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there were people who wanted to develop the bits that had not yet been scheduled for
preservation. I knew some and had heard their boasts of chopping down any tree that
stood in their way. But that didn't mean the protesters were squeaky clean.
As a new development, the resort came in for a lot of flack. The protesters had tried
to stop it being built and were harassing people staying there. That didn't deter them
from using its facilities when they managed to sneak in undetected.
A couple turned up one evening when I was there and hung around the bar chatting
up the girls. They weren't my idea of the average tree hugger. Suavely dressed in
dark trousers, silk shirts, medallions and religious charms, they reminded me of the
sort of young men who drive fast cars and frequent nightclubs. My friend told me that
their usual attire was sarong, headband and little else.
They lived in a makeshift commune in the nearby forest. The leaders were male
and Australian. Their followers were predominantly female and many came from
overseas. My friend painted a picture of free love, drugs and squalor. I asked how he
knew and he said some girls had fled the commune and warned people to keep clear
of it.
I returned to my hostel in Townsville, which is 500 kilometres to the south, and
forgot about the Daintree for a while. Then I started to hear reports of a battle being
waged by environmentalists who were opposed to the construction of a coastal road
that would link the Daintree to Cooktown. I could understand their concern. The road
would cut through pristine forest.
Soon, the whole thing became highly politicised and accusations began to fly. The
protesters were allegedly growing marijuana amongst the trees and trading it. The
accusations were vehemently de nied. Anyone suggesting such a thing was labelled
an environmental vandal in league with the most evil and reactionary forces in the land
... then bodies started to be found.
They were cropping up beside roads and the evidence pointed to gang warfare.
Drug trafficking was evidently involved. I guess the police had the commune under
surveillance and were waiting to gather further evidence. That's normal in drug
operations. If you dash in too early, you get the small fry and the big fish escape.
When the bodies appeared, they were forced to act.
I might have forgotten about the episode if a young woman had not come to stay in
our hostel. She came from Canberra and I'll call her Joan (not her real name) . She
worked for us while staying in one of our apartments. One day we had a problem with
a girl in the female dormitory. She was hysterical and Joan managed to calm her
The next day she told me that the young woman was suffering withdrawal
symptoms and she'd taken her to the drug rehabilitation clinic at the hospital. It was
then that I learnt about Joan's involvement with the drug scene in the Daintree four
years earlier.
At the age of nineteen, she'd left stuffy Canberra for a life of freedom in a commune
in the rainforest. The noble thought of saving the planet had helped her overlook the
failings of her companions who were preaching conservation while chopping down
trees to grow pot. She'd told herself the crop was solely for personal use, despite its
huge size. She'd ignored the other drugs passing through the commune and she'd
been intimidated by the threats and physical abuse that were a way of life in the
Like everyone else, she was detained for questioning when the police raided the
place. She convinced them she was not a perso n of interest and returned to her
parents in Canberra. They advised her to enrol in a social welfare course at the