After chilling at Airlie Beach for a few days we made our way up the coast to our last stop in the van – Cairns. The journey was going to be a long one, about 7.5 hours, so we left early. About 30 minutes into the journey, our first delay occurred. We were stopped by a policewoman who informed us that about 20km up the road a sinkhole had formed and so no traffic would be allowed to go past for about an hour whilst it was filled. We asked what our options were and they were either to go back to Airlie Beach and have a coffee or take a 5-hour detour on the only other road that would take us to Cairns. Given that our journey was already going to be 7.5 hours, we were not going to take the detour! We decided to drive up to the sinkhole and just wait until it was fixed. As we approached, we joined a queue of about 30 cars all waiting to get past. Some looked like they had been there a while as they had set up chairs and were having breakfast on the roadside! We decided to walk up to the sinkhole to get a look at what was going on, but as we were just nearing it, a journalist was walking towards us and said they had just finished patching it up. A journalist? This was obviously BIG news for this small town. We quickly walked back to the car and just as we got there the cars started moving. As we drove past this huge disaster, we were disappointed to see that it was only a small hole, about half a meter squared. I’m sure if that were England, everyone would’ve just carried on driving round it.
The sink-hole was just the first of many delays to our journey. We must have hit every red light and even had to stop twice for car accidents to be cleaned up. We just about made it to the Cairns Holiday Park where we would be staying, before it got dark.
The park was rammed. Every bit of space going had a car or tent squeezed into it. When you opened up the door to get out of our van, you had about a foot of space before you were sitting in the neighbours lap as their chairs were so close! Needless to say we didn’t like this park very much. Our neighbours were really messy and left all their rubbish including food all over the floor. There were already enough bugs around. We’d found a giant cockroach on the ceiling of our van, I’m convinced it was attracted by their rubbish! Luckily we’d only booked in for two nights, which meant we could find another park for the remaining three nights we were in Cairns.
For our first day in Cairns, we walked to the harbour. It was only about a 20-minute walk from where we were staying. There was a beach there, but the water was filthy and for the first time we saw a sign that threatened crocodiles. No one dared to go on this beach! Instead, they’d built a lagoon, which was filled with people. We stopped for some lunch and a beer and then made our way back to the park.
The following day, we moved to what would be the last Caravan Park of our Australian journey – Lake Placid Tourist Park. We were intrigued to see if it homed a giant crocodile! As I went to plug the electric cable in, I noticed a giant cricket on the power point. I don’t know why everything in this country has to be super-sized. There must be something in the water! We went for a walk down to Lake Placid, which was only a few minutes from the park. Here we saw another sign that warned us about crocodiles roaming the area – maybe we would get to see a giant one like the film Lake Placid…we didn’t. The lake was very calm, with just a few ducks roaming around.
When we got back to the van, I was busy making lunch when I heard a rustling outside. As I looked out I saw a big lizard running up the tree right next to us. When I told Barry he made me shut all the doors, saying he was worried it would crawl in whilst we were eating. He’s such a wuss!
We’d booked ourselves onto a trip to go to Cape Tribulation. It’s the only place in the world where two World Heritage Sites meet – the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. Our tour guide Jim, picked us up at 8am. Jim looked like Jim Davidson and had the jokes to match. He was so informative, giving us constant information the whole trip, with a large number of jokes thrown in. Our journey took us all the way up the coast to our first stop, which was the crocodile tour. We all boarded a boat and started to make our way down the Daintree River in the hope of spotting some crocs. A few minutes in we met Scarface. He is the biggest croc that has been seen in the Daintree River and there he was laying out on the riverbank for us. A bit further along, we found a croc that was only about 2 weeks old. It was tiny, only about 30cm long. As soon as a crocodile is born, it has to fend for itself and only one out of every hundred that are born survive. We were lucky enough to see a third crocodile hidden amongst the bushes. This one was slightly bigger and more like a few months old. We’d seen loads of crocs in Asia in the farms, but it was great to now see them in the wild.
After 45 minutes of croc spotting, we continued our journey, driving up and through the rainforest. Jim took us on a walking tour and talked us through all the plants and the animals that lived here. We saw tracks from some wild pigs but what I really wanted to see was a Cassowary. You know the strange ostrich looking bird, which looked like it was something out of Jurassic Park that we had seen in the zoo in Sydney? The Daintree Rainforest and Papa New Guinea are the only places in the world that you can find it in the wild. Jim told us he had seen them a few times whilst doing his tours, but we weren’t that lucky on our trip. We did however run into some sand flies, which bite you and leave a small red circle. If you scratch them, you won’t stop, as they’ll just become itchier. When we came back from the walk, we noticed we’d been bitten quite a few times but managed to resist the urge to scratch.
Back on the bus, our next stop was Cape Tribulation. We walked through a small part of the forest to get to the beach, passing a warning sign for jellyfish. Once on the beach, it did look strange to see a rainforest running right down onto the sand, but that’s what makes this area so special. The weather was very overcast, so we didn’t spend too long here. Plus it was lunch next and we were starving.
After filling ourselves up with some yummy fish and chips, we continued the drive heading for Mossman Gorge. We stopped along the way at a look out point, where we overlooked the rainforest running into the sea and onto the neighbouring islands. Once we got to Mossman Gorge, we stopped at the Aboriginal Culture Centre, where we met the Guinness World Record Holder for the fastest spear throw. He talked to us about the different tribal signs they paint on themselves and showed us the Sarsaparilla plant, which they use for soap and medicine. It’s also made in to a drink. Barry and I had bought a bottle of this when we were back in Byron Bay, we took one sip and that was too much. It was awful. We couldn’t even give it away to anyone!
After learning about the Aboriginal Culture, we took a bus up to the gorge where we could go for a swim. The day was still really overcast and wasn’t particularly warm, but we knew we had to get in for a swim just to be able to say we’d done it. The water was crystal clear and had it have been sunny I’m sure it would’ve been packed with people. We stripped down to our swimmers and braved it by walking straight in. It was freezing, but the only way to warm up was to fully submerse yourself in it and get swimming. So we did, and after a short while we warmed up. The current was really strong and as you started to try and swim up stream, it would push you back. Pretty soon, frostbite started to set in – I’m not sure we did actually warm up, I think our bodies just got so numb that we couldn’t feel the cold anymore – so we got out and dried off.
We then began the drive back to our park, even going on a small ferry to cross over the Daintree River as we went.