As I gazed up at the colossal volume of water cascading off the cliff before me, the mist that floated around settled in my hair, on my face, on my clothes. This was my first ‘shower’ in five days and it was spectacular.
My friend and I had landed on the mainland a couple of hours before after completing a four day hike across Hinchinbrook Island. After an obligatory hot chip stop in Ingham (my one true weakness other than dogs), we spent the next hour driving through sugar cane fields with the music blasting. We may have made an accidental detour into someone’s farm, but thankfully realised our mistake when we backtracked and saw the massive road sign we’d managed to drive right past (probably while belting out tunes). The farms suddenly faded away as the car began to climb into rainforest, winding into the mountains.
We spilled out of the car and wandered between picnic tables and families before we found what we’d been looking for: Wallaman Falls, Australia’s highest single drop waterfall at 268 meters (with a pool depth of 20 meters). Katie and I had a running joke during my trip that every waterfall has a claim to fame: highest waterfall, widest waterfall, loudest waterfall, wettest waterfall… you get the idea. But as soon as my eyes fell upon this particular one my heart just started racing. After a particularly wet winter, the waterfall was flowing at full force, tumbling through the air several times over before shattering like glass dust onto the pool below. It was surrounded by a rainforest lined gorge and exposed rock covered in trees grasping patiently into the cracks. I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised if a pterodactyl had flown past.
“Feel like going to the base?” I asked Katie. She told me she was pretty tired, you know, from walking for the last few days across an island with a heavy pack which was fair enough. So I suggested that we just walk along the first part of the trail and have a look at the view there. I don’t know whether it was the fact that once started, it’s hard to turn around on a hike, or whether the first lookout spurred us on, but we ended up winding our way down the seemly infinite number of switchbacks to the base.
As we wound down those million switchbacks, which increasingly became wilder and more claimed by the surrounding forest, any part of my subconscious thought about the return hike was quickly overridden by the desire to see the source of the roar I could hear through the trees. Eventually we burst out of the bush to a viewing platform where the water tumbled from the sky. The sheer power of it was more evident here as the wind and water whipped our hair around our faces. As the mist turned to droplets on our skin, we realised how hot the day has become… and that we’d left our water in the car… at the top of a massive hill. We both gazed longingly at the pool below us and with a quick look exchanged, began to rock-hop toward the waterfall.
Long story short, the water smelt a lot like cow, and with half a week of adventuring ahead we decided not to risk a brush with giardia and that we would just have to absorb the water through the pores in our skin instead. Think amphibious thoughts.
As in love as I was with everything before me, the longing for water suddenly became all-consuming. I remember very little of the walk up other than that I was singing songs in my brain to pass the time, and was morbidly fascinated by how much humans can actually sweat while climbing giant hills in the tropics of North Queensland. Katie said that she was continually chanting to herself that every step she took was one step closer to water.
Eventually we stumbled to the car and drank more water in one sitting than I realised was humanly possible.
It was heaven.
I saw a crazy amount of waterfalls during my time in North Queensland, but Wallaman Falls was definitely the most spectacular. My advice though, for the love of God: take water to the bottom. Ice-cream during the car ride home would also not go amiss.