I can hear the bugle in the background. 22 posts done and one more to complete. I promised more stunning images of the beaches in the Cape Tribulation region so here we go.
Cape Tribulation beach itself stands at the very end of the tarmac roads in the region.
Beyond is 100km of rough 4WD tracks to Cooktown (although you can reach it by an inland route). Beyond Cooktown is wilderness without a paved road in sight all the way to Cape York, Australia’s northernmost point.
The beach is again a stunner. We spent a couple of afternoons just strolling on its firm sands
At the southern end is an area of Mangroves. I was fascinated by this with the exposed root systems, everything you expect Mangroves to look like.
We spent ages poking around under the rocks finding crabs and the like. The most numerous creatures however are mudskippers, a kind of fish that lives out of the water at low tide and skips/bounces across the sand. I couldn’t get close enough to one to get a photo alas.
I then started to notice that many of the shells under the rocks were cone-shaped. We’d seen many on the beach at Lady Elliot Island but all we just empty shells. These looked like they were something more. To the uninitiated cone shells contain a rather testy little snail. It kills its prey by first releasing a paralysing agent and then while its prey is immobilised, slowly envelops it. To finish off it then injects its prey with venom. And here’s the interesting thing, the venom packs enough wallop to kill – yes you’ve guessed correctly – a fully grown person. Another of Australia’s deadly delights. Yes, there are even deadly shells. Science is at a loss to explain why many of Australia’s smaller critters pack venom which such extravagant toxicity or why the country has such a profusion of venomous creatures. One thing is for sure, it makes life a little more interesting and we decided not to turn over any more stones on the beach 🙂
We decided that sitting on the sand and enjoying the warm sun and the tropical ambiance was much safer. As I sat on the sand I reflected at the name. Captain Cook ran aground on reefs just off the shore here, hence the name he gave to the cape to reflect his troubles. Hard to imagine a more inappropriate name as you enjoy these surroundings
Saving the best till last.
Thornton Beach lies a few miles south of Cape Tribulation. We only spent a little over an hour or so here but it remains my favourite spot from our trip.
We strolled along it’s length down to the creek at the far end. The creek in question is Cooper Creek and a mile or so up the road they run boat trips to go croc spotting. As I wandered along I realised the rest of the family had abandoned me having noted the same. Not to be scared off by dinosaurs I continued on. The views were fine with Thornton Peak (second highest in Queensland) dominating the view
I spotted a dark shape on the sand upstream. I stopped! Now I’m sure you’d like a story of a close encounter with a croc, perhaps me wrestling one a la Crocodile Dundee. Sorry, it was a log. I decided that the views were not going to get any better so I thought it would be more sociable to return to the family 🙂
We spent a splendid time back at the other end of the beach just sitting on a very photogenic dead tree in the sand. The views and the moment were just sublime.
By way of celebration there is even a photo with me in it. Sorry about the lack of corks on the hat. I’ll only do so much for comedy value
We were lucky to see some extraordinary places on our trip but for me the hour we spent here was the best from a “place” perspective. I’m not sure if it was the weather (one of the best of the trip), the contrast between the sea, sand and forested mountains, the fact that we had the entire beach to ourselves (save one old couple) or just the simple pleasure of spending some quality time with my family enjoying this wonderful place together. Whatever it was Thornton Beach will always have a place in my soul
And, well, that’s about it. We left Cape Tribulation and as a final gesture we saw another Cassowary on our drive out.
The start of a very long and uneventful journey via lunch in the park at Port Douglas, Cairns, Brisbane, Singapore and London Heathrow. We had the usual airport frustrations (Brisbane, welcome the club of badly organised and unhelpful establishments) but lets not sour the memories with a rant about that.
Let’s instead close things out with a few reflections:
Getting to Australia is time-consuming but not as difficult as it once was. The joys of technology make long haul flights a good deal more pleasant than they used to be. I even did some calculations and the cost of the flights on a distance basis are pretty comparable with the flights around Europe. I’d also say that with a bit of planning and thought and Internet savvy it’s easy to arrange the whole trip independently. It’s as easy to book a hotel or a trip in Australia as it is in the UK. All the resources you need are online and you get the freedom to go where you want when you want. I would say that it does help to be a Project Manager and a serial planner.
Getting around Australia is also a breeze. It’s a big place, largely empty and long way from the rest of the world. This means roads are empty and beaches largely deserted. Driving around was simple and hassle free (not a traffic jam worthy of the name in 4 weeks) and almost everywhere quiet and unspoiled. Of the places we stayed only Airlie Beach seemed impacted by commercialism (we didn’t stay in Cairns). It feels very much like a stretch of coast that the rest of the world just hasn’t really found yet. To stand on a beach as stunning as Thornton on a cloudless sunny day and not see a soul is still hard to believe. It will be hard to walk on a beach in the UK or Europe now and not miss that sense of solitude
Without a shadow of a doubt the people in Queensland are the friendliest I’ve ever met while travelling. Very much the same feeling you get in the US but with a more down to earth feel and matey humour. I particularly liked their unique turns of phrase. My favourite was the car rental clerk in Brisbane when we arrived bleary eyed and jet-lagged. He asked me how we were doing and I said fine in the circumstances and returned the question. He replied “every day above ground is a good one” – I love that. Everyone we met, hotel check ins, bus drivers, waitresses shop owners was charming, friendly and funny. Everyone seemed to keen to show off the state/country and make sure that we enjoyed our stay. We did!
Much as I hate to do this I thought I’d share my personal highlights. It seems unfair as the whole 4 weeks was a highlight but as my blog is my own personal area of reflection I’m allowed to do it 🙂
Favourite Place – Thornton Beach, Cape Tribulation
Favourite Activity – Whale Watching
Favourite Hotel – Ecovillage Resort, Mission Beach
Favourite Bar/Restaurant – Marlin Bar, Magnetic Island (no photo I’m afraid) 😦
Favourite Meal – Lunch on the Beach, Dunk Island
Favourite Animal – Saltwater Crocodile
Favourite Swim – Lake Mackenzie, Fraser Island
Favourite Sunrise – Myall Beach
Favourite Sunset – Lady Elliot Island
Reading through these it struck me that the Great Barrier Reef isn’t up there.
This isn’t a reflection on it, it’s a truly extraordinary experience, worth the journey on its own and was the prime initial reason for choosing Queensland. I think it’s more a reflection on how much more there is to Queensland than just the GBR. I had an idea once I started to do the planning but once we were there it’s hard to put across just what an amazing place it was and how much there was to see and to do. I could list probably another months worth of trips, places and sights we didn’t visit on the same basic itinerary. Which of course leads to the inevitable conclusion that we will have to go back 🙂
So that finishes off my write ups of the trip. I think it’s appropriate that its 31st December so it just leaves me to say: