“Most things in North Queensland will kill you – or cause you a lot of pain,” laughed our cheery driver to a bus full of tentative backpackers. The majority of us were nursing hangovers. The rest were still drunk.
“There are trees that will attach themselves to your skin resulting in six months of picking out thorns; box jellyfish that will take you to the next world in less than 30 minutes; and there’s also the milder type of Irukandji jellyfish which will just leave you in so much pain that you will wish that you were dead. Oh, and of course there are crocodiles.” And crocs are what we had come to see.
Our destination was Cape Tribulation, via the Daintree region, which is famous for its natural beauty and also notorious for having crocodile-infested waters. This World Heritage-listed site has it all: a remote beauty that remains protected and enough adventure to tempt busloads of backpackers to make the journey north of Cairns each year.
There is also plenty of interesting things to do en route to Cape Trib. We stopped off at Mosman Gorge which was an ideal place to go for a dip and escape from the hot and humid north Queensland heat. This would be our only chance to swim in natural waters.
The ocean does look very inviting – it is where the rainforest meets the reef after all – but don’t even dream about dipping a toe in the water. Not during stinger season anyway. Captain Cook may have encountered some dangers here (hence the name), but if you attempt to take a dip in the ocean you will have some tribulations all of your own to contend with.
Next for us was feeding time at the Daintree Wild Zoo. Here was where we would see the crocodiles at dinner time, up close and personal. We encountered wild animals attacking each other to get their mitts on some grub… and that was just the passengers on our bus.
At first glance the crocs appear almost like plastic models that just play dead, daring you to poke them. However, throw in a piece of meat and these bad boys come to life and will not let anything get in the way of filling their bellies. The sounds of these saltwater crocodiles snapping their jaws was like a rifle going off and it was enough to strike the fear of God into us lot standing on the other side of the wire.
Before reaching our accommodation for the night, our group stopped in the heart of Cape Tribulation for a rainforest trek. Here we saw crabs in the creeks and lots of weird and wonderful plants and trees.
In the zone
Stepping into the rainforest is like stepping into a zone of tranquillity where the sounds of nature are all you can hear. It really does feel like you have gone beyond the real world – and in a way you have. You will not hear annoying ringtones or receive any text messages up here. Ohhh no, all mobile phones are out of range in this part of the world. And rightly so.
Cape Tribulation itself comprises a grocery shop, a pharmacy and a bar. What more would a person need? Our accommodation was a 10 minute walk from this bustling metropolis. I can honestly say that I don’t think I have ever been anywhere so peaceful in my entire life.
My stay in Cape Tribulation was spent meeting new friends in PK’s bar and chilling out in the pool, letting time slip away. It was ideal. I would advise any backpacker based in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth to make it their business to escape up to Cape Tribulation for a minimum of one night. Good for the soul and all that.
The next day we set-off, destined for our cruise on the Daintree River, where we hoped (fingers, legs, toes, everything crossed) that we would spot a few crocs in the wild. Unlike in the Northern Territory, the boats on the Daintree do not dangle meat to attract the crocs. We had to find them the good ol’ fashioned way. By looking for them.
Because the guys that run the boat are on the lookout each and every day, it is highly likely they will be able to find one lurking beneath the water, but as with all wild animals, there are no guarantees. Luckily we did manage to spot a croc bobbing its head above the water, sussing out which of us would make the best lunch time snack.
Port of call
As we neared Cairns we swapped the rainforest for the playground of the rich and famous, as we cruised through Port Douglas. Our bus driver admitted this would probably be the only trip we would take in Australia where the guide would openly express his dislike for the area that is being shown.
“It’s gaudy, glitzy and everything is over-priced here,” he told us. And then he went on recount a Pretty Woman-type scenario that happened to his lady friend in Port Douglas (as in she was treated like dirt in a posh shop, not that she was paid for sex).
Whether Port Douglas is your thing or not, there really is something to whet the appetitie of anyone, in this part of the world. And let’s face it, you can’t really arrive home from your epic trip to Australia not having one or two Steve Irwin-type stories about how you got “this close” to one of the most deadly creatures on the planet.
The damage and the details: Two-day tour with Cape Trib Connections (Ph: 07 4032 0500,www.capetribconnections.com) costs $134.