Cape Tribulation, where the Reef meets the Rainforest

After visiting the Daintree Rainforest, it is natural to drive North to Cape Tribulation along the beautiful coast road. When the British explorer James Cook passed over the cape in 1770, his ship scraped a reef and was stuck and damaged. The first settlers came here in 1930, but they found it difficult to adapt to the rainforest environment and the tropical climate. Fruit farming, trade and fishing did not last long, also because the weekly barges were the only transport in and out. Thinking of this region as the kingdom of nature and not man, in fact, comes naturally as you reach the Cape.

Cape Tribulation, the “mystic” beach

From the highway, the Dubuji Boardwalk take us to the beach through a mangrove forest. It is raining when we get there, but suddenly the wind starts to blow and we realize that the raindrops are just those falling from the tree leaves. Cape Trib is bathed in a surreal, almost mystical light. And it’s empty. The rainforest stretches into the ocean, framing the half-moon beach. The sun finally comes out from behind the clouds, making the sea sparkle. Invisible under the sea surface is the world’s largest coral reef.

My friend and I walk along the beach, wearing a sweater and sunglasses to protect ourself from the wind, the sun and the blinding light. Few tourists come out of the rainforest, which I don’t dare exploring. I’m quite sure I would get lost. And I’m proved right when we start looking for the path to the parking lot, and we cannot find it.

Our tour guide must be looking for us – at least we hope he is. We walk back and forth several times, increasingly panicking, before we finally see him. The poor guy is covered in sweat, worried sick. He was convinced we’d got lost in the rainforest. Now the meaning of the name “Cape Tribulation” becomes clearer to me. This place is a magnet for trouble!

Eco-lunch in the rainforest

As we drive south again, I think of what I’ve just seen. Cape Trib is fascinating. A place that must look more or less like it looked thousands of years ago, untouched by man. But I also have to confess I expected it to be different. I can’t explain how different; perhaps when you idealize a place, you expect it to unlike any other place you’ve ever seen, and it’s weird to find out that it almost looks familiar.

We stop for lunch at an eco resort in the rainforest. The wooden buildings are hidden among tre trees, and the dining room has a view on the river. It’s a bit cold for a swim, but the crystal clear water is so inviting. The lunch consists in a serving of roasted barramundi, a local fish, and several sides. It feels so good to be here. This is not a luxury resort, but it’s extremely clean and tidy, quiet and minimal. The trademark of Australian hospitality.

We skip dessert because after lunch the tour guide takes us to a wonderful place, the Daintree Ice Cream Company. I’ve already written about their fabulous tropical fruit ice cream, so let me indulge for a moment in the happy memories.

Return to Port Douglas

After the cruise on the Daintree River that I mentioned in the previous post, we drive back to Port Douglas. Surrounded by the Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef, this once sleepy fish village is now a tourist town that attracts visitor from all over the world. Some years ago, when I came here for the first time, I was struck by the elegant villas hiding in amongst the tropical vegetation, and the small church of Saint Mary By The Sea. It was Sunday morning and there was a local market in front of the church, with stalls selling tropical fruit, local art, crafts and fresh local products. I remember buying a vegetable pie and eating it on the beautiful Four Mile Beach, watching the waves crushing against the sand.

This time, despite the stunning sunset, Port Douglas seems to me like a place for wealthy people on holiday. Along the main street are restaurants, coffee shops and boutiques, none of which really inspire me. I wish the lovely Betty’s Bohemian Café was open also in the evening. Instead, we are forced to opt for one of the crowded places where you order, sit and wait, and pay a lot for mediocre food. I miss my veggie and cheese pie on the Four Mile Beach. I miss the fresh pineapple juice and the wind on my face. And I realize that you can go back to the same places as many times as you wish, but it can never be quite the same.

FACTS

The best season to visit Queensland is winter, which corresponds to the dry season. It can be a little cold, especially in the evening, but during the day the weather is perfect for going around.

There’s a vast range of accommodations in Port Douglas, from villas to holiday homes, from cheap hotels to luxury resorts. One of the most charming places to stay in the area is Thala Beach Nature Restort, an eco resort located south of Port Douglas.

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