We had planned to drive to Cooktown but this would be a 6 hour drive (3 up and 3 back) so the day is gone without any time to explore. So a change of plan – we will go crocodile hunting in the Daintree, Daintree forest walks, Daintree Village visit and Cape Tribulation in our little economy Skoda.
The road north winds along the coast making this a fabulous drive for the passengers (me and Sally). I took the oportunity to record the trip in pictures. The farther north the more sugar cane appeared and then the narrow gauge rail line for carting the cut cane to the mill. As we passed through Mossman we could identify the mill by its single stack and white smoke stream from the stack.
After Mossman and its canefileds we entered the lower Daintree and signs of crocodiles abound – I mean there were literally tens of signs offering cruises on the Daintree River. After noticing more and more of these signs and passing the turnoff to the Cape Tribulation ferry, we decided we had better choose one which we did and which we were very pleased with as to price and quality of the tour but I did not keep the name. One thing to note is that cash remains king as the wifi for the swipe machines is not always reliable.
We left the highway crossing into a large carpark with a green two storey house /ticket office /gift store to one side. We were surprised to learn the next tour was about to start and we were assured of a seat. After the obligatory toilet stop we headed down to the river and the walkway to the boat – a flat bottomed vessel with seating for 40 + people and a canopy. There were 16 of us tourists and the skipper so no wonder we were warmly welcomed. The river is wide and bounded by dense brush with mangroves standing in between. We entered a channel between the main river and an island in the river. Almost immediately we had our first encounter – a young junvenile male basking on the sandy bank. Not a monster but 3.5m long I guess – bit too early for him to get up and greet us. Shortly there after and taking great care not to be seen by the previous croc was a fingerling (with bloody sharp teeth no doubt) followed by the canal boss croc presently (according to the skipper) then another fingerling and then a female sheltering not to be seen by the other two males
As we moved from the channel other tourist boats came into view and the wildlife changed from the water to the trees. A white egret had his eye on something below the water and below him was the boss of the river as opposed to boss of the channel.
Kerry spotted a tree frog. That is pretty good eyesight I thought as I scoured the vegetation along the bank. A gentle tap on my shoulder and I was directed to the ceiling of the boat and just above us a large frog rested comfortably in the trusses holding the canopy of the boat. We saw quite a number of hawks along the banks. They sailed the sky following the wind currents or perched high in the treetops ever vigilent for breakfast lunch or dinner. Meanwhile on the riverbanks another croc starts to stir. In front of us the Cape Tribulation Car ferry crosses the river. Undeterred a stork searches the water for its meal and the frog slumbers on. We approach the ferry drop off and two of our group go ashore to follow the bush trails presumably. As we reverse off the bank a 4WD bus pulled up and the “bush walkers” board the bus – thats what is wrong with assumption it is often wrong.
We are now in the main channel of the river with more crocs. For a change some Tawny Frogmouth Owls sit sunning themselves on a branch above us. It is pleasant on the river and we find our selves dreaming when the boat bumps against the wharf – tour is over but very enjoyable.
Back on the road we head for Daintree Village. If the road did not end in a dead end we would have driven through the village and never known it. Very little has changed here for quite some time.
After a disappointing lunch (too many flies and the food just unexciting) we returned to the Car Ferry where we crossed to head for Cape Tribulation. Its a small ferry operated on a cable across the river and even in these strained tourism times running continuously with a full load. The crossing takes little more than 5 minutes and unloading even quicker. “Watch out for the Cassowarys” signs abound but not a Cassowary to be seen. Our goal is to get to the Cape – its 4WD country after that and our Skoda does not stand a chance. We are determined to find the mountain lookout to view the mouth of the Daintree River. It is just a short drive and the lookout is less tha 100m off the road. We had not noticed that the car had climbed so high so when we look out we are shocked to see a large river mouth enter the Coral Sea.
There is then a long drive to the Cape through green tropical rain forest with the only interruption being the speed bumps to keep the traffic at a reasonalbe speed for the wildlife. These speed bumps are a metre wide and have a lumpy surface made with river rock. Even so the 4WD and off road caravans pay no notice and travel at what ever speed they please. Once we arrive just south of the Bloomfield River there is a beach between headlands with deceptively green clear water hiding those dangers of the north – box jellyfish. We kick off the shoes and stroll in the water then head around the headland. There are plenty of tourist buses with the car park full of buses but not too many people on those buses. So we walk past the composting toilets around to the headland and our visit to Cape Tribulation comes to an end. Time to start back to Cairns.
There are two more things we want to do on the way home. The first is to visit the tropical fruits ice cream shop – Daintree Ice Cream Co. Jack fruit and other exotic fruits are used to make the ice cream in limited quantities so we missed out on the special of the day but what we did have was pretty good. Whilst enjoing the ice cream I notice something moving in the shrubs just beyond the driveway. We watched as a Pademelon hopped into view
Kerry’s getting tired with continuous driving. We head off but there is time for one more stop. We had noticed signs to a Tree top walk on the way north so we called in at the Daintree Discovery Centre. The Daintree Rainforest is the world’s oldest continually surviving rainforest. The Daintree Discovery Centre is home to a sky high experience – the 23 metre rainforest canopy tour. There are multiple levels and layers to this walk. We chose the walk through the mid section then the Cassowary walk which deals with the construction of the walk. Cassowary were known to simply walk through the construction unafraid of the men and machines. We also walked through the dinosaur heritage that goes with it being the oldest living rain forest.
By the time we finished our quick walkabout the Discovery Centre it was clear we were not going to return to Palm cove before dark. There is some contraversy as to who drove home but we made it after dark. On the way through Mossman we spotted a bit of history – loaded cane trucks awaiting the loco to take the cages to the mill. That photo actually tells me Kerry was driving.