Contrary to what most people believe, Australia does suffer a winter. For Darwin and Broome that might mean halcyon 30°C days with low humidity one after the other for several months but unfortunately, down here in Sydney, winter brings temperatures as low as 5 or 6 degrees. You can’t complain too hard when the days often warm up to 18°C in the sun, but trust me, people sure do. The days are short and chill, but usually bright and dry and I’m assured winter only lasts a couple of months. Anyway, Jake and I were planning a trip for after his exams, and instead of just me visiting Brisbane again, I wanted to take the opportunity to see a new part of the country. It made sense to go up towards the sun and the warmth. So we agreed to visit Cairns and the Tropical North, where winter doesn’t really exist.
Cairns lies 2500km from Sydney, and takes around three hours to fly to. It’s the largest city in the tropical north with a population of 160,000, and the ideal hub for exploring the Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree Rainforest and the Atherton Tablelands. Jake and I had planned a week in the area, but were spending the first half of the week travelling to and staying at Cape Tribulation. This post is about that.
The allure of visiting the Cape Tribulation area is its utter remoteness and natural beauty. Essentially it is where the Daintree Rainforest meet the Great Barrier Reef. Lush healthy rainforest that segue into sparkling blue waters, teeming with wildlife. It’s warm, stunning and relaxing. Getting to Cape Trib isn’t completely straightforward however. There is no public transport, and the private bus companies that run a service are rather extortionate. We almost gave up on going until we found a company that offered a day tour that you could postpone the second half of, allowing you to stay in accommodation right in the rainforest for a couple of nights before returning. It provided activities, a knowledgeable guide and stops at all the points of intrigue along the way – and somehow cost less than the private bus trip!
We set off from Cairns in a minibus with our aboriginal guide George, stopping for a tea break in Mossman to admire the mountains, boarding the ferry to cross the powerful Daintree River and going for a rainforest walk before getting dropped off at our accommodation. The environment here was dense with green, moisture, life and noise. Countless creeks rushed underneath the road, and the thick canopy only permitted a light that was somehow timeless. Day or night, in the present or prehistoric… it was difficult to be sure. To be in a place so old made you feel lost in time, swallowed by the vegetation and insignificantly small. It really is awe inspiring.
Our accommodation was fairly basic, but comfortable. There was a restaurant/bar that served all meals, a swimming pool… and then the beach. What else would you need? We spent our time walking along the sand, finding different locations of solitude, admiring the local fauna, wondering down rainforest paths and along boardwalks over fucund mangrove swamps, keeping an eye out for crocs and cassowaries. It’s definitely somewhere I recommend spending with company of some sort, because there isn’t a whole lot to do. But if you’re with the right person, then drinking beers on the beach as the sun sets and the stars come out will guarantee to be magical.
The highlight of our stay in Cape Trib was the horse ride we did on the second day. Riding a horse was one thing I (oddly) wanted to achieve whilst visiting Australia, and the Daintree Rainforest was definitely one of the most spectacular settings we could have chosen. The ride was suitable for beginners and took us through the rainforest and right along the beach; then back through fields with stunning mountain views. There were even opportunities to do a trot and a slow gallop. It was an awesome experience, but don’t know how soon it’ll be before I jump on a horse again!
We left Cape Trib the next day, but before we departed the coach at Port Douglas, we jumped onto a small boat for a river cruise of the Daintree River, hoping to spot some wildlife. Within 5 minutes we were fortunate enough to see an alpha male crocodile named Scarface, who was over four and a half metres in length! He was gracefully swimming a couple of metres from the boat. It was amazing! Throughout the rest of the cruise we observed some smaller crocs, including some hatchlings, as well as some gorgeous birds, a python, and of course the numerous species of mangrove. We were super lucky to see so much, and all the while our guide told us intriguing facts about the animals in a pleasingly stereotypical Australian accent. Jake cynically said he was probably putting it on to appeal to the tourists. Nevertheless I was thrilled.
The last stop before we rolled back into Port Douglas was Mossman Gorge. It’s one of the most well known tourist attractions in the Tropical North, and although I was initially super excited about going, I was somewhat disappointed with it. It was needlessly touristic in my opinion, taking away most of the enjoyment of witnessing the thundering cascades and prehistoric vegetation. There was a very cool bouncy suspension bridge though!
Soon after the minibus dropped us off at our resort in Port Douglas where we stayed the next two nights. But more of that next time…