We crossed the Daintree River on a small ferry at a remote dock six kilometers from Mossman, the gateway to Mossman Gorge, a rocky canyon that follows the Daintree River into the hills.
The small river ferry crosses the 100 meter wide Daintree all during the day; miss it, the return from the other bank arrive in twenty minutes or so. You remain in your car as the pilot navigates with an underwater cable.
Daintree River meets the Coral Sea
We stopped at the first viewing area in Daintree National Park, a turnoff in the hills looking over dense jungle and the muddy Daintree River flowing into the Coral Sea. The currents at that spot are dangerous and boats steer clear of the area.
Once across the river, you enter Daintree National Park, a tropical jungle that extends north to the tip of York Peninsula, the highest point in Queensland. A narrow two lane road winds through the hilly dense jungle, crossing shallow creeks, a few cattle farms, and villages with the basic amenities; a general store, gas station, pub, cafe and maybe a small motel or eco lodge. Only about 400 people live in the national park.
Tropical fruit ice cream in a jungle oasis
After the croc cruise, the ferry ride, and a half an hour driving through the jungle, we needed a little nourishment. We stopped at a little oasis selling tropical fruit ice cream: mango coconut, banana ginger, blackberry lemon, orange pineapple, strawberry coconut, and similar flavors. It was delicious; we took a half hour break to enjoy the crisp, fruity ice cream and to admire many beautiful blooming tropic flowers.
Our destination was Cape Tribulation, a bay between two mountain ranges the descend into the Coral Sea. Captain James Cook’s Endaveour had stuck a coral reef just outside the cape in 1770 and his boat almost sank. But fortunately, the coral broke off and was lodged in the hull. He ordered sailers to go below and to wrap a sail around the coral, which minimized the water seeping into the hull.
Cape Tribulation is remote and uninhabited. Other than a parking lot and rest rooms, the only other sign of civilization is a narrow cement path that meanders through the jungle into the mountains. We followed the path, passing through dense foliage, crossing bogs, and dodging vines as thick as your wrist dangling down.
One log was infested with some kind of cup-shaped fungus that looked like mushrooms. The caps of the fungus were indented where rain water and jungle debris had collected. Maybe that’s how the fungus gets nourishment.
The jungle trail has an eerie sense; you knew danger lurks nearby: a snake under a rotting log, a poisonous spider on a branch above your head, or a crocodile resting in a bog, well camoflaged with his brown, grey, and green skin.
Numerous signs in the area warned of the dangers of walking off the trail. You pay attention to those signs.
One of Australia’s endangered species is the cassowary, a flightless bird with colorful plumage that can reach five feet in height, the size of another Australian flightless bird, the emu. There were several signs along the way about cassowaries in the area. There are only a few hundred remaining, mostly in the Daintree area.
Heather said she had seen one on her last trip to Daintree, a mother walking with a small chick alongside. We searched with our eyes into the jungle as we drove, but didn’t spot any. Maybe next time.
James Cook Highway
After traveling up to Cape Tribulation, we began our return journey south, crossing on the ferry, and getting on the James Cook Highway for a three-hour drive back to Cairns. The drive was memorable, passing banana, tea, and sugar cane plantations.
The James Cook Highway is scenic offering spectacular views of the Coral Sea, offshore islands, and the Great Barrier Reef in the distance. We stopped at a viewing area called Rex, named after the government official who worked for years to get the highway through the Australian government authorities.
We enjoyed our time on the Daintree and in the national park. We had reached the most northeastern part of our Australian journey. In a couple of weeks, I’d travel thousands of kilometers across country to the most southwestern part of the continent, Perth in West Australia. What other adventures and beautiful scenery were awaiting me there?
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Next: Diving on the Great Barrier Reef
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