Following the footsteps of Captain ‘big girl’s blouse’ Cook, GEMMA PRICE experienced her own voyage of discovery in the northern Queensland jungle… Cape Tribulation.
Captain Cook was such a big girl’s blouse. He runs aground in one of the most beautiful spots in Australia and instead of kicking back on the beach for a bit like any self respecting traveller, he gets his knickers in a twist.
Just picture it: cloud-crowned mountains carpeted in a lush tropical forest that rolls down to meet fine white sands and vibrant coral reefs… Doesn’t sound like a bad spot to spend a few months does it? But what does he say in his ship’s log? “I named… the north point Cape Tribulation because here began all our troubles.” Sounds like Jimmy threw his toys out of the pram to me.
So, to fully appreciate the Cape, I set off on my own journey of rediscovery, and in case my body is never found (obviously, someone didn’t check the beach thoroughly enough) I have recorded my journey in this Chick’s Log.
Chick’s Log: Day One
The journey up the Cape was long but by no means arduous – who needs a creaky rat-ridden lump of wood when you can get the bus? And with no jiggers to man or whatever, I was free to soak up the jaw-dropping scenery – azure skies touching aquamarine ocean on one side, and lush tropical greenery on the other.
Once I’d run aground on the beach (parking the bus and going on foot, unlike somebody who wasn’t much cop at steering) and found my digs hidden deep in the jungle, my own voyage of exploration begun.
Vines festoon the maze of trunks here like the silly string aftermath of some monster party, and after spending a few moments entertaining wild fantasies of swinging Tarzan-like through the trees, but inevitably ending up on my arse, I gave it up as a bad job. Besides, jungle surfing sounded like much more fun.
Faster than you could say “Holy s*it Batman!” I was swinging superhero-style 60 metres above the forest floor, and despite it being brown trousers time, the view was pretty special.
When I eventually managed to unglue my eyes and glance around, I had a bird’s eye view of the Cape that beat any crow’s nest. Steam rose off the forested slopes of Mount Sorrow in the distance (hereby renamed Mount Fun, as old Cookie clearly wasn’t in the mood to be naming things). Trees stretched to the horizon in every direction, a sight unchanged for centuries.
I enjoyed my adventure in the canopy, but the highlight of today was (weirdly) sampling some bush tucker and effectively giving an ant a rim job to taste its acrid citrussy goodness. Mmm, sharp.
Chick’s Log: Day Two
The day dawned bright and clear, and after my success in the trees, I set out to chart the surrounding coastline. Sails seemed so 18th century, so I opted for the less arduous, more modern option of a catamaran to the reef. The journey from the mainland was short – only around 45 minutes – and as we shot out to sea, the mountains cut a commanding figure as they dwindled into the distance. Quiet and brooding, the cloud-shrouded peaks hinted at hidden mysteries, and I wondered how the crew of the Endeavour must have felt as they approached. Or whether they had any inkling that some of them would enter the forest, never to come out again.
In any case I was aboard an entirely more fun and reliable vessel, and had no need to concern myself about the trifles of life and death. Once we reached Morning Reef, all I had to worry about was donning some flippers and getting to know some of the more colourful locals.
Overall, today was pretty tough going. Yeah, right. But after checking out the aquatic life around the Cape and sunbathing, I was more than ready for a good feed at one of the many eateries catering for pioneering explorers like myself. And contrary to my fears that some of the locals would be uncivilised savages, I found myself in the company of a charming young man who told me all the best spots to check out in my spare time.
Seriously, if this guy was any smoother, he’d have been chocolate fondue. But alert to any ruse that may see me lured somewhere secluded, where any manner of ferocious, tribal and frighteningly pleasurable things might’ve befallen me, I eventually excused myself and went home (alone, honest guv’nor) in readiness for whatever tomorrow would bring.
Chick’s Log: Day three
Awoke feeling itchier than a thrush sufferer’s jockstrap. But these unsightly lumps covering my legs, back and shoulders were courtesy of night-time bloodsuckers (completely and totally unrelated to the port-to-port nocturnal activities of nefarious backpackers). I’d been warned about the buzzing nightlife, but the pain I usually associate with a night out is just the morning walk of shame and a raging hangover – not looking like the Elephant Man’s younger sister. Note to self: add insect repellent to provisions.
Rather than use my own pegs to pace out the terrain I needed to cover, I figured that four legs are better than two. Like the true lazy-arsed traveller I am, I saddled up and went horse riding – undoubtedly the best way to enjoy the picture postcard scenery. Cantering along twisting forest paths steeped in hazy green stillness, I forded streams onto fine white sands, which blinded the eyes and kicked up with the horses hooves like gold spray. Magic.
On my return to base camp I stopped to sample some of the tropical fruits at a local farm. Some were delicious, and some were… not so good. It was an interesting experience, but I would say to anybody journeying to the rainforest – sample the fruit at your peril. It could taste like the sweetest slice of tropical paradise, or it brings to mind the taste of an all-weather mac worn lovingly by a tramp who breeds ferrets for a hobby and lets them relieve themselves in the pockets for the warmth. Or you could just die. Up to you.
Chick’s Log: Day four
After unwillingly hoisting myself from my bed while the world was still veiled in darkness (I normally prefer to do my exploring after a lie in), I made my way to the beach for a dawn paddle trek. And after watching the sky turn from deep midnight blue to flaming pink and then burnished orange, I have to admit it was worth the early rise. Bobbing just offshore I watched as the daytime forest shift clocked on for the day, and the mist rolled back up the mountain slopes like a celestial roller blind.
I checked more of the beaches hugging the coast, and after finding my own deserted spot of paradise, I pulled my kayak ashore for some well-earned downtime.
Captain Cook may have discovered the spot first, but he sure as hell didn’t enjoy it as much as his modern-day contemporaries. To all who read this log, I say this: get up to Cape Tribulation and check it out. It’s a tropical paradise just waiting to be explored…
The damage: Jungle surfing cost $80; Horse riding costs $94.
The details: http://www.junglesurfingcanopytours.com[Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours], ph: (07) 4098 0090, and http://www.capetribbeach.com.au[Cape Trib Horserides],