Cape Tribulation: Day 1

This was a good day as we’ve hired a car to travel to Cape Tribulation and spend a few days here. We were going to come here over Christmas, I’m sure it would have been amazing if we had, but with the threat of cyclones and the wet season intensifying, we made the decision to come now so as not to jeopardise our chances of seeing the rainforest. It’s so humid here at the moment though (I think it was supposed to be around 90% this morning) I can’t imagine what it’d be like right in the middle of thunderstorms. Unbearable I think!

Codie had booked the car in advance with Apex Car Rentals a few days ago which meant that all we had to do was ring for the free transfer and be taken to the car. At 9:45, the happiest woman ever collected us for the short drive and told us all about her dog and how rare proper thunderstorms are in Cairns. I love a good thunderstorm so this is quite disappointing as we’ll be in Cairns a fair bit I think but I’ll just have to make the most of any we come across whilst we’re in the forest. When we got to the rental place, we piled all our stuff into the car (a Hyundai i20) Codie paid for it and set off on our adventure.

The first stop was of course Mcdonalds as we hadn’t had any breakfast and were quite peckish. Very disappointingly, there was no menu containing cheap items and so eventually we settled on two cheeseburgers and a frozen sprite before pinching two little pots of the free jam for tomorrow’s breakfast. If we have to pay more the food then we may as well make sure we can eat tomorrow too! I read the Cairns Post for a bit but there was nothing strikingly different to the Lancashire Evening Post other than the weather and the fact they talked about the reef rather than the roads so I put it down and we set off once again. We drove for a while down the Captain Cook Highway (I swear he is everywhere we go!) looking at the fields of sugar cane around us and the rainforest coated hills straight ahead. We even caught a glimpse of the Skyrail again snaking up the side of one of the hills and it looks amazing even from below. I think I’d quite enjoy another trip on that. After a while though we had to stop in a place called Clifton Beach to stock up on plates and cutlery in the Coles Supermarket as I’ve read a few TripAdvisor reviews saying that the kitchen was lacking a lot in the place we’re staying and of course we didn’t want to run the risk of not eating our lovely pasta. After the last trip to Coles involved mouldy food, I’m not entirely a huge fan now but for $2.50 (£1.75ish) it wasn’t so bad and it wasn’t long until was flopped back into the car to set off for real. Not yet used to driving an auto, Codie almost gave us whiplash braking as we were leaving the car park but we survived that and headed for Cape Trib.

We’d decided to stick the GoPro onto the window to film a time-lapse of us travelling along and to capture the landscape changes along the way. That’s something I really do enjoy about Australia; everything around you seems to change so suddenly so you’re constantly seeing such a variety of things in one short trip. On this highway it went from fields full of growing vegetation to trees, to beaches and back again constantly with lots of interesting eagles and wildlife sprinkled in as well. I particularly enjoyed the drive past Port Douglas as on the way there the other day we’d be shown eagles’ nests on top of telegraph poles but I didn’t get a particularly good look whereas in the front of the car I really did. I tried getting a few photos of them balanced on top but as we were using my iPad as the sat nav, it was quite difficult too whilst holding that at the same time. I’ll have to have another go on the way home instead! For a while I just sat wondering why they’d decided to nest in such a peculiar place but I suppose it’s because eagles like to nest high up from the ground so it was an ideal location. Clearly a nice cliff would have been better but with easy access to the beach, the road (incase of tasty roadkill) and the hills, it does actually seem a perfect eagle-y place to live.

Eventually the hills flattened as we turned off towards Daintree and the ferry to reach Cape Tribulation. Parts of the area remind me a lot of the Scottish highlands and this bit definitely did with the mountains in the distance and green fields and trees shadowing the road. Of course there are completely different plants here but the atmosphere really did seem quite similar and I enjoyed that. There was something dead on the road which to me look like a watermelon but Codie assured me it wasn’t and we debated what it could be for a while without really getting anywhere. I still think it was a furry watermelon. Shortly after this we reached the Daintree River ferry crossing and made our way over to join a queue of about 5 white cars. They love white cars here which I presume is because of the heat reflecting qualities or they might just like white but either way there are tons of them around. I read the signs on the side of the road and hoped that we’d see the creatures depicted on them; saltwater crocs and cassowaries. Admittedly, I’d like to see them just wander past sometime but of course that won’t happen (again) so going on a croc spotting tour would be just as much fun. When it was time to board the boat, we loaded ourselves on and got ready to pay the man for a return trip. I’m not entirely sure that for $27 we got our money’s worth as the trip barely lasted 5 minutes but I suppose it’s the only way to reach the forest and the fair goes towards the upkeep of the ferry.

Keeping an unsuccessful eye out for crocs, we drove off the ferry and continued our drive to Cape Tribulation. There was a dog in a crate thing in the back of a car just in front which I’d watched on the ferry and was hoping to keep watching but they literally took off and sped off around the corner. Poor dog. It didn’t look particularly happy on that ferry so how it felt zooming off down the road I have no idea. It made me think about a ferry crossing in Scotland with JJ, Jack and Millie (the dogs)  when Jack hated every minute of it but refused to not look outside so stood with a pained look on his face and it did make me laugh remembering. At this point, the road seemed to just go on and on and on and on and as though we’d never actually make it to the accommodation. We passed croc tours and cafes, our next hostel and one I’d look at but there was no sign of where we were supposed to be going. It was a lovely ride though as we went into the forest itself; vines hung over the road and ulysses butterflies fluttered past and when you caught a glimpse of the ocean, all the different shades of blue look really beautiful. Of course there was another good thing we saw, an ice-cream factory we are going to have to visit at some point! Once the road stopped being tarmac and turned to gravel, dust and stones we we slightly worried that perhaps we’d gone too far as it didn’t seem quite right. A quick map check showed that we were on the right track though and the ‘Cape Trib Beach House’ was just around the corner. I’m so glad we rented the car now, there’s not a chance we could’ve made it here any other way and a tour would have been too expensive with too little time. I’m also glad that the rental company accepts stone chips as normal!

Arriving at the Beach House felt a lot like when we visited Bungalow Bay Koala Village on Magnetic Island which is perhaps unsurprising as both are run by YHA. The reception was a little wooden shed type thing and after checking in and collecting our linen we headed off down the path to discover more little wooden sheds. We are in an Endeavour (Captain Cook strikes again!)  room, 5, which is a 5 bed dorm share and was considerably cheaper than any of the private cabins. It’s a shame that we can’t afford our own one but to be honest, I’d much rather spend the money on activities outside of it rather than a place to sleep. It’s a nice enough room however with two bunk beds and a single bed a tall ceiling though there is someone else in here who doesn’t seem to want the air con on and had instead plugged in his phone charger despite nothing charging. In temperatures like this you can’t really afford to not have it on so we unplugged the charger and plugged the air con back in. It was amazing and still is as after another unplugging/plugging in incident, he’s now left it plugged in. Hooray!

Once we’d shoved all our bags in the room and made the beds with horrendous dehydration headaches, we went to explore the kitchen and put all our food in the fridge. It’s not exactly the cleanest of kitchens and even though there are plates and cutlery available, I’m quite glad we’ve brought our own as I’d feel as though we’d have to scrub it all to make sure it was actually clean! Still, what can you expect for a backpacker style resort? What is good about it though is the fact the wildlife can just wander through and walk past you whilst you’re eating at the tables and we experienced this when a huge goanna waddled past. We had seen it just before when we were carrying the shopping through but it seemed quite shy and quickly disappeared but this time it heaved itself under the fence and thudded across the floor, nosily looking under the fridges and into the kitchen. I was enjoying my noodles at the time and didn’t fancy sharing them with a lizard so I quickly got up to try and get a few photos of it lumbering around. Following a quick lap of the area, Griff the goanna flopped off the deck and went off across the leafy floor whilst we got on with washing up and munching bananas. Hearing a rustling noise I peered around the fence and he was still there, watching underneath it! I like him, he seems very curious and it’s so much better to see them in the wild than in a zoo. I’m hoping we get to see him again soon.

After lunch, we got back to the room and decided to change beds as the other bunk beds had now been cleaned and we decided to move there so it didn’t feel as packed in. No-one else had turned up so there’s just 3 of us in a 5 bed dorm but it still doesn’t feel like there’s enough space with everyone’s bags in the room too. Rather than staying in the room, we chose to have a little explore of the beach instead as it’s supposed to be amazing. It really is. A lot of places further down the coast claim to show the reef meeting the rainforest but here it really does. Instead of having a line of trees with a road behind it, the lush tropical trees carpeted the side of the beach and if you looked into it, it was just dark. To me, here is the true ‘reef meets the rainforest’ concept as it really is as though two un-interfered with natural places have combined forces. The sand is coated in small sandy balls created by feeding crabs as well as countless shells and rocks washed up by the sea. All the trees at the edge of the forest have smooth branches bleached white by the constant saline battle and looked like weird twisted sculptures. There was even a sandy trail left by a skulking lizard but we couldn’t see where he’d disappeared to though we did have a look. We wandered quite a way down until we met some rocks and couldn’t get any further so turned and headed back. It’s nice to find a place that isn’t swarming with tourists all the time; I think there were only about 4 or 5 other people on the beach and they were a lot further down. As we walked back, Codie noticed the one of the crabs had formed a flower with it’s little sandy food balls and we stopped to take a few photos. It was actually really well done and a lot better than I could draw so I am quite jealous of that crab.

Following a very quick visit to our room and seeing that the other guy was asleep in the ridiculous heat, we decided to hop back into the air conditioned car and have a little explore further down the road. I really am enjoying having the car as it means we can go where we want to without having to wait and rely on other people and it doesn’t hurt to be cool either (in the sense of being cold, not that we look great in the car!). It was a very very bumpy track and we were bouncing around a fair bit until we reached a sign saying ‘4WD only’ and had to turn back. We hadn’t exactly seen much but it was nice to see some more of the rainforest and the creepy vine plants before we headed off in the other, more populated direction. This time we stopped at a few beaches which were even more deserted and even came with crocodile warnings. We couldn’t walk too far onto them though as we’d risk filling our shoes with sand so stood on the hard stuff to take photos instead. On one of them, ……, there was a tiny little island just off the coast and I thought it’d be funny to do the classic “look at my holding it” pose so we both had a go of that, neither going particularly well before giving up and moving on. After the beaches we went down a long road with nothing at the end of it apart from a great view of clouds cascading down the mountainside. I really want it to rain here as I think the rainforest would come alive then but the forecast doesn’t seem to think it’ll be the case anytime soon. You never know though, they’re hardly always right!

Back at the resort at about 6:15 hot and clammy with the humidity, I decided that we should use the showers first before making tea. We gathered all our things together and walked to the toilet/shower blocks but I wasn’t really looking forward to it like the Bungalow Bay showers. These ones feel a lot like public toilets with gaps at the tops and trees with cobwebs poking in which doesn’t bother me at all but the water pressure wasn’t great. It made washing my hair quite a difficult task so I rushed through it to leave and get back to the room thinking Codie was already there as I needed him to let me in. He wasn’t so I had to sit outside on some benches for a while which was fine as I found a caterpillar to watch and followed it as it crept around the wooden floor and across leaves. I wondered what type of butterfly it’d turn into, hoping it would be a brilliant blue ulysses one but suspecting otherwise. As I was thinking about this, Codie came back and let me in so we could get changed and go and make some food.

It was pasta for tea again but that didn’t matter as it was teddy bear shaped and that makes everything ten times better. We also had a tin of Irish stew to add to it and after a few steam burns and parmesan cheese spillages, it was ready and really very tasty. Unfortunately, we only had one tin of nice things to add to it and since we’ve used it, I imagine it’s plain pasta from now on. Oh dear. Sitting outside to munch our food I hoped we’d see Griff again but he was nowhere in sight so we washed up and headed back to the room. It was a bit too early to stay in there long though and so I suggested that we go and investigate an apparent bonfire the hostel supposedly puts on at the beach every night. I really just wanted to have another look around for interesting wildlife but a bonfire would have been cool too. Unsurprisingly it wasn’t there so instead we had a little look at the stars and there were millions of them; it was almost as good as when we slept on the Great Barrier Reef though perhaps not that good. I always prefer beaches at night as you still get to hear the sound of the waves except you’re not blinded by the sun and the sand doesn’t roast your toes. I’m hoping to go back tomorrow with towels so we can sit under the stars for a bit before we have to move to another hostel. As we made our way back to the cabin, something fairly big sounding rustled in the leaves next to the path and ran off. We used our phone torches to try and see what it was but it had long gone by this stage. I’m not disappointed though, it’s one of my favourite things about the rainforest knowing that things are all around but not knowing what. Unless of course it’s a poisonous spider, then I’d like to know.

Back in the room and I found that Codie had brought in our chocolatey treats and biscuits in which was good but now we’ve eaten them, we really have run out of tasty food for the rest of the trip. We watched a few tv programmes on his laptop before having a little read on the iPad/Kindle as annoyingly I wasn’t really that tired. Having said that though it wasn’t really that late at all so I think it was quite understandable! I’ve now finished all my books and with no internet to download any more, I’m having to re-read some which isn’t actually that bad. It’s a shame I’ve finished the last book I read though, ‘Down Under’ by Bill Bryson as I was enjoying reading all about Australia and finding out all the little facts about the places we’ve been to. are in or are going to visit although it has made me worry a bit about a few future destinations! Hopefully soon we’ll be going on a night walk to see the rainforest and it’s nocturnal critters but I did enjoy staying in, having a relaxing night and getting ready for more exploration soon.

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