Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Cape Tribulation

Last weekend I went up to Cape Tribulation for a few days. Cape Trib is the most northerly part of my journey around Australia. The tourism officials like to boast that it's "where the rainforest meets the reef", which it is. The Daintree Rainforest is on one side of the beach while the Great Barrier Reef is just a little bit off shore and if you stand on a lookout you can see both at the same time.

I went there with a company called Jungle Tours and they basically just bring you up to Cape Tribulation on day one and home again on your last day. Any trips you do while in Cape Trib are up to you and with different companies. That said the journey up to Cape Trib is about 2 1/2 hours driving but the bus takes all day because the bus does stop at several places including a zoo, Mossman gorge, a beach, a lookout from which the guide pointed out the reef on which Steve Irwin was killed (the bus always stopped there for the overall view not just the morbid reef).

I booked this trip when I was in Brisbane and at the time I wanted to go to the most northerly hostel even though it was quieter and most backpackers went to one called PKs which is in the center of what passes for a village. The hostel I was in is called The Cape Trib Beachhouse. On the way to Cape Tribulation I kind of regretted my choice since I knew several people staying in PKs. That said after seeing both I am glad I was in the Beachhouse. PKs is in the Rainforest but compared to the Beachhouse it's the center of town.

The Beachhouse is a 40 minute walk north from PKs. Walk along the tarmac road through town until it becomes a dirt and gravel road and then keep walking for another 30 minutes. It really was in the rainforest and each hut was surrounded on 3 sides by trees, so close you could almost touch them if you opened a window. In front of each hut was a path which cut through the rainforest and at one stage was blocked by a large snake which decided to relax across the path soaking up the heat. No one dared step over it, but eventually it got tired of the attention and moved into the bush.

At the same time don't misunderstand me, this was not exactly roughing it. Each hut had aircon and was pretty comfortable. There was a bar and a bistro but we didn't stay up late since it was pretty quiet. There was also internet access, of a fashion, which did seem a little unreliable and seemed to be down more than it was up.

However I didn't come to Cape Tribulation for the accommodation. One of the reasons I was there was to go horse riding through the rainforest and onto the beach. The company, Cape Trib Horse Rides, that does this had been recommended to me back in Ireland so I thought I'd give it a go. It was a fun activity if a little easy for anyone who could horse ride since the horses were used to the tracks and routines and did everything automatically. You could spend the whole trek with the reins hooked onto the saddle. This was a little disappointing but the trip was still well worth it as we walked, trotted and cantered around the forest and the open tracks. It may seem strange to trot and canter without real control of the reins but again the horses started and stopped as soon as the lead horse did so it was safe and fun.

The next day I went out on the boat called the Rum Runner. Well actually the Rum Runner IX. What happened to the first 8 is not exactly clear, I assume they are either retired somewhere or still running trips on other days or from other beaches. This is a dive boat but I didn't do an dive just snorkeling. I do think the snorkelers got to see more since the divers were out in deeper water with less coral while the snorkelers were right on top of the reef. We went to two reefs, one before lunch, one after and the second reef was truly amazing with crystal clear water and a huge amount of coral. Strangely there were fewer fish than on the Whitsundays but there were still lots of colourful exotic fish to be seen.

When I wasn't on an organised trip I went for a couple of walks and hired a bike to go up to lookouts and along the beach, though the heat and humidity were high so I limited the amount of walking around I did. After the day on the Rum Runner I headed back to Cairns where I am now and will be here until Saturday morning when I head down to Alice Springs.

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