Cape Tribulation and Jungle trekking

Trip Start Feb 05, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Nomad's Serpent Hostel

Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Saturday, February 18, 2012

With so much to do in Cairns and limited time, we booked onto a days guided tour around the main remote natural attractions. The price was reasonable and the company's name 'Adventure Tours' appealed to the closet wannabe explorers in the group.

We were picked up at what, if we were still in England, would have been a cripplingly early 6:50am. But in Australia, the place and the weather and the ethos just seems to draw you happily out of bed at the crack of dawn.

Our tourguide was called Shano - he explained that Ozzies have a national obsession - I can certainly identify with - in giving everyone and everything a nickname. He spent the journey feeding us little factual tit-bits about the local culture and areas. One such fact, of which none of us were aware, is that in aboriginal culture females do not play the digeridoo as it is believed to make them infertile. Which if holds true, is a little late for some of us.

Our first stop was at the picturesque little town of Port Douglas. Around 30 years ago some fella borrowed loads of money and pumped it into Port Douglas with the intention of making it a resort to rival Cairns. In short, he couldn't afford to pay it back and fled the country, dying some years later as a fugitive and the debt still outstanding. Port Douglas has reaped the benefits of this essentially free money - resonating everywhere in it's upmarket, flawless exterior. As for the fella's legacy, it is fairly telling that I don't even know his name.

We walked first to local treasure 'St Mary's by the Sea'. A quaint little church, surrounded by flowers and with a picture frame window behind the altar that gives the congregation stunning views of the bay. Making the church going population around here a much less pious lot than normal. the waiting list to get wed in St Mary's is over two years.

After having a poke about the place, we headed for the famous Four Mile Beach. A place that just oozes happiness. We had a quick chance to pad around its white sands before being summoned back to the tour bus - One of the downsides of a tour.

We continued on to Mossman Gorge. This is a similar sort of freshwater, rocky waterfall trail to The Crystal Cascades, but on a bigger, more impressive scale. We had a swim upstream in its cold, deep waters, that shook the last bit of tiredness from our bods.

En-route to our next destination we drove through Mossman itself. An entirely residential town, where most of the houses are built on stilts - making them look like reluctant circus acts, poised for the legs to be pushed from beneath them. Shano explained that this type of architecture is common to North Queensland for a dual purpose. Firstly, to protect the houses from flooding and secondly to help ventilate them - chronicling the earliest type of air-conditioning.

Late morning we got a cable ferry across the Daintree River and that was where our jungle adventure properly began. The drive from the mini ferry port to Cape Tribulation takes about an hour and ventures into the heart of the Daintree Rainforest. Greenery boxes you in in every direction. making you feel as though you've ventured onto another planet (especially when compared to the grey drabbery of Nottingham's suburbs). You get a real sense of fertility and life as you pass under the canopy and navigate across stoney creeks. Words don't do the experience justice and it is something I think everyone should have the pleasure of doing. It makes you proud of the planet you inhabit.

Cape Tribulation was named so by Captain Cook, who after a particularly trying voyage ran his ship aground on the coral that surrounds it. He was stranded for several weeks as he repaired it and in this time he named other merry local spots 'Mount Sorrow' and 'Misery Bay.' If I were ever to have met Captain Cook I think I would have got along swell with the melodramatic little chap.

To get to Cape Trib beach you have to exit through the rainforest. The white sand and light blue sea twinkle through the leaves as you approach, seducing you to its shores. The beach was deserted and we made our home under a patch of shade where we could look out and admire the scene of Cook's misfortune. This part of the shoreline is the only place in the world where two World Heritage sites (The Daintree Rainforest and The Great Barrier Reef) lie side by side. Or as tour operators have racily dubbed it, the point 'Where Rainforest Meets Reef.'

We weren't allowed to venture into the water due to it being jellyfish season and also had to be on guard for Crocodiles, as at this time of year they crawl up the beach to find partners (we'd actually have been safer standing on the reef than on the beach). But with a view this good, we found it hard to give too much of a toss.

It is a little known fact that Cook wasn't actually the first person to discover Australia. It was the Dutch. A matter of years before Cook, they stumbled across Western Australia, but finding it very desolate and bleak looking they didn’t bother to claim it, merely naming it 'New Holland.’ You can’t help but ponder about how different history would have been had they rocked up first on the lush greenery of the east coast.

After lunch we headed on a guided tour through the Daintree, which allowed us to get closer acquainted with the intimacies of the rainforest. We could smell the plants clearly and see where river and rainforest met – which looked like someone had splattered cans of paint containing the different shades of green from a dulux colour chart together. Shano pointed out a strangler tree - which grows up another tree taking  a hundred years to squeeze the life out of it. Once a strangler tree has taken hold of another tree there is no escape. The original tree must simply sit and await its drawn out fate. Nature’s death row.

Next on the list was a croc-spotting cruise up the Daintree. We were given a solemn warning that the biggest crocodile in the river was 5 metres, while the boat we were stepping foot onto was only 6 metres. Such a warning turned out to be completely unnecessary, as we only saw the head of a solitary crocodile hiding in the foliage – we all gaped in wonder regardless. Although we could have just as easily have been cooing over a large, deformed turd.

The lack of crocs, however, did nothing to detract from the experience. The views of the river and rainforest from the boat were sublime. The croc-guide was a charismatic and knowledgeable botanist named Peter. Who after making a sexist joke to greet us onto the boat was received by a row of unimpressed feminist faces, did much to redeem himself through his passion and knowledge of plants that lined the river. He called the river a nursery for the reef, where 90% of life forms that inhabit the reef, begin life here. He even made an explanation of water mangrove fertilisation interesting. Had I had him as a teacher at school I may well have become a botanist myself.

As we made our way home and reflected on the day, it struck me that with thus many natural wonders and friendly people, it is little surprise that one of the nicknames Australian’s have for their land is ‘The Lucky Country.’  
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