Australia - Cape Tribulation

Trip Start Dec 05, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Day 1

Rising at 9:00am we finished our packing; we decided to take only day bags with us on our short trip around Cape Tribulation, the Daintree and the Atherton Tablelands, and then checked out after breakfast. We booked a night back at Il Palazzo for the night we returned to Cairns before our flight to Perth and this enabled us to leave our large rucksacks and a cool bag locked away in the hotel reception.

Our first stop on the 'grand tour' was the Crystal Cascades (PIC); a series of small waterfalls and swimming holes just north of Cairns. After parking up there was a 1/2km walk to the cascades which actually turned out to be fairly tame. Although it is the rainy season in Cairns the region is actually in the midst of a 7 year drought and this was evident in the 'not-quite-cascading' cascades.

On our way back to the car, Andrew discovered a couple of keys in his pocket that shouldn't have been there - the keys to our hotel room in Il Palazzo. Andrew had forgotten to give them back and they had forgotten to ask for them, so there they were. Not wanting to risk a charge for the 4 days we would be away we decided to return the keys to the hotel there and then - a 1 hour detour we really didn't need!

With the keys safely back with their owners we restarted our journey northwards, traveling up the Captain Cook Highway along the East coast. We stopped at the 'Rex Lookout' which gave great views over the route we had just taken and the inviting aqua waters which bordered the coastal road (PIC).

The next stop was Port Douglas, which has become quite an exclusive, up-market and consequently expensive seaside village nestled at the end of a peninsula. During our Christmas visit to Canberra, Theo had asked if we could send him a postcard from the area as he had fond memories of Port Douglas (he had visited it as a young man soon after emigrating to Australia) - we granted his request. We also had a bite to eat at a restaurant in the village before moving on towards Mossman.

Mossman is another small village in the Daintree region, best known for the Mossman Gorge; one of the most visited spots in the Wet Tropics. It is basically a national park featuring a creek carved out by the Barron River (PIC). On the way to the gorge we spotted a rather large scavenger tucking into some elevenses courtesy of one of the park bins (PIC) and watched for a while as two huge goannas prowled around the picnic site. We also braved the somewhat rickety 'Rex Swing Bridge' over part of the gorge (PICS) and managed not to collapse it 'Indiana Jones' style and fall into the crocodile infested waters below.

From Mossman we had a long drive up to Cape Tribulation, where we had planned to stay the night. After about an hour we reached the Daintree River and boarded the Daintree River Ferry ($8 (3.50GBP) each way) and floated across the otherwise impassible waters (PIC).

The rest of the journey to Cape Tribulation was a series of windy roads with periodic 'Beware of Cassowary' signs, we didn't spot any. We did however spot a lookout over the mouth of the Daintree River and the surrounding coastline and ocean and thought it deserved a picture (PIC).

On our way up to Cape Tribulation we stopped off at two places we had earmarked as possible accommodation - basically because they were the only two in our price range; PK's and the Cape Tribulation Beachhouse. Neither place looked particularly clean or comfortable and didn't justify the $70-110 price tag, especially as we would be leaving Cape Tribulation early the following morning anyway.

Instead we decided to take a quick walk down to the beach to see the main attraction of Cape Tribulation - the Rainforest meeting the Reef, and take a few pictures (PIC) before heading back to Daintree.

It was already getting dark before we left Cape Tribulation and the windy roads with potholes, randomly placed Cane Toads and small flooded bridges were even more treacherous in the dark. Eventually we made it back to the Daintree River Ferry and paid the ferryman for the second time in 2 hours - he must have wondered what we were playing at!

A further 20 minutes on near deserted roads and we arrived in completely deserted Daintree village. Every shop and motel was closed and we feared that we would be spending the night in the 'comfort' of the tiny Daihatsu Sirion. Using some of the maps we had picked up whilst in Cairns we eventually found a small B&B off a secluded backstreet, the Daintree Escape. Scaring the caretaker half to death we knocked on the door of the now closed reception and discovered that they had one room left, we bartered, she succumbed, we checked in.

After getting bitten a dozen times by some very hungry mosquitoes Andrew clambered into the apartment and set about killing another dozen mozzies that had found their way into the living area. With that mission accomplished we then had to try and evict a gecko which had taken up residency in the bedroom - no mean feat as they are seriously quick! Half an hour later the apartment was pest free and we could sit down and plan the following day before getting ready for bed.

Unfortunately a couple of cockroaches and a large hairy spider also needed disposing of before we could settle down for the night. It makes the place sound like a right hell-hole but it was actually quite nice and modern inside (PIC) - it was just that it was set right in the middle of rainforest land so unavoidably had a few uninvited guests bunked in with us at first. We finally got to bed at 11:30pm.

Day 2

Getting up at 8:30 we popped and saw the caretaker to pay our bill and also inform her that we wouldn't be bothering with the breakfast that she had mentioned the previous night (at $10 each for some cereal and fruit we figured we would get something somewhere else).

Our first stop was the "Daintree River Wildlife Cruise" - which is actually more of a croc-spotting boat trip. The trip took around an hour and a quarter and it seems we were quite lucky with what we saw. Not only did we see some tree snakes and tree frogs (PICS) but we also spotted what we really came for - the crocs.

We saw a small 1yr old and a slightly older 2ft one, a nesting female and a best of all a large 12ft male known affectionately as 'Scarface', one of the dominant crocs in the area with a large scar on its face from its yearly territorial battles (PICS). The tour itself was really fascinating, fun and a good sized group of only 6 people meant that we could get a good close up view of everything, especially as the boat (PIC) had a 'croc-cam' which zoomed in on the wildlife and showed the image on a tv set on the boat.

Back on dry land we drove to Mareeba, a small, sleepy outback town and then onto 'Bones Knob Lookout' mainly because of the name - there wasn't actually anything to see there (hence the picture (PIC)).

The journey progressed to Lake Tinaroo and the Tinaroo Falls Dam (PIC) which is a popular location for locals to relax and do water sports - it was pretty quiet when we were there but this was probably because it was a Wednesday.

Then it was on to Atherton, the main town in the tablelands, although still not that large and fairly historic in appearance with its buildings dating back many a decade. We climbed Haloran Hill (in the car of course) to gain a great panoramic view of the tablelands (PICS) and then decided we should probably try and sort out some accommodation before the night crept in - the previous days mozzie bites reminding Andrew that indoors is the best place to stay after dark!

At the foot of Haloran hill we found a caravan park and checked into a unit with a double bed, kitchenette and en-suite - basic (at $50) but good enough for our meager standards. Leaving the caravan park and driving around Atherton town for a while we then trundled on through the tablelands to the Curtain Fig Tree (PICS). The spectacle of this tree is not actually a tree at all but an enormous vine which climbs the tree, growing routes down to the earth and killing the tree beneath it - leaving the impressive if eerie structure shown.

Close to the Curtain Fig Tree lies the town of Yungaburra, yet another small quaint outback town centered upon its one main street of shops, where we passed through en route to Lake Barrine. The lake is one of a number in the area that are both secluded and picturesque (PIC).

Continuing on our tour we visited the Cathedral Fig Tree (PICS), another vine that strangles its host in order to grow and survive, before moving on to Malandra falls (PIC) where we spent some time chatting with the local aborigines who were enjoying their 'backyard' and celebrating one members birthday.

With darkness approaching we made our way back to our room in Atherton stopping only to grab a quick McDonalds dinner before showering and watching TV before falling asleep at midnight.

Day 3

Up at 9am and out by 9:30 (we were getting good at the whole up-and-out operation), we drove to the 'Crater' and Dinner Falls, two naturally created but very different phenomenon's closely situated to Atherton. The Crater (PIC) is a huge volcanic hole which drops down 80ft before turning under the lookout point and descending much further into the earth, where it originates. The green colour is actually a layer of algae which has grown on the water because it is non-running water.

Dinner Falls (PIC), as the name suggests, is a waterfall - though why it is called dinner was not clear, we certainly didn't get fed while we were there!

The next town on from the Crater was Ravenshoe (pronounced Ravens-hoe), a very oldy-american style town and also the highest town in Queensland. We stopped at the town for some breakfast before heading on to Millstream Falls (PIC), the widest waterfall in Australia (apparently). They didn't look that wide to us but you could see that in a wetter year they could be a great deal larger.

One area that we had identified as a must-see was Innot Hot Springs. We didn't actually know much about them, other than the name suggesting that there would be some hot springs that we could hopefully relax in. The springs were quite a way out of the tablelands area we originally intended to cover as they were a good hours drive away from everything else but as it turns out they were well worth the effort.

Slightly unaware of what exactly we were looking for we managed to drive straight passed Innot hot springs initially before realising that the little creek we had just driven over was in fact it. Turning around and pulling into what appeared to be a caravan park we left the car and walked down to the creek to test the water (PIC) we were shocked to discover that it was hot, not just warm or tepid but bloody hot! About 70 degrees in fact.

Opting against digging a hole and boiling our buts we went into the nearby reception and asked if there was a more user friendly section of the springs, at which point we discovered that the 'caravan park' WAS actually Innot hot springs - they utilise the natural hot spring water (by driving a metal stake 120ft down into the earth) to then fill a selection of 6 pools with varying water temperatures ranging from the normal 26 degrees of a cold swimming pool to a ferocious 44 degrees in the indoor spa (PICS).

Having driven the extra mileage to get there we figured it would be churlish to begrudge the $6 entry fee so donned our swimming costumes and headed straight for the 28 degree pool...had to start somewhere. It didn't take long to work our way around all 6 pools testing out the varying sleep inducing heats. The real 'rejuvenating' qualities of the springs were evident when we hopped back and forth between the 26 and 44 pools - not for the faint hearted.

Eventually deciding our shriveled bodies could take no more we got back on the road and began the twisty arduous journey out to the waterfall loop which took in Millaa Millaa, Zillie and Ellinjaa falls (PICS). The road was so unpopular and deserted that we only saw 3 other cars in the entire 24km stretch - something we figured we should get used to in preparation for our road trip up the West coast.

With our planned itinerary completed a day early we made the decision to head back to Cairns for the night passing via Crawfords lookout, the Misty Mountains, Bartle Frere (Queensland's highest mountain) and the Pyramid Mountain on the way (PICS).

With the sun setting quickly behind us we pulled into trusty Tropic Days for the night - it's homely feel and price attracting us back for one last stay. Checked in, bags dumped and stomachs growling we headed back out in search of food, more specifically 'Sizzlers' for another magnificent salad buffet. This was not to be. On arriving we were duly informed that the salad buffet had been closed down due to the recent rat poisoning scandal that was dominating the headlines; a woman for some unknown reason had some grudge against them and decided to put rat poison in the salads at two Brisbane outlets. Henceforth Sizzlers closed ALL of there salad carts across the whole of Australia!!

Hungry and dejected we finally plumped for a bargain at Subway; four six inch subs, four drinks and four cookies for $20 (8 GBP) before settling in at the cinema to watch Lord of War with Nicholas Cage. It seems Australia is a bit behind the UK with some films as this film was out in the UK even before we left.

Having enjoyed the food and film we returned to Tropic days and to our beds at 12:30.

Day 4

Eager to settle back into the apartment in Il Palazzo for our last night in Cairns we got up at 9am, packed and checked out of Tropic Days. After having dropped our bags at Il Palazzo we made use of our hire car and headed to the central shopping centre and then into town for one last wander around.

After a relaxed breakfast we did some necessary laundry and set about the chore of downsizing all the crap we had accumulated and repacking our bags to ensure we would be allowed on the plane to Perth.

Everything organised we lounged around in the apartment for a few hours before venturing back out to hunt down campervan companies (in preparation for Perth) and a restaurant serving local tucker to treat ourselves for our last East coast meal.

We didn't have much luck with the campervans but we did discover a fancy yet rustic Aussie restaurant, Apres Beach Bar & Grill, that served an Aussie bush bbq platter including; Kangaroo, Emu, Crocodile and Barramundi each with its own individual sauce to complement it.

Suitably stuffed and impressed with the flavours of the tenderly cooked meats (and early bird 20% discount!) we jumped on the internet in a vain attempt to find some accommodation in Perth before heading back to the hotel and bed at 11:30.
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