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Cooktown to Cairns

...from rainforest reef

sunny 37 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Back to Oz on SteveJD's travel map.

Gladys told us we should travel by the inland route but we chose to go via the (coastal) Bloomfield Track to Cape Tribulation. A short way down the road we came across a pub, the Lion's Den Hotel - no other buildings, just the pub. As it was early in the day we had coffee while finding more about this quirky place. Inside there were many artefacts from days gone by and the walls were covered with writing. The latter was started by miners from the surrounding area who would leave their pay packets at the pub and write on the wall how much they had left! Today, most of these signatures have faded away but travellers over the years have filled the gaps. Outside the pub, we were surprised to find a cannonball tree. Many years ago we had seen one in Singapore but had not expected one here. The tree has magnificent large blooms, mostly close to the trunk and the fruit are about cannonball size but not quite as heavy! We had hoped to see an Aboriginal Art Gallery at Wujal Wujal but when we got there, the gallery was closed and the whole settlement seemed deserted so we started on the unsealed road. At some point on the track Gladys finally conceded that we had only 32km to go, not about 100km! The track was interesting with many ascents and descents on a narrow, winding track with several creek crossings (not much water at this time of year).


On the way down the Bloomfield Track we stopped to admire some of the scenery and Jet Set joined us - and was very nearly left behind! We finally arrived at Cape Tribulation (so named by Captain Cook as he recorded that "...here begun all our troubles." - Miss Drury would have corrected his English no doubt!) and our accommodation in a Jungle Treehouse! We had to cart our bags and baggage about 150 yards through a jungle track to our abode - a wonderful creation with shower (open to the forest) and lounge on the ground floor and bedroom, living area and loo (with forest views, of course) on the first floor. We had really hoped to see a cassowary on this trip but here we had day old poo on the path and, the day before we left, there was very fresh poo when we came back from a lunch down the road! Once settled in, we visited the nearest beach (complete with coconut palms), quite beautiful. While in Cape Trib, we had no 'phone or internet access but strangely the world did not come to and end!


The following morning, after a cold shower (gas bottle needed changing!), we enjoyed a private walk through the forest before heading down to the Daintree Rainforest Discovery Centre (the name Daintree honours a 19th century Australian geologist and photographer). I should note here that our host is an enthusiastic concrete sculptor and his works are scattered through the forest - slightly eccentric! On the way to the Discovery Centre, we stopped at Thornton Beach where, like all the beaches along this stretch of coast, there was a notice warning of stingers. Beautiful though the sea may look, at this time of year, it is not worth the risk to swim in, however hot it may be. We carried on to the Daintree Ice Cream Company where we had coconut, mango, wattle seed and soursop ice creams (the latter tasting like lemonade!) - some of the nicest flavours I have tasted. We had a pleasant walk around part of their orchard seeing the various exotic fruit trees that they grow. At the Discovery Centre, we walked on the boardwalk, above the forest floor at varying heights, then climbed the observation tower for a better view of the forest and some of the birds that inhabit the canopy. Our time there was greatly enhanced by an excellent audio guide. We found that, in the rainforest, we tended to hear many birds in the canopy but rarely saw any, so the chance to see some from the tower was very welcome. During our stay, we definitely heard catbirds and wompoo pigeons but didn't see them anywhere. We once saw a catbird on the Lamington Plateau when we were living in Brisbane but they are very elusive.


On our last full day at Cape Trib we visited a number of beaches and outlook points, all of which gave beautiful views and very interesting vegetation, including some wonderful ferns which grow on trees (epiphytic).


Our drive down the coast, after taking the ferry across the Daintree River, included some of the most stunning coastal scenery we have ever seen, absolutely magnificent. We detoured to see Mossman Gorge - there were signs saying it was not safe to swim so we left our cossies behind only to find all and sundry were cooling off very nicely - so much for obedience! Mossman, the town and the gorge, were named by an early explorer after Hugh Mosman who discovered gold in Charters Towers. We then carried on to Cairns (named after a 19th century governor of Queensland).


On my birthday we took the Skyrail up to Kuranda (Wikipedia has let me down on the derivation of this name but I suspect it is Aboriginal). This gave superb views of the rainforest, with a couple of stops on the way. However, we had opted for the Diamond package which gave a glass floor to the capsule and 4 instead of 5 passengers. This would have been fine if it weren't for the fact that only every tenth capsule is a Diamond type, so we often waited while others charged ahead and reached Kuranda probably 15 minutes earlier. In other words, the Diamond package is not really worth the extra - unlike the Gold option for the train back! On arrival, we opted for a very pleasant river cruise where one of our fellow passengers was a Welcome Swallow busy making a nest under the sunroof! I wouldn't have missed going to Kuranda but it is very commercial which, for me, takes the edge off slightly even if I understand that this is how it must be these days (says the old codger!). As I mentioned, the train journey back was most enjoyable in air-conditioned comfort and plenty of, much needed, free drink.


On our 'spare' day, we visited the Cairns Botanical Gardens - at least one corner of them! The gardens include some incredible plants and a greater variety of some plants than I had thought existed. There was even another cannonball tree with both flower and fruit. Not surprisingly, there were plenty of birds and butterflies to keep us happy.


Our last full day in Cairns was rather disappointing, to say the least. We had booked a trip to part of the Great Barrier Reef but on the day the weather was grey, windy and, to start with, showery. On boarding, we were told that all the crew had taken sea sickness tablets and they recommended that we follow suit, at $3 per tablet. We had already taken some travel sickness tablets that we had with us as it had looked a bit iffy, so didn't feel that it would we sensible to take another. With the benefit of hindsight, the trip should not have taken place. However, we travelled out in decidedly rough conditions and very shortly some of the crew and passengers were being sick (Judith included). We finally reached the first dive spot and probably the scuba divers enjoyed it but we opted to snorkel and joined a beginners' group as we are not strong swimmers and have done little snorkelling. A crew member took us and another passenger out, clinging on to a life belt, but trying to see anything underwater was mostly futile as the swell was so great that snorkels immediately filled with seawater. Nonetheless, we saw a little coral and some fishes but all three of us indicated that we were not comfortable and the crew member tried to get back to the boat but we had drifted too far and even with us kicking along, she could not get us back so had to signal for help. The crew on the boat were slow to react but finally sent a Zodiac-type craft to get us back. The rest of the day was simply an uncomfortable waste of time as we did not feel like trying the next site where the swell was even greater and we then had a long, very rough, trip back to port. Sadly, what was to have been one of the highlights of our trip was one of the lowest points, if not the lowest. We had booked to sail to the Whitsundays a few days later but neither of us felt like risking another long sea trip, so cancelled that booking and booked a floatplane flight instead - more of that later.

20171110_P1000006.jpg -
our boat
20171110_P1000020.jpg - the bumpy but welcome ride back to port!

Posted by SteveJD 17:00 Archived in Australia

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Oh wow what a fabulous trip :) Brings back memories for me. Lions den is fun hey. Your treehouse accommodation looks fabulous! And yes the cape trib beaches are stunning.... but croc danger as well as stingers so yes... no swimming. Shame about your last day to GBR. We did Fitzroy island which was gorgeous..but obviously better weather than what you had. Still plenty of wonderful memories in your blog.

by aussirose

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