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Devils Thumb

Manjal Jimalji Trail | Devils Thumb

Daintree National Park

Directions - Located near Mossman, to reach the start point of the Manjal Jimalji Trail, head north on Mossman Daintree Road for 7.7km then turn left onto Miallo Bamboo Creek Road. Turn left onto Whyanbeel Road, then left onto Karnak Road, eventually reaching the small parking area for the trail near the obvious wooden sign. 


The Hike - With a visit to Port Douglas to escape the Perth winter, my research had indicated that the Manjal Jimlaji Trail (aka Devils Thumb) would be right up my alley. Climbing up into the steep hills a short distance inland from the coast, it would provide a good chance to explore the tropical rainforest of the Daintree National Park, along with some stunning views overlooking the Coral Sea, Port Douglas and the surrounding landscape. That was the plan but as with some things in life, the reality was a little different...

Picking a free day where there were no family activities booked, the weather wasn't looking great, with the forecast showing a chance of rain in the afternoon. Hoping to be finished by the time the rain rolled in, I was up relatively early and driving to the start point about 30 minutes from the centre of Port Douglas. Driving through the countryside near Mossman, it got me thinking that the Gang Gajang song "Sounds of Then" should really be reworked to say "out on the patio we'd sit, and the humidity we'd breathe, we'd watch the lightning crack over cane fields, laugh and think, this is Far North Queensland". It's a very specific description to represent the whole of Australia but I digress. The moody weather driving past the cane fields with the mountains in the background caused me to stop a few times to try and capture the scene, and didn't fill me with confidence that I'd be getting clear weather at the summit. Onwards I pressed and was soon at the small car park in front of the wooden sign for the trail. 


Gathering up my pack and finishing the breakfast I had bought in Port Douglas, I was ready to tackle what is a pretty strenuous climb, with over 1100m of elevation gain over the full 10.6km there and back hike (spoiler alert but I didn't make it the full length). Having not done much in the way of tough hikes in the past couple of months, I was still confident of making it to the top in good time. The start of the trail sees you walk along a wide track, before joining single trail to cross a small creek. I spotted a couple of bright flowers along the creek but my suspicions were confirmed later on that these are not native to the area. Passing a private property that gave off Hawaii vibes to me, you see an old car that made me think The Phantom was going to come trapsing out of the jungle soon. You then enter Daintree National Park and it felt more like the hike I was expecting. Arriving at a crossing of Little Falls Creek, I could see the path and marker on the other side but no way of getting there without getting wet boots. 

There is a collection of rocks downstream that you can use and I managed to cross with only a couple of steps in ankle deep water. The scene at the creek crossing is some of the best along the walk, with the gentle trickle of the water, bright green ferns overhanging, and mossy trees all combining to make for some stunning photos. On the other side of the creek you will find an official QLD Parks sign telling you all about the trail, and this is where the climbing begins. Gentle to begin with, the gradients settle into 15-20% as you hike up a relatively wide trail compared to later on. The rainforest down here felt a bit drier but there was always a sea of green in the dense undergrowth. Huffing and puffing a little, the temperatures were quite cool but the humidity was starting to make me sweat. Luckily there was plenty to stop and look at, including lots of fungi of various shapes and sizes. Having to be careful, I soon found out that not all the plants in the rainforest were friendly, with a long vine of Hairy Mary grabbing hold of me with its sharp spikes that were not pleasant to pull out. 

Having to be a little more careful with what I was touching and how well I ducked under fallen branches, this was just the first thing the rainforest threw at me today. Eventually the gradients increased into the 35-40% range, and this really tested my lack of fitness. Soldiering on, I passed the intersection where you can take a side trip to Fish Tail Falls on the left, deciding that I would visit on the way back given the rain had not yet arrived. The trees up here were starting to get a lot more characterful, with some of the larger root systems twisting and winding into beautiful shapes. As the elevation continued to increase, every now and then you'd get a sense that you were high up, with narrow sections of the ridge providing limited views down the forested slopes. Starting to see more boulders, it felt a world away from the coastal flats near Port Douglas. Around this time my luck ran out and the rain arrived. Thinking it was a good time to have a break, I made the rookie mistake of sitting down on the damp trail while fishing out my rain jacket.