Our second “adventure” from Cairns was an overnight trip to Cape Tribulation located about an hour and a half north of Cairns.  We booked, again through our hostel, with a company called Active Tropics Explorer, a.k.a. Foaming Fury (they apparently also run white water rafting trips).  The trip promised us a guided bus ride to the cape with a crocodile watching river cruise and a trek through the Daintree Rainforest along the way, a night at Cape Trib Beach House, and a guided bus ride back to our hostel the following day with stops at the Daintree Ice Cream Company, Mossman Gorge and Alexandra Lookout.  The price was slightly less than a day trip to the same sites plus a night in our hostel (but didn’t include the free lunch offered with the day trip), so we decided it was a winner.

The day began at 7:45AM when Jim, our extremely friendly and funny guide (he sounded exactly like Murray from Flight of the Conchords), stopped his minibus at our hostel.  He drove us around Cairns picking up other travelers from other hostels and got us moving north on the Cook Highway.  At this point, Jim donned his headset microphone and began sharing facts about the area.  He was a wealth of knowledge, and Her and I were kept entertained even though it seemed like the (mostly German) other backpackers were only interested in sleeping off their hangovers from partying the night before.  Her even asked Jim how he was able to remember so many things, and he explained that he kept it all locked away in a giant file system in his brain.  He just had “to be careful not to hit the delete button!”

As we got further north, we could see the very inviting beaches, but Jim warned us about the dangerous jellyfish, or “stingers”, that inhabit the tropical waters of northern Australia during the summer months.  The most well-known specimen is the box jellyfish.  This jellyfish has 4 legs, each leg has 80 tentacles, and each leg has 5600 stinging cells.  Getting stung by one of these would result in terrible pain, and getting massively stung by one of these could cause your heart and/or breathing to stop.  In Jim’s words, “That’s a very bad end to your holiday.”  This warning kept us out of the water for the rest of our trip to Cape Trib.

After making another stop for passengers in Port Douglas, we continued north into the rainforest and arrived at the Daintree River.  Jim dropped us off at Daintree River Tour, a 45-minute river boat cruise, where we crowded onto a large pontoon boat with the passengers of two other tour buses and cruised down the river in the hopes of sighting Scarface, a 5-meter (15 feet) long crocodile who inhabits the area.  We never did see Scarface, but we did spot a small (1.5m, 4.5ft) crocodile wading through the river.  He seemed very uninterested in us, as if he only cared about wading in the cool water in the shade.  Apparently the summertime in northern Australia actually gets too hot for the crocodiles so they spend their time trying to find shady areas that are cooler.

In the meantime, Jim had crossed the river via ferry and met us on the other side with the sweet siren call of air conditioning beckoning us.  We all boarded the bus and drove a little ways to a boardwalk hike through the forest. There, Jim introduced us to the spiky “Lawyer Vine,” so called because “once it gets its teeth into you, it won’t let go,” and a black bean that, unless prepared properly, is quite poisonous. In fact, it was once common in the Aboriginal culture for the oldest woman in the clan to try the beans before anyone else to ensure they were edible.

We then came across a trail of ants marching along the handrail. Jim plucked one from the wood, showed us its green butt and then proceeded to lick said butt.

“You get a mix of citrus — and battery acid,” He said. “Now all I need is a Corona.”

He discarded the poor ant and selected another for Her to try. She licked the ant and then passed it to me.

“No, no,” said Jim, laughing. “You don’t share.”

After the forest hike, it took about 45 minutes to arrive at Cape Trib Beach House, a YHA-run hostel/resort, and our abode for the night. Our double room was part of a larger apartment containing three doubles and a shared bathroom and kitchen. Our flat mates were a french couple (the husband seemed incapable of smiling) and a pair of German women, one older, one younger.  We never really interacted with them except to marvel at a giant spider occupying the space above the building’s single external door. The hostel restaurant was nice, and although it was AU$10-AU$12 for a sandwich or pasta at lunch, the price was more reasonable than what we had found in Cairns for similar fare.  Sodas were still amazingly expensive (AU$3 for a can of coke!) — perhaps Aussies don’t drink much soda?

The restaurant has steps that lead directly to the beach overlooking the cape, and we wandered out there after eating with the intent of walking all the way down to Cape Tribulation (about 45 minutes) to take some photos and see the lookout point.  The tide was out and the walk was quite scenic with mangroves and large trees growing over the beach. We noticed little balls of sand dotting the beach in complex geometric patterns — almost like crop circles on a miniature scale. After a little watching, we realized these identically sized sand balls were the work of small crabs digging holes into the beach.  Unfortunately, all their work would be eliminated by the next high tide, but they were slowly chugging away.  Life is tough as a crab.

The lookout was spectacular, but we didn’t have the sense to walk through the carpark to the lookout on the other side of the cape overlooking Myall Beach. Her would go back the next morning to see it (along the way spotting a tree kangaroo, a monitor lizard and a chicken-sized bird she somehow mistook for a 3-foot tall cassowary), but I spent the morning resting from my cold.

Our tour company drove us back toward Port Douglas and Cairns the following day.  Our new guide, Lisa, was a character whose cheesy jokes and antics seemed mpre to amuse herself than us.  She suggested we call her “Sexy,” and we did once or twice to make her laugh. In any event, Her and I had a good time chatting with Sexy and her trainee, Alan, about where to stay in Sydney and how to eat Vegemite (spread on toast seems popular).  The first stop on the way back was a place called the Daintree Ice Cream Company.  For AU$6 (I know!) we received four flavors of fresh made ice cream — pineapple, banana, raspberry, and wattle berry, the last a flavor we had never heard of.  It tasted almost exactly like cappuccino with a very creamy aftertaste.  The ice cream was expensive, but very good, and the fruit used to flavor it is grown on the company plantation, which we drove through to access the ice cream shop.  It isn’t a large business, but the steady stream of tourists likely ensures they won’t experience any revenue problems.

At Mossman, we met with some indigenous tribesmen of the Kuku-Yalanji, the traditional owners of Mossman Gorge.  That experience lasted about 5 minutes and consisted of a couple of guys in sneakers and T-shirts rattling off half a dozen Aboriginal words and demonstrating the use of a stone axe.  The real highlight of Mossman came from the 10-minute walk to the gorge. Although it was packed with tourists, the gorge was a beautiful place to swim and hike with several boardwalks and trails darting off in different directions.

After one last, brief stop at Alexandra Lookout for a final view of the tropical rain forested coast of North Queensland, we arrived back at our hostel about 6:30PM.  Her started some laundry and I wandered down Sheridan St in search of pizza to fuel ourselves for our trip to Sydney.