The Great Barefoot Bike Ride, Pirates in the Rainforest and other stories from Cape Tribulation

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August 9th 2008
Published: August 9th 2008
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My last post didn't really do Cape Tribulation justice, so here is a new, I-am-no-longer-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-with-expensive-internet one! Cape Trib is the most beautiful place I have been, in fact it must be the most beautiful place in the world because it is the only place where 2 World Heritage sites meet and share a border- the Daintree Rainforest (thought to be the oldest rainforest in the world) and the Great Barrier Reef. It was named by Captain Cook, because this was where his boat hit the reef and all of his "trials and tribulations" began. The cape itself is covered in rainforest and most people who go to Cape Trib don't even go there. The township is basically a hostel, a small grocery store and a pharmacy on one side of the road, and a campsite and cafe opposite, with a few well hidden houses (or "homes" might be a more appropriate description) behind and some resorts spread out along the beaches on either side.

I originally had 2 nights booked, but ended up spending almost 3 weeks there! I crammed a lot of stuff into my first couple of days even though it rained a lot (well that's what you get if you go to the rainforest hey) because I thought I wouldn't be staying for long. I went up with a tour which was pretty rubbish but easier than sorting out buses to stop along the way. We went to Mossman Gorge (only me and one other girl swam because it looked suspiciously dirty!) and did a crocodile spotting cruise on the Daintree River and saw a couple of adult crocs and some babies. My first impression of the rainforest was that everything is out to get you here! The Daintree Rainforest is home to the cassowary, considered the most dangerous bird in the world because they have claws so they can easily kill a person with a kick...and even the plants are a bit scary- apart from the many toxic berries, there's the "wait-a-while" or "lawyer vine" ("lawyer" because once it gets hold of you it doesn't let go!) and the stinging tree, which makes stinging nettles look like man's best friend- the guide had an encounter with that a few weeks before and he said it was like being stung by about 200 bees in one place...the treatments are waxing to remove the spines, and pouring almost boiling water over it because it reduces the pain but it still hurts more than the burns...apparently during the war Australians told US soldiers about some nice heart-shaped leaves in the rainforest, luxury "bush toilet paper" and around 25 of them were sent home with severe injuries! And then there's the pigs- feral pigs released into the wild from farms which are destroying the rainforest and are capable of injuring or killing people if they've run out of other things to injure and kill...and there's the crocs...and the usual snakes and spiders and some worryingly large wasp-like things. Oh and an abundance of coconut trees which are responsible for more deaths in Australia than shark and croc attacks combined. And falling branches. And I think that's about it...unless you're planning on swimming in the sea, where you've got stingrays, crocs, sharks and deadly jellyfish...Surprisingly, given my fear of tiny English spiders and creepy-crawlies, I took all this in my stride, despite having a few wildlife encounters!

My first day it rained, so I went for a walk, then went to the beach and finished it all up by diving in the pool in my clothes. After getting changed into dry clothes when it stopped raining, I walked about 3km to the nearest ATM, and on my way back had a bit of an adventure...a few of the "locals" as they call themselves (really most of them have only been there for a few months and they are from all over Aus, NZ, Canada and England) who work at the hostel and on the reef boats and other tours drove past me in a ute and offered me a lift to the hostel, so I jumped in. They all had the day off work and were on the way to Emmagen Creek where there is a croc-free waterhole where you can go swimming, so I went with them and got soaked once again. When we were walking to the waterhole, the boys all ran off into the bush chasing a pig (while the girls stood on the path hoping the pig wasn't going to flatten us...) which took me a bit by surprise! They didn't catch that one, but on the way back they got a small one with a speargun (used to catch fish by more normal people), which became Cape Trib legend for a few days. That night, I went on a guided night walk, and we saw some big scary spiders and lots of lizards!

The next morning I walked up Mount Sorrow (also named by Captain Cook; he hated this place!) with some people from the hostel. It's a really steep and hard to follow track, and it was so slippery because of the rain- when we were coming down, we all fell at last 5 times! So by the end I was covered in mud and leeches, and I had an encounter with the only piece of wait-a-while that I saw on the whole 7km track, which left me pulling thorns out of my hand most of the way down! It was a good walk though, despite the fact that we were in cloud at the top so didn't get much of a view. Later, I went sea kayaking which was actually just really scary because it was quite windy and I hadn't quite got to the point where I had taken all the crocs, sharks etc in my stride!

I went to Cairns the next day, but not before watching sunrise on Cape Trib beach which was amazing, as you will see from my photos. I had to go to Cairns to sort out some bank issues (typical that they would happen when I'm in a remote place with 2 ATMs 3km from where I was staying, no phone reception and no banks hey!) and I wasn't really sure what to do next, but on returning to "civilisation" all I wanted to do was go back to the better side of the Daintree River, so I stayed for one night and went back the next morning! Spent a couple of days hanging out at the beach and also went sea kayaking again on a beautiful day when the sea was calm and it was amazing. I went camping up the Bloomfield Track (north to Cooktown) with a couple of people and we wanted to stay at a place near Cooktown caled Archer Point but there was a huge bushfire there and some really weird people camping on the beach so we had a look around and headed back to a campsite that someone had recommended. It was amazing, we got a spot right next to the creek (again, croc free, don't worry!) and had a massive fire. We had heard that there was a waterfall a couple of kms away so we walked there in the morning, not expecting much, and after a dodgy snake encounter I was having second thoughts! But it was the most incredible waterfall I have ever seen and there was no one else there. We spent a few hours there, climbing up to the top and swimming in it and didn't see a single other person the whole time.

Another cool thing that happened while I was there was the guy that is in charge of one of the boats that goes out to the reef organised for a couple of people from the local Kuku Yalangi tribe to come and do a show at one of the campsites. It was really interesting, they did some dancing and played the didgeridoo and told us some stories and traditions. The dances were all based on animals that have been observed by their tribe over the generations, such as the cassowary, the mosquito, the kangaroo, the eagle...and the hitchiker, complete with car sounds! Afterwards, they came to the beach with us and we had a huge fire and spent a few hours there watching the stars and chatting.

I took 3 days to explore the coast between Cape Trib and the river on a bike, which many people thought was insane! I cycled about 40km to Cow Bay on the first day, where I know someone who works at the hostel, so I checked in there and since it was only about midday, I decided to go down to Cape Kimberley which didn't look like far on a map. And it wasn't far, it was just very very very steep, all the way! At Cape Kimberley there are a couple of houses, a banana farm and a hostel, so rather than stealing bananas I went to get some lunch from the hostel, and there were 2 people that I met in Cape Trib staying there. Having stopped on the way to Cow Bay at the Daintree Ice Cream Company for a mango juice because I met someone the previous night who works there and she recommended it, I came to the realisation that having been in Cape Trib for not even 2 weeks, I pretty much knew everyone between the Daintree River and Cape Trib! The next day I spent nearly the whole day at the beach. That night, the girl I know who was working at the hostel there was going to Cape Trib because the hostel there is basically the centre of everyone's social life from the river to past Cape Trib, so we went there which was very weird because having cycled there I felt like I was really far away! I cycled back the next morning (in bare feet hence the title!), via a couple more secluded tropical beaches and a rainforest's a hard life. On the way, I hadn't seen many cars for a while and then a few must have come off the ferry because 4 cars came past me and the front one suddenly stopped and I was a bit confused because I couldn't see why. I looked to my left and there was a huge cassowary right next to me looking for food in the bushes! Unfortunately I didn't get a photo because I was really scared and carried on cycling! Back in Cape Trib I was lucky enough to catch sunset on the beach which was...well look at my photos! Had dinner at someone's "house" which was actually a rented old hippy caravan and a car with a tent on top of it. Pretty cool I think! Other interesting homes I came across there were a train carriage (actually really nice), lots of people living in tents long term, and the staff accommodation at the hostel...

The day after I returned from Cow Bay I had a bit of a leaving thing which involved people buying me lots of drinks. Having drunk these drinks I decided I didn't actually want to leave yet, which was fun to explain the next day! I went with some of the boys to go spear fishing...well me and the other girl that came actually just went for a bit of a swim and a snorkel while the boys caught a little reef shark. We lost some of our enthusiasm when they had to cut it open to get the spear out and got blood in the water, so got out and sunbathed while they tried to get another shark that they had seen! The reef comes right up to the shore on the beach, at low tide the dead coral is not even underwater, hence "Cape Tribulation: Where rainforest meets reef". Later on, they cooked up the shark and we had a really nice meal which we ate off a huge leaf (again, look at the photos and it will all make sense!)

Spent a whole day after that hanging out on the beach- swimming in the sea and sunbathing which is surprisingly hard work and very tiring. Next day there was a pirate party at the hostel, which explains the strange pirate photos. Well it doesn't really explain my costume so I will: I went as a pirate DVD just to be different. Yesterday I decided enough was enough, I had to either get a job or leave straight away and travel, it seems like I have a long time here but it's a big country and I've already been here for over a month. So I booked a bus and had a slightly quieter (but real!) last night, last night and dragged myself away this morning. Not too far away though, just to Port Douglas which is on the "dark side" as I am calling this side of the river, but still north of Cairns. The plan is to go down the east coast for a bit and then go back to Cape Trib in a couple of months to go up to Cape York, the northernmost point of mainland Australia and the top of the Cape York peninsula, which is mainly wilderness. I've been planning a trip with one of my friends from Cape Trib. After that I think it would be interesting to stay up there for the wet season, just for the experience and if I can get a job. It's pretty much 100% humidity all the time and it rains a lot and everything goes mouldy and the creeks overflow so you get stuck (that even happened on my first day when it rained for less than 24 hours) and I think it would be cool to have such a unique experience.

But for now, I will be in Port Douglas for one more day, then head down to Cairns and inland to the Atherton Tablelands, then back to Cairns to head down the coast. Hope you like the photos, not that they do such a beautiful place justice, and there's a lot of stuff I didn't get pics of cos it involved water and sand! There's a few pages of photos, don't miss out!

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