Daintree Dreaming

 

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After spending most of the day getting used to being high and dry at a somewhat jaunty angle, we headed in to town for dinner. Whilst we could still cook aboard, washing up had to be taken down the ladder into the laundry/kitchen, so made cooking less attractive. We decided to find the Spicy Bite, a curry place recommended by Rob and Jo of Double Trouble. After parking the car and walking in the rain towards the Esplanade, we burst out laughing when google maps told is it was 30 meters away – we were standing outside it! I had also walked past it on multiple occasions on my forays into Cairns for shopping. We had a fantastic and delicious Indian dinner, washed down with a couple of Kingfisher largers, as we talked about what to do for the next few days. There was no chance of the sail drive arriving until midweek, it looked like it was going to continue to rain, and it wasn’t very comfortable living in the boat yard. We talked about heading back to Sydney, but Pete wouldn’t have any work related meeting to attend, so we decided it would make more sense to explore our surroundings. We were after all, on the doorstep of the world heritage Daintree Rainforest, not to mention Mossman Gorge, so it would be crazy to miss out on these beautiful places.

In the morning, we spent some time on line, searching out places to stay, in between doing odd jobs and preparing the boat to be left for a few days. We found a gorgeous place in the Daintree called Cockatoo Hill, and Pete also decided we would do one night at Palm Cove on the way back, so we could have dinner at nunu, a really beautiful restaurant on the beach. With dining and accommodation booked, we headed off just before lunch, taking the Captain Cook Highway north. If we couldn’t sail in his footsteps, we could at least drive in them!! Even though it had been dry when we left Cairns, by the time we got to Mossman Gorge, the rain had returned and it was miserable. We got out and had a look at the centre and the maps, but decided that we would push on to Daintree, and maybe stop here on the way back down on Monday, when the weather was supposed to be better.

As we stopped to collect our Daintree River Ferry tickets, we found a really interesting information board with heaps of facts about the area and it’s heritage listing. The Daintree Rainforest got its heritage listing because the Federal Government applied for it, to stop the then Queensland government from subdividing it and selling freehold lots. Fortunately the listing was approved, but not before many lots had been sold and a great deal of clearing had taken place. As you drive off the car ferry, some agricultural land is still evident, with cane farming, some cattle and of course tea, all still being farmed. However, many lots have now been bought back and left to reforest, and as you get further north, the Rainforest begins to close in. This part of the drive was delightful, going between steeply forested headlands to beautiful sandy beaches and then along mangrove flats, a constantly changing, always stunning outlook at every bend in the road. There were signs everywhere for cassowaries crossing, and to look out for these large, unusual birds, but despite our keen eyes, we saw not a single cassowary the whole time.

We found the turn off for Cockatoo Hill, and wound our way up a steep, fortunately gravelled driveway, arriving at the top at a lovely open plan wooden building, with views down over the forest, the mangroves and to the sea. We were met by the delightful Carmen, our gracious and helpful hostess, who welcomed us to her home and showed us around. The open plan area is a central meeting place, come bar, dining area and lounge, with views to infinity. The woodwork in this place was superb, with the central feature a bar area, made of a single slice of a single tree. Unfortunately, since the loss of Carmen’s husband Gilles, Carmen only does bed and breakfast now, so the beautiful bar, with its hidden cellar gets little use. From this area you can go out to the swimming pool, another beautiful feature, with an infinity edge, and again, views down over the forest to the sea. Finally, we were shown to our room, an individual wooden cabana, with beautiful wood floors, a huge balcony looking out over the forest to the sea, an ensuite bathroom, and the most gorgeous bed, festooned in nets, resting on a fabulous wooden base. We would not see or be seen by anyone else here, whether they were in another cabana or in the central meeting space or pool. Almost like being on our boat at sea!

We settled in quickly and decided to swim, despite the rain, to ease our bodies after the long drive. It was wonderful to float so high above the trees, and be able to see the sea and hear all the bird calls. We then retired to our balcony to consider what to do the next day and decided we would try jungle surfing! Pete booked us in for the first run of the day at 0950! For our dinner plans, we decided to try out Whet, a locally run restaurant up at Cape Tribulation, about 20 minutes drive. Carmen called them to book for us and then sat down with us and showed us a map of the area, on which she had marked walks, places of interest and also places to eat! We headed off a little early for dinner, aiming to have a look at the famous Cape Trib first.

To my surprise, there was very little at Cape Trib, despite the fact that much of what you read says there is a “village” there. In fact, there are a couple of backpacker lodges, the Jungle Adventures place, a few places to eat, and that’s about it! Either side of the headland are two beautiful beaches, where the rain forest truly meets the beach, and which reminded me a little of Hinchinbrook Island. We didn’t stay long, the rain becoming more persistent, so we got back in the car and drove the short distance to Whet. We had a fantastic dinner sourced from local ingredients, and completed with the highly recommended chocolate pudding, which suited the horrid weather perfectly! Replete, we returned to our bed in the treetops for an early night.

We had a gorgeous breakfast of fresh fruit, yoghurt, croissants and toast, sitting at the wonderful bar, admiring the view. Even though it was raining, it was supposed to ease up and clear over the day, so we were not too worried, though we did pack our jackets. Our first stop was the Jungle Adventures shop at Cape Trib, to head to the zip line route through the rain forest, for jungle surfing. A short mini-bus trip took us up to the start of the course, where we had to get into a human hamster wheel to get the group up to the first platform, where we would start our descent. It was awesome fun, and a great way to see the rain forest. The guides also had a modicum of tree knowledge, so talked us through some interesting points about the anchor trees, including type of tree, peculiarities about it, how it reproduces and so on. They also told us about the surrounding forest flora and fauna, so combined with the excitement of zip lining through different levels of forest, we did learn stuff! We did some double harness stuff, some single stuff and even an upside down run – great fun, and we didn’t even notice the rain!

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After finishing the jungle surf, we did the short boardwalk along Cape Trib, and then a longer walk through the mangroves. Everywhere were information signs about the locality, flora and fauna that we were seeing, though the fauna were not much in evidence. Plenty of indications that we should be seeing cassowaries, but no sign of the elusive giant birds! We had lunch at Masons, famed for its roadkill burgers, and walked to the swimming hole, but we were not tempted to swim, despite the promise of absolutely no crocs! We did several more boardwalks as we headed back towards Cockatoo Hill, all providing different vistas from rainforest, through mangrove to beachfront.  Back at our treetop cabana, we rested and selected a dinner location. We decided to try “on the turps”, a restaurant at a resort about a five minute drive away. At this stage we were hoping the rain may stop, or we may not be able to get our little hire car up the hill, after dinner. However, the downpour continued unabated as we headed out to and home from dinner!

We awoke in the morning to sun, pouring through gaping rents in the cloud cover, and finally lighting up the rain forest to show its extreme beauty. As the rain lifted, the bird life became even more active than during the rain, and suddenly there were extraordinary bird calls filling the air. We sat over our fresh fruit and yoghurt, looking out over an even greener forest to the very blue ocean, listening to the sounds of the jungle. It was hard to leave this gorgeous place and we spent a long time chatting with Carmen, who showed us around the old cellar and he solar array. We didn’t want to leave, but had booked the night at Palm Cove and needed to head back to ensure Work on the boat would progress, so we finally waved goodby to Carmen, promising we would be in touch as we sailed past, so she could look out and wave from Cockatoo Hill.

We stopped at Mossman Gorge on the way down to Palm Cove, and did the rain forest circuit walk, stopping for a delightful swim in a small and secluded water hole about half way round the circuit. We were so hot and the water was so refreshing it was hard to drag ourselves away, but we completed the walk and then got back on the road. Palm Cove was lovely in the sunshine, though we had time only for a quick nap and a swim in the pool before our dinner booking at nunu. The location was fabulous – right on the beach, beachy feel to the restaurant, very unusual menu with different flavours working so very well together. We ended up having two entrees and three or four tasting plates, and that was perfect. The evening was warm and pleasant, the service ok, food delicious.

In the morning, we had breakfast out, a swim in the ocean, then headed south again, checking out Yorkeys Knob, which had a great marina, on the way. We arrived back at Wine-Dark Sea, and were sorry to see her sitting there in the dust on the hardstand, when we had had a lovely three days adventuring. We felt it was time for the three of us to go adventuring together again.

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