Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cape Tribulation

You don't really need more than the name, do you - Cape Tribulation. Which, in a way, remains with you as the thing to say about the place. Cape Tribulation. Or Cape Trib as it comes to be abbreviated. It lies about 70km north of Cairns, a cable-ferry ride and a winding drive on the other side of the wide, crocodile-famous Daintree River.

The Daintree River

The locals, with season passes, get preferential treatment: the right-hand and quicker lane onto the ferry. Their line-up of utes with caged trays, near-illegal dogs, and a spray tan of atmospheric mud sits parallel to small rental cars, all white or baby blue, all unambitious Hyundais, Toyotas, and Nissans, all occupied by city refugees in Billabong T-shirts.

I imagine the ute driver next to me - of course, with a beer in his non-driving hand - going home to a vast property of abandoned fields and damp, dark sheds; but he is probably being told by mobile phone to pick up a bottle of claret to sip on the deck of a white-walled mansion overlooking one of the thin beaches of the north. Well, maybe: some of the old divides seem to survive here. Uncomplicated, he is in fact going home to drink beer in a damp shed.

We, for our part, have lunch at Whet, a restaurant occupying a wide balcony overlooking the last stretch of road into Cape Trib. I say into Cape Trib, but really there is no point at which you feel yourself in. There are three car parks, a few gift shops-cum-stores-cum-information centres, and a slight concentration of people on the beach. And there is a headland, which I assume is the same Cape that at some point in the white settlement caused tribulation. I wonder how. It's a fairly modest headland, and perhaps in another history it would have been called Cape Pleasant, or Cape Mild, or even Little Point.

No, that's not fair. There is every point to Cape Tribulation. We enjoy our time there, and stray up and down the beach at low tide, half expecting a crocodile to come out of the water and make good the warning signs: "Do not walk by the water's edge."

We stay close to the rainforest, errant fronds of the green shreds that lean out of the canopy, forever telling the sea that it can stop the tide.

My son Finnur not looking at Cape Trib