Although it's just seven kilometres, only a fool would embark on the rainforest hike of Mt Sorrow and expect an easy run - this is a one way ticket straight up to the clouds.
When it came time to research a must-do hike in the Daintree, nothing pleased my blackened Goth heart more than discovering the depressingly named ridge trail of Mt Sorrow. A perusal of Queensland’s National Parks fact sheet warned of leeches, the requirement of exceptional fitness, adequate water supplies, enough daylight and an EPIRB. Naturally, I prepared the hiking kit. Snacks, first-aid kit, space blanket, salt for leech removal and more snacks. Of course, when it came to actually embark on our hike, I got swept up in the devil-may-care attitude of my editor and accidentally left the whole kit in my room, aside from the water and one out-of-date birthday cake flavoured protein bar that I bought two weeks prior in Cooktown. Oh well, I thought. All the more reason to make sure we knock this hike over in enough time. I also figured if things turned pear-shaped, it could be a good chance to ditch Jack in the rainforest, and snag the possible upcoming Outdoor assignment to Antarctica for myself.
I needn’t have worried about our ill-preparedness. We ended up tagging along with a few of the backpackers who worked at our lodgings, one of whom was a perky American named Amber who’d already done the hike twice before. She failed to tell us that she was going for a personal best time, and held a cracking pace to rival Usain Bolt. I knew within the first hundred metres I had nothing – and everything – to fear. We’d be back for Happy Hour, that was for sure.
READY FOR THE HIKE
After a raucous evening at PK’s Jungle Village establishing ourselves as ‘the zany writers from down south’ and toasting drinks to new friendships, we woke surprisingly chipper and ready to bust a move up the mountain. Against our better judgement we shunned simple cereal and toast, opting for bacon and eggs, a rash call we would both regret at the two kilometre mark. We then hightailed it over to Amber and co who almost left without us as they assumed we’d be convalescing from the previous night’s shenanigans. We scoffed. Didn’t they know we were professional writers on assignment? Celebratory beverages or not, we were securing a mountain view today! We set off, a crew of five – confident Amber; British Jess, who voiced concerns about the activity level ahead of us, American Leah, who was celebrating her birthday, my bearded editor confident that I had overstated the difficulty of the task ahead, and me, characteristically sweaty before we even left the PK’s car park.
The actual trail entrance was 20 minutes walk up the road and the sun was beating down by the time we arrived. With a quick glance at the warnings signposted at the entrance we set off. I consider myself to be reasonably fit – so the early protests of my heart rate alerted me that we were in for a steep climb.
Steep is an understatement, but it’s not the only factor that makes this a difficult hike. The path is extremely narrow, and often obstructed by fallen trees. There’s roots aplenty underfoot, and with the foliage and hanging vines you’ll be doing more ducking and weaving than Mike Tyson at the height of his career. Speaking of vines, there’s plenty of wait-a-while vines on the trail. They hang from the rainforest canopy and may look harmless, but once they’ve attached to you and you try to walk off, you’ll realise they’re harder to ditch than drunken Barry from finance at the work Christmas party. Just stop, and slowly walk backwards which should unhook their razor-sharp spikes from your skin and clothes. As for Barry, tell him the DJ’s playing Footloose and you just can’t miss it.
Just when you think the undulating track can’t get much harder, you’ll encounter a rugged section which has a rope that is necessary to haul yourself up. I was relieved to have a helping hand here, and found it to be one of the most enjoyable parts. Less enjoyable were the leeches that hopped on most of us for an easy ride to the top, mostly as the vegetation became wetter as we ascended. The thirsty little bloodsuckers were hard to get off, but to be honest, I was surprised we didn’t get more.
While the leeches didn’t disrupt our fun, the snake I narrowly avoided stepping on almost did. It was too quick for me to identify it, but there are plenty of venomous snakes in this area, and as long as you use common sense you’ll be fine. Wear hiking boots, long socks or pants, and give them a wide berth. I’m not sure if the shirtless and barefoot German guy with the furry bear rave beanie we passed subscribed to my brand of caution, but we didn’t find him collapsed and frothing at the mouth, so I’m sure he was fine.
This is a hard trail, so make regular stops for water and to take in the beauty all around you. Butterflies, birds, creepy crawlies, and interesting foliage abound, and it would be a shame to miss out on the sights because you’re doubled over catching your breath. Or because you’re hot stepping it, trying to keep up with your unofficial hike leader who’s at sprint pace.
When you do finally get to the lookout at the top (680m elevation), you’ll find it’s an extremely small fenced off platform. When we got there about two and a half hours after we began the hike, we were treated to a view that was made up entirely of clouds, or what I imagine it’s like being inside a giant marshmallow. Determined to get the scenic view we had pushed ourselves so far for, we jumped the lookout barrier and hiked on another 200m or so over a narrow ridge that tested my fear of heights, to a comfortable little ledge of rocks. The cloud was still heavy so we sat and waited. After about 20 minutes, it cleared and it was everything I had hoped for. The Reef, vast and blue touched the rainforest, lush and green. The Daintree coastline and Snapper Island were in view, along with the shadows of coral reef. So high above the difficulty we had encountered below, the relaxation was welcome and the sense of achievement satisfying. I nibbled my out of date protein bar and tried to commit the view to memory as I mentally prepared myself for the descent. What goes up, must come down, and here’s a tip for you – climbing down Mt Sorrow is just as taxing as the way up. By the time we reached the road I was ready to hitch hike back to PK’s, my legs were so exhausted. If you love a challenge and feeling like you’ve achieved something, this Sorrow is worth it.
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