Kaba Kada – the rainy place

Indigenous language signs have appeared throughout Douglas Shire, marking the completion of Stage 1 – Eastern Yalanji Project, which includes Welcome to Country and Council Place Names.

Daintree Rainforest Pty Ltd, operating in the heart of the world’s oldest rainforest, welcomes the new signage and congratulates Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation for the achievement of these long-overdue signs-of-respect.

Twenty-two years ago, the Douglas Shire Tourism Association reported in its Federally-funded Douglas Shire Tourism Strategy, that the area north of the Daintree River was suffering from an acute identity crisis.  Daintree Rainforest is world-renowned, but it has not been given a name, until now.  Our rainforest is Kaba Kada, meaning rainy-place, accurately describing the wettest place in Australia on the world’s driest habitable continent.  Many applications for a name have been made since this matter was first brought to the attention of Douglas Shire Council back in 1998, without success.

Driving around the Shire, you will see that some of the new signs have two names, the Kuku Yalanji name together with an official place-name, such as Julaymba – Daintree.  However, the Kaba Kada sign does not have an affiliate gazetted place-name.  It stands alone, unique and appropriately so, because this forest is different to surrounding forests in the Wet Tropics and is the jewel in the crown of the Wet Tropics of Australia.

Some of the first plants that you notice, after you cross the Daintree River and start the ascent up the heights of the Alexandra section, are Fan Palms (Licuala ramsayi).  If ever there was a plant designed for catching and utilising water and sun, it is this most magnificent species. Its majestic circular leaves, over a metre in diameter, provide a huge surface-area for catchment.  The leaves are fluted with channels that direct the water into the centre of the leaf where a well-hidden funnel allows the water to flow through the hollow stems and down the porous stem, to be absorbed into the plant.  The edges of the leaf are zig-zagged as though cut with pinking-shears to ensure that excess water is directed to the ground around the tree.  Each emerging new-leaf is protected by sheaf-leaves, that are shredded to form a brown fibrous material that absorbs water.  Each stem has prickles along its ridges that pull the fibres of the leaf apart, like a carding machine, and roots at the base of the leaf stem that allow the transmission of water into the trunk of the tree.  This palm can only be found in very wet, rainy places in northern Queensland.   An additional refinement are the roots that resemble thick spaghetti.  They act like capillary tubes to suck up water and direct it up the trunk to nourish the leaves, flowers and seeds. Roots elevate the trunk well above the ground, by about 20-cms above the waterline of frequent deluges.  After a cyclone, we have noted new roots forming and growing down into the ground to fasten the tree in its place.

This natural efficiency is not limited to Fan Palms.  Most other trees, which are generally primitive flowering-plants have pronounced drip tips, longer than normal tips that direct the water to the roots of the plant.  These are features that identify the plants with a rainy place.

The intricacy and efficiency of the fan palms is just a portion of its contribution and influence in this complex mesophyll rainforest.  They form a secondary canopy, below the multi-layered primary-canopy of rainforest giants.  In a primary rainforest, at its peak, open areas, called Fan Palm galleries, are cathedral-like in their awe-inspiring solemnity and divine beauty.  Beams of sunlight break through the dense upper-canopy to light up individual Fan Palm fronds, creating a kaleidoscopic panorama of extraordinary splendour.   Hidden in an understory are some of the rarest plants on earth, providing evidence of their Gondwanan origin.

Daintree Rainforest, in the area stretching from north of the Heights of Alexandra and covering three catchments areas of Hutchinson, Cooper and Noah Creeks, has never had a name, until now – Kaba Kada.

‘Daintree’ has been problematic and made even more so with the the ever-expanding Daintree-brand, because it covers a large area with a variety of different forests.  Kaba Kada identifies the rainforest that surrounds the sacred mountain Wundungu (Thornton Peak), which creates the rainy place.  The Kuku Yalanji place names are more specific to particular areas and should now be supported with more images and information relevant to Kaba Kada.  This is also our place.

Render unto Kaba Kada the things that belong to Kaba Kada, tell the world about this marvellous and beautiful forest that exists here and nowhere else.

With a simple and accurate place-name, we can promote the true values to those who really want to understand the intricacy and complexity of the world’s longest surviving rainforest.

Our thanks to Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation, who managed to provide the long-established name to our rain forest and Douglas Shire Council for facilitating this restoration of inimitable and venerable identity.

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