Alexandra Range Lookout
Cairns is the tourism mecca of Australia, with the most obvious infrastructure I have seen, not only in Australia, but perhaps anywhere. Every other shop is a travel or excursion agent and in-between are hostels and nightlife abound. I even read on one of the hundreds of flyers found around the place that it was where the term ‘backpacker’ was invented in the ‘70s �" whether this is true, I have no idea.
The first tour we did was to Cape Tribulation National Park.
The Daintree Rainforest is the oldest in the world and the second biggest after the Amazon, and it is the only place in the world where two world heritage-listed areas meet �" that being the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.
We were picked up in a 4x4 by our enjoyable guide who reminded me of Shane Warne, but thin, and set off down Captain Cook Highway, the route north of Cairns that leads up to Cape Tribulation Beach. We stopped off first at Daintree Wildlife Sanctuary, which seemed a little bit pointless seen as we were rushed through in an hour when you could quite easily have spent at least half a day there. I got the impression it was a safety net in case people might complain that they hadn’t seen enough wildlife later on in the tour, and seen as it was included in the price, I wasn’t too bothered.
We also got chance to meet a python and feed some wallabies, so not bad in that respect.
Then it was on to Mossman Gorge where a short walk took us down to the gorge where, if you were slightly mad, you could go for a swim in the ‘refreshing’ water. Then to the highlight of the trip, for me anyway: the Daintree River Crossing. Here, you took a tourist-type boat around the river looking for wildlife. We saw snakes, a croc hatchling, and then Scarface, as he was named by the tour guide, the second biggest saltwater croc in the river, apparently. Even though I could blatantly take a 17-foot crocodile in a fight, I refrained from poking it with any sticks. It was there that we realized that we had the compulsory loon in our group �" a guy who thought it appropriate to flip the bird to another tour group as we waved to them as they passed on the river.
I really don’t know why we always end up with the weird ones.
We carried on up the highway until we came to Cape Trib beach, which was pretty nice, but seen as the area receives over five metres of rain a year, we weren’t surprised be caught up in rainfall during our time there. Then we retreated to our hostel that was almost on the beachfront to cook an average meal in preparation for the next big trip the next day, to one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef.
For anyone familiar with the movie Open Water, you may be aware it’s (loosely) based on the true story of two divers who are left behind accidentally, eventually dying, on the Great Barrier Reef, which didn’t really fill me with confidence going into the trip.
We had already spotted the boat we were to take out to the Reef moored at the beach the previous day and were concerned that it didn’t look too stable �" one end seemed to be sinking! With 30 people onboard it would have its work cut out on a very windy day �" 25 knots according to the skipper on a boat that he said wouldn’t sail if it was 30 knots or more. Before boarding, after Kyle had said she forgot her seasickness tablets, I cockily said that I don’t ever get seasick and didn’t even know what it felt like. I was soon to find out, because an hour later I had my head in my hands as the boat was being crashed about by some humongous waves �" one of which that even took a couple of girls on the deck off the deck. Unlike Kyle, I managed to avoid the queue of people that propped up the back of the boat, waiting to bring up their cereal bars over the side, and hoped that I would feel better once we got into the water. I was wrong. In fact, the snorkel strapped to my face only made me feel worse.
That lunchtime, I probably put in the worst performance of my life on my first visit to the buffet. Luckily, that sorted me out a bit and in the afternoon I absolutely loved the snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters of the Mackay Reef. I followed a stingray, found Nemo �" he’s fine �" and thought I was going to get bullied by some massive black fish that kept looking at me funny.
Don't leave me!
Still relieved to get back to dry land, it finally dawned on us that Australia was over and it was time to look forward to SE Asia. Australia has been brilliant, but I have to say I’m ready to move on now. Despite having some lovely scenery and unique places to visit, you don’t really have to work for it; it’s all there on a plate �" you could be a brain in a jar and still travel up the east coast no problem. Roll on SE Asia, and probably me complaining that I want it easy again!
Cape Tribulation Hostels review
This hostel is set above a busy Irish pub, but it's actually pretty good. This hostel is pretty big and so can get pretty noisy, but it's actually pre… read entire review