On a bright clear Tuesday, we bade farewell to our hosts Robert, Katie and their gorgeous daughter Emma. The only thing between us and our destination, Cape Tribulation, was the dreaded Bloomfield Track. This thirty kilometre 4WD track hugs the coast between Wujal Wujal on the Bloomfield River and Cape Tribulation. It was the site of the notorious 1983 riots between environmentalists and developers that lead to the Daintree rainforest being saved from certain destruction. Thankfully it is now world heritage listed. It has a few notorious climbs, the steepest is now sealed but has a gear crunching one in three gradient. This was all enough to really worry Kris. She was asking all the right questions about grip, tyre pressures, power, weight and gearing. My answers were universally ‘she’ll be right’ – mostly because I just didn’t know what to expect.
Just out of Cooktown, we stopped at the iconic Lions Den pub on the way south. Which ended up being perfect timing for lunch. Just after the community of Wujal Wujal, we passed some gawking tourists at the Bloomfield River lookout. Sure enough, down on the bank was a monster saltie, well worth a stop and a gawk, especially as another very large croc was swimming nearby. It was just starting to get interesting until some locals in a tinnie cruised too close and scared them both away.
A huge saltie on the Bloomfield River, looking über relaxed.
With no directions, we had to rely on the occasional hand painted tin sheet with a ‘this way’ and direction arrow. Most helpful. The first (and worst) climb was easy, second gear low range, and being on concrete, diff lock off to avoid corkscrewing the drive train. The second climb seemed almost as steep. I got two-thirds of the way up when we came to a halt, wheels still spinning on the pea gravel dirt road. Long story short, with Kris’s help via radio, I slithered back down the road fifty metres to a flat grader turn in, chocked the wheels and had a good hard think.
After dropping tyre pressures and remembering to engage the diff lock (durr), the climb was now straight forward with no further traction issues. It added some unwanted excitement to what would have been an otherwise unremarkable trip. All part of the adventure. Many avid four-wheel drivers have complained that the sealed road section and new bridge crossing have taken all the fun out of the Bloomfield. It was still plenty fun enough for us.
Our campsite was the National Park at Noah’s Beach, just a few minutes from Cape Tribulation. The boys loved building car cities on this wide fine sanded beach. The boys even used coconuts as part of the construction, and later, as surf boats. Next day was filled with more relaxing beach time, some fishing, and after lunch, a visit to Cape Tribulation.
The boys having a ball at Noah’s beach.
Kris at Cape Tribulation ‘Ahh Queensland, beautiful one day, perfect the next’.
Because it is the most northerly part of the Daintree accessible to 2WD’s, it was packed with tourists and backpackers. Still very pretty though. That afternoon, we went cassowary spotting along a rainforest walk. No luck, and surprisingly, very little general wildlife or bird song. Perhaps a combination of the winter season and recent cyclones?
Early next morning we were up and out to jump on a boat for our great barrier reef snorkel with Ocean Safari Reef Experience. This was a 30 minute high-speed boat ride out to Mackay Reef; where we spotted reef sharks, loggerhead turtles, huge bat fish, giant clams and healthy colourful coral. Quite different to Ningaloo. The water was 24 degrees, but with a stiff breeze, the boys elected to stay on the boat for the second snorkel. Another expensive day, but we couldn’t come all this way and not have a look!
It is interesting to hear comments from long-term residents of the Daintree. There is obvious pride and passion in where they work and live, but also a current of resentment about the gradual improvement to access that has allowed hordes of tourists to tramp through the area. Like most enviro-based tourism, the balance is obviously difficult. Tourism brings money, services and development, but improperly managed, it can also bring eventual destruction. This is why the beach of the bouncing stones, made famous by the Leyland Brothers, is now closed to tourists.