. As soon as this large emerald-green bug landed in her ruby-red hair, she was on all fours bracing herself against the tower floor. “Julie, wait! I need a photo. The color combination is perfect,” I told her as she held perfectly still waiting for me to get it off. In the end, Julie was accompanied all the way down the tower by this beautiful beetle, much to her despair. Once we were down, Julie said “I can handle heights or big bugs, but not both at the same time.” We were all proud of her for facing two fears together and stretching outside her comfort zone. For me, the most memorable travel experiences happen when I push myself beyond my comfort zone. By the time we were headed back along the track, we had listened to all of the audio-tracks and were able to also enjoy the rainforest experience by listening to the sounds all around us. We could hear the sounds of birds, buds, and the breeze blowing through the canopy.
After finishing our walk, we enjoyed a picnic lunch after spending over two hours walking along the Skywalk paths. This was such a truly unique experience. I have explored the rainforest a lot by foot with the Townsville Bush Walking Club, and I have plans to explore it soon from above with the Kuranda Skyrail, so getting to explore it today at canopy-level was something I will never forget. And I could have not had better company to make these memories with. After Annabell took a turn driving for a bit, Uli got us the rest of the way back to Townsville perfectly. Although we did not plan to get flooded out of our tents, this road trip really went off without a hitch and any hiccups along the way only made for a more memorable two-day mini road trip. Thank you Julie, Annabell, and Uli for being wonderful international best friends. I am so thankful we got to do this together!