Cairns & Cape Tribulation, Tropical North Queensland
After a 4 hour flight from Perth and a 2 hour time difference, we arrived in Cairns at 4.30am and hopped on the shuttle bus that would take us to our hostel. The hostel had kindly given us the access code to get in so that we could crash in their lounge room until reception opened at 7am, which we took full advantage of! At 10am we were able to get into our room but all we could think about was sleep, so we spent the next few hours catching up on sleep. We were quite surprised by how the journey and time difference had wiped us out, we've had plenty of late night/ long journeys over the last 4 months but this one wiped us out more than any! Later in the day, Lou splashed out and went to see Star Wars Episode One Phantom Menace in 3D at the local cinema; I opted out of this trip and stayed at the hostel!
The following day we had a walk through town and down to the Esplanade. This area is the main CBD of Cairns with shops, bars restaurants and accommodation on every corner. We'd chosen a hostel called Travellers Oasis (we would highly recommend it, small and quaint with lovely non bunk bed rooms, lovely personal touches and great staff) which was just outside of the CBD but less than a ten minute walk away from all the action. Cairns itself doesn't have a beach so they have created an amazing lagoon right on the waterfront, overlooking the sea which is free, clean and has great amenities including free BBQs. Needless to say it's always busy and a popular meeting point amongst locals and travellers. We also spent some time with the very helpful staff at our hostel discussing options for trips that we wanted to do. One of which was to visit Cape Tribulation, a couple of hours north of Cairns and the other to visit the Great Barrier Reef! In the evening, we treated ourselves to a meal at a local Mexican restaurant, which was deeeeeelicious. It really was a treat as eating out (and food in general) is so expensive over here that we haven't really done it since we've been here!
Up early on day 3 in Cairns, to join a tour to Cape Tribulation. Cape Tribulation was named by Captain Cook in 1770 after his ship hit a reef as it passed over it. Our tour guide, Peter, told us that Cook was having a bit of a bad time when he navigated around this part of Queensland, so many of the capes, mountains etc have quite dark and dismal names, such as; Mount Sorrow, Broken Bay, Mount Warning & Point Danger. The Daintree Rainforest including Cape Tribulation National Park is the world's oldest living rainforest estimated to be over 110 million years - it is the second largest rainforest in the World next to the Amazon.
On the way to Cape Tribulation, we visited Daintree National Park where we stopped for a walk alongside the river to a small suspension bridge and lookout point and dipped our toes in the water. We also stopped for a rainforest walk, a walk which hasn't been possible for the last year due to the damage caused by cyclone Yassi. We were the first group to be able to do the walk as it had literally just been reopened that morning by the park rangers. On the walk, Peter shared his knowledge of plants and insects and pointed out all sorts of interesting critters, including rather large spiders, lizards, frogs, crabs and other creepy crawlies. The walk took us through mangroves, where some species of trees grow out of the water and look eerily beautiful. It is also where crocs live! Back on the bus, we had to cross the Daintree river on a small chain link boat- this is the only way (apart from a massively long detoured drive) to get to Cape Trib. Once over the water, Peter told us that locals pay no attention to the laws, as they know that the Police will very rarely bother to cross the river. However, as a tourist, we were warned that although the Police won't do much, the locals will!!! Once across the river, a few winding roads and small creek crossings brought us to Cape Tribulation, where most of the group would stop for a lunch break but as we were staying for a couple of nights, we were taken to our accommodation. Before he dropped us off, Peter warned us that as with most of Northern Queensland, November - May is Stinger season. This means that all types of marine stingers (jellyfish) can present in the water and cause VERY painful stings if they touch you. Worst of them all, is the Box Jellyfish, who's sting is so venomous, it will kill you. Peter warned us in no uncertain terms NOT to swim or, in his words, "YOU WILL DIE". As well as stingers, we were also in Cassowary land. Cassowaries are an endangered Australian species of bird, of a similar size to an Emu. Looks wise, the mails look like a cross between and turkey and a peacock. They are beautiful; however, they are the most dangerous bird on the planet! If they attack humans, they can disembowel you with their claws! As with most creatures, they will only attack if you bother them, so as long as you look at them from a distance you will be fine! We were also warned to look out for monitor lizards, which are HUGE lizards, about 2 metres in length. Again, harmless unless you bother them. And of course, crocs can be found in some of the creeks that run into the beach. So, with all that in mind, we checked into our accommodation, which was in the middle of the rainforest and on the beach, surrounded by previously mentioned wildlife!
Cape Tribulation is described as the place where rainforest meets the reef. When we walked down through the rainforest that our accommodation was in and ended up on the beautiful beach, we soon found out that this is entirely true. For the next couple of days, we chilled out by the pool, walked along the beautiful beach and took in our amazing surroundings and the total peace and quiet. We managed to see a couple of monitor lizards (whilst keeping our distance!) and we kept out of the sea so we wouldn't die!! On our walks we had to be mindful of the tides, as a couple of creeks meet the sea at high tide and crocs are known to live in these areas, so it's only safe to cross the creek at low tide.
After successfully surviving our time in Cape Tribulation (no mean feat with all the warnings we were given) we got picked up at lunchtime on day 3 by an aboriginal named George to continue our tour back to Cairns. As well as being full of knowledge on the wildlife, he shared with some beautiful stories about Aboriginal legends and history. The Daintree region is one of the biggest tea growing areas in Australia and one of the tea companies also produces ice cream, using their own fruit that they grow. We were lucky enough to sample some of the ice cream, one of which was made of Black Sapote. Amazingly, this fruit tastes just like CHOCOLATE! We've been trying to find this fruit ever since but haven't come across any yet!!! We also went on an hour long river cruise along the Daintree River and saw some interesting creatures as well as a croc! We mostly saw "logodiles"- floating logs that the Asian tourists on board kept thinking were crocs haha.
The next day we had another early start, this time to visit one the place we had most been looking forward to- The Great Barrier Reef. Cairns is one of the best places to visit the Great Barrier Reef from as it is so close to the outer reef which is where the best stuff can be seen! We chose a boat called Silver Swift, which was recommend to us by the hostel staff, who incidentally also joined the tour for the day which proves it must be good! We headed out on the boat for a 1 1/2 hour journey out to the reed. The boat was a wee bit rocky and a LOT of people suffered from sea sicknesses. Luckily we had though ahead and taken a sea sickness tablet so were fine and dandy and didn't had to join the hordes of people throwing up on the outside deck!!! The day would consist of stopping at 3 sites for us to snorkel and dive at. Lou did two dives, at the first and second sites whilst I snorkelled and then we snorkelled together on site three. It was absolutely incredible. We've done a fair share of diving and snorkelling on this trip so far, however the colours and different species of fish and types of coral are unrivalled, the reef is truly amazing. We saw oodles of brightly coloured and interesting fish (Box fish, red bass, coral trout, butterfly and angel fish and titan trigger fish), including Nemo, turtles, white tipped reef sharks and a biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig fish called Nigel! Nigel is a Mauri Rass, well known to the boat crew and will come right up to the steps at the back of the boat and let you touch him. We had a great time exploring the different reef areas, we were free, within a radius of the boat, to swim to wherever we wanted to look at things. It was a magical day with great scenery, great company, great crew and great food! We arrived back to our hostel absolutely exhausted but with a lifelong ambition achieved and a great way to wrap up the first part of our time in Cairns, the second part will begin in our next blog…..