Down-Under Beauty

It requires a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get to this isolated and beautiful corner of the earth. You drive to the point where a fast-flowing river cuts off the road -- a river infested with crocodiles, our friends inform us. As we wait for the small ferry to come and carry us across, they tell us about the gruesome habits of crocodiles, including their infamous "death roll," in which they roll a victim over and over until he or she drowns, then place the unfortunate one under a log for a little decomposing before dinner. We are careful to stay toward the center of the ferry as it slowly crosses the river.

The crocodiles are not the only danger in this part of the world. We are warned about pythons and "stinging trees" as we make our way deeper into northeastern Australia's beautiful Daintree rainforest. Jim and I have come Down Under for a national Christian youth convention in Perth and a church meeting in Sydney, but these few days with our friends in Australia's northern tropics are pure vacation.

At the start of our visit, while still recovering from a day lost in time and rather severe cases of jet lag, we ventured to a gorge in another part of the rainforest. As the bracing water of the pool beneath a plunging, ribbon waterfall erased our exhaustion, a warm rain poured out of the sky. The rain is strange here -- it can hit one bank of the narrow gorge and miss the other, or soak one partner in a conversation while leaving the other dry. It exits as abruptly as it appears.

At midday in Daintree, the sun streams down through thick, tall growth. A paradoxical feeling of suffocating closeness and immense expansiveness overwhelms the visitor to this place. The fan palms become brilliant green parasols, making shade for the creatures on the forest floor. A strange lizard scampers on its hind legs in a hilarious dance across our path.

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