January 30, 2012

Cape Tribulation and the Daintree Rainforest

Our first night in Port Douglas and prior to our morning of diving, we wandered into a bar not so much for the drink but for the live music emanating from its patio.  Amidst the wine and beer and an ambient guitar, we got chatting with some locals about nice places to hike in the area.  One elderly gentleman Connor was talking with must have taken a liking to him because he gave Connor detailed directions to a beautiful swimming hole up in Cape Tribulation.  I can’t tell you the name of it because it is a very well kept local secret, so much so that other people at the bar were leering at the elderly gentleman as he told us of the spot.  A Swedish man that I was speaking with explained to me that he had been living there for nearly four years and had to prove himself before one of his hiking friends had taken him there.  How we got lucky enough to be told of this place in just a few minutes of wandering into a bar is beyond me.  Not to be cocky, but it must have been that charm Connor has picked up from me.  No!  Honestly!  Nothing about responsibility seemed to sink in with Connor during his five weeks with me but he did learn the art of talking with people.  So much so that he admitted that it’s the only reason he’s now comfortable enough to return to Australia (instead of home) in a few weeks time to work.  I’m just so darned grateful that my five weeks of dealing with his immature butt did something positive for his future.  There were times when I thought him a lost cause.  

With our scribbled map in hand, Connor and I made it to the trailhead for the sacred swimming holes.  I say they are sacred because they are.  I have to be slightly ambiguous due to the secrecy I swore the elderly gentleman in that bar, my apologies.  The local aborigines regarded them as spiritual sites for specific community activities and as sites of revitalization.  The minute we arrived at the first hole (there are three in close proximity to where we were) it was immediately evident how magical the place was.  Connor and I were speechless.  The water glowed with a blue light that seemed to shine from its depths rather than from the illumination brought on by the sunshine above.  The vegetation guarding this place was tall and lush and replete with insects and birds that filled the air with sweet song.  Upon entering the deep pool with our handy dandy snorkel sets, we were greeted by fish of all sizes, some as long as my arm, that, having not been hunted by humans in years, would come right up to us and nibble our flesh for a tasty snack of dead skin cells.  It sounds disgusting but it’s really quite a spectacular sensation that sends a tingling tickle up and down your spine.  Turtles scuttled about along the pool bottom and a few dainty lime green tree snakes weaved territory treks through the water on the pool’s edge.  Paradise.
Are you comin'?

We spent half the day exploring this and the two other swimming holes.  We had to be cognoscente of not venturing too far down the river as becoming lunch for an estuarine crocodile would have become much more likely.  We then made our way up and out towards Cape Tribulation and the only place in the world where two World Heritage Sites meet.  The Daintree Rainforest is the oldest rainforest in the world and unique from any other in its native culture and its flora and fauna.  Connor and I had even been lucky enough to spot one of its rare inhabitants- a father Cossowary bird and his two chicks wandering through the vegetation in the early hours of the morning. 

The other World Heritage Site is the Great Barrier Reef, the largest reef in the world.  The two sites meet at the beach where you can literally stand in both at the same time (which I did.  One more thing to check off the bucket list). 

That night we returned to Cairns.  As we waited for our last dinner in Australia to arrive at our patio table in a beachside restaurant, Marion and Oliver, Patrick’s mother and brother, came walking up along the sidewalk.  Either it’s a small world or everything happens for a reason; probably both.  Through hours of chatter and laughs, we had also arranged for Connor to take an apple-picking job in Tasmania with their family friends and to live with Oliver and his father on their farm.  After having parted from Marion three times previous, we said goodbye to her and Oliver for the fourth and final time and made our way back to our sleeping quarters of a rental car. Though I thought I had parked it far enough from the flying fox tree on the block, it had been pummeled with the large fruit bats’ droppings.  No matter.  It was just one more thing to take care of in the morning after our commandeered showers at the city lagoon. 

Along with a few other campervans in a parking lot on the edge of town and adjacent the loading dock where we had said goodbye to Patty days before, Connor and I settled into the front seats for a night of restless sleep.  Like every other night we’d had since renting our little matchbox on wheels, our beauty rest was patterned with battling the unbearably sticky heat.  When we were woken every two hours by perspiration pooling on our upper lips and dripping off our brows we would blast the AC for just long enough to freeze our sweat and chill our bones to the core.  With jackets pulled tight around our shoulders, we’d drift back off in preparation for the day of travel ahead of us.

Where the two meet.


  1. The blue pools truly were Paradise....

  2. We are currently staying here and would love to know which creek these swimming holes are in! Looks amazing

    1. Hi Luke, I'd feel bad sharing Aussie secrets, but if you ask around, a local may be willing to share with you. They'd also need to draw you a map, as the entrance from the road is difficult to find. Best of luck and thanks for reading!

  3. Such a great adventure, indeed. When we were there, our tour guide told us that the Daintree Rainforest has been well preserved and kept unharmed by mankind. And I hope it remains that way for future generations to see. Did you know that there's a stuff there called the idiot fruit? It is an example of what has been protected at the rainforest. It contains a poisonous chemical inside the seed that can cause seizures when eaten. So be careful!

  4. This site is a sacred women's site to the local Indigenous people, the Kuku Yalanji, and should not be swum in out of respect for a culture that is the oldest in the entire world. The men are not permitted to look at it, much less swim in it, fish in it or use it for recreation. The reason the people were leering at this Swedish guy who gave out it's location to you was because of this disrespect. At least you have the decency to not repeat this disrespectful man's idiocy by not advertising the location to anyone who asks, and it was heartening to read that you were mindful of the deep sacredness and spirituality this place has whilst you were. I'm sure the experience will stay with you in a very profound way and I hope it is with a reverence for other sites of cultural significance you visit in future that you research before visiting.