xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' World Toddler: A Ski-Lift through the Rainforest



Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Ski-Lift through the Rainforest

On our last Australian day, we took the Cairns Skyrail over the rainforest. An enclosed cabin lifted us by ski-lift technology over the tops of the dense rainforest.

A couple of miles deep into the forest, our car stopped for us to get off and walk through the ancient forest. From the comfort of a wooden promenade, we marveled at the nearby density and danger of the rainforest lining the path.

As we walked along, I stopped to take a picture of Nolan and Sydney. As I tried to move on I felt a tug on my shirt. I looked behind me. There was no one and nothing there. I tried to walk on. Again, my shirt tugged and I didn’t move. Now I investigated more closely. Latched onto the shoulder of my shirt was a thin, green branch, barely noticeable even upon close investigation. How could this tiny vine latch on so strongly?

A nearby tour guide, noticed me struggling to detangle myself and warned me to "stop moving!" until he could come over and unlatch me. He then introduced us to this unfriendly plant, called “Wait a Whiles” because, once they latch onto your clothes, the best course of action is to stop moving and slowly disentangle yourself. Another name for this snake of a plant? "Lawyer Vine." (no, I am not joking. go ahead and google it!)

In the fierce competition for sunlight in this dense rainforest, some trees grow extra tall and wide.

Others grow slender and light, and grow like a parasite on the stronger trees. The tree I was recently freed of had evolved to have sharp spindles to latch onto and grow on stronger trees. This evolutionary trick had worked wonders. Now aware of them, we spotted the spiky vines everywhere.

Now having had a first hand experience with the inhospitality of the Australian rainforest, we wondered about how Aboriginal people had survived here for over 40,000 years. Aborigines cut paths, built small clearings, and constantly moved between areas depending on the seasons’ weather and rainfall. The vast majority of these people died when Europeans arrived on the continent, either from massacre by the new arrivals or from introduction of new diseases like the common cold.

As the Aboriginal people did not have a written language, the death of their people meant the loss of a great deal of their cultural history. As such, little is known about how they survived in this dangerous habitat. How did they maintain clear paths in a forest that regrows every year? How did they differentiate edible plants from poisonous ones? The secrets of the Aboriginal history are, for the most part, lost within the dense trees of this ancient rainforest.

Plaque in Cairns, Australia

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