The Daintree River Ferry, the only cable ferry operating within tropical Australia, feels like crossing over to the ‘Land That Time Forgot’ or, perhaps more relevantly, to the gateway into Jurassic Park – all it appears to lack is a huge rustic wooden gate and electrified fencing to hold the ‘wildlife’ in. The river is wide, murky and decidedly murderous at this crossing, as the cable pulls the flat-bottomed ferry across, disgorging its cargo of cars and people on to the wild side – you really do feel a sense of adventure awaits you ahead.
Cape Tribulation is at the end of the sealed road, 35 kilometres north of the ferry. It’s the end of the bitumen road at this point, before the Bloomfield 4WD track continues onto Cooktown and Cape York. The drive up is truly wonderous – dense tropical rainforest hems the road in with the occasional flat bridge crossing darkly ominous streams of smooth cobbled rocks beneath towering palms.
There are road signs here that probably don’t exist anywhere else – some of them have been amusingly got at by locals or passing travellers, none perhaps more so than the legendary (and truly Jurassic) Cassowary Crossing. The sign reads ‘Before and After’, in a makeshift roadrunner-esque adaptation. It’s possibly the most photographed sign in the Daintree and always makes me laugh. Cassowaries, if you haven’t seen or heard of one, are the third-tallest and second-heaviest living birds, standing some 5.8 feet and weighing in at over 55 kilos and have been labelled ‘the world’s most dangerous bird’. All I can say is that I’d love to see one from afar but certainly not up close and personal.
There are plenty of other wacky signs on the way up to Cape Tribulation. Tree Kangaroos Crossing is another favourite. The ever present ‘WARNING ACHTUNG – RECENT CROCODILE SIGNTING IN THIS AREA’ and the curious VINEGAR with the oversized Marine Stinger entangling the unfortunate swimmer – it’s the boggling eyes on the sign that make me chuckle. But all jokes aside, pretty much everything up here is designed to kill humans. And, as enticing as the Coral Sea looks, you’d have to be insane to enter.
Captain James Cook named Cape Tribulation ‘because here began all my troubles’. Cook was trying to find a way through ‘the insane labyrinth’ of the Great Barrier Reef when disaster struck and the Endeavour was gouged by coral. After some truly heroic and quite ingenious methods were deployed to save the ship from sinking (unbelievably, none of the crew could swim as sails were slung beneath the hull) Cook managed to limp through the reef and reach a shallow bay where he and his crew, including Joseph Banks, remained for some 7-8 weeks for repairs. Cook’s voyage in these parts makes for fascinating reading.http://www.cooktownandcapeyork.com/do/history/cookslanding