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LOCATION: Cape Tribulation 2/4

a person walking across a beach next to a tree

Photos courtesy of Scott Plume, Barefoot Tours

When you come up to Far North Queensland you will be astounded by many of the natural wonders, the reef, the rainforest, stunning waterfalls and astounding waterholes. With as much as there is to see through the region there is some equally important history associated with it. Cape tribulation and Far North Queensland have had an interesting role throughout Australia’s history, and at Allbout Cairns, we love the interesting facts as much as the intriguing natural wonders. This article will delve into the depths of Cape Trib and point out the integral role it had in saving the Wet Tropics and changing the face of tourism in the north.

Cape Tribulation saves the Wet Tropics Rainforest

When looking at the history and importance of the Daintree region we need to look back at a time well before humans inhabited this earth. The Daintree and the rainforests of the Wet Tropics are thought to be the oldest continuously living rainforest in the world. People date this rainforest back to somewhere between 120 million and 150 million years old. It is open to much debate and depends on where you attain your information, but ultimately it is the worlds oldest rainforest. It does give a look back through time and has many relic species that can be found here, and here only. Australia, when it drifted off from Gondwanna Land was completely covered in rainforest, but now the Wet Tropics covers less than 0.2% of Australia. If it wasn’t for Cape Tribulation and its history that might not even have been saved.

If you look at the history of the region chronologically, one of the next important events in the region was human inhabitance. The indigenous have inhabited Daintree for at least 9000 years and there are 18 language groups and the traditional owners are the Kuku Yulanji. The Kuku Yulanji name for Cape Tribulation is Kulki, and they know everything you need to know about living in the region. It gives an indication of just how hard it was (and still is) to live in the low lying rainforest around the Cape, as the rest of Far North Queensland was believed to have been occupied by Indigenous Australians for at least 40,000 years.

It must have been an absolute shock to the Kuku Yulanji when they saw Captain Cook and the vessel, the Endeavour come through the region in 1770. This is when the Cape attained its english name of Cape Tribulation. It was a fateful night in June when the vessel collided with one of the many fringing reefs to the north east of the Cape. In my mind I can visualise Captain Cook staring into the rainforest when he collided with the reef, maybe that’s why they say “Where the rainforest meets the reef’. That reef is know known as Endeavour Reef.

The Endeavour was run aground and much work needed to be done to fix the situation. Cook looked to the mainland, and sent some of his best men ashore. There was a high peak and he asked a group of men to ascend that to see if they could seek safe passage through the reef system. Those men never returned and he named the peak Mt. Sorrow. He was filled with so much sorrow as they did not return. Cook sent another group of men off to find goods to fix the vessel and make it seaworthy again. They travelled for 12 hours to finally reach a bay now known as Weary Bay (they were that tired when they arrived there).

And, Cape Tribulation was named by Captain Cook as he believed all his trials and tribulations (troubles) began there. So as you can see it was not the most fruitful of beginnings for the Europeans around the region. But if it wasn’t for those fateful troubles, then Cook would not have limped into and beached at Cooktown for seven weeks. During this time Joseph Banks discovered, and recorded, some 200 new species of plants, and met with the Guguyimidjir (local Indigenous) and learnt 50 of their words.

It might sound overstated but Cape Tribulation has been imperative in the history of Australia and has saved the Wet Tropics, being an essential part in the World Heritage listing of the region. The Wet Tropics is a World Heritage Listed region running 450km north to south and 80km east to west, it includes 31 different national parks and about 900,000km squared of land. (If you would like to know more about the Wet Tropics or World Heritage Listing please look at our other blogs.)

In the early 1980’s the Queensland government wanted to build a coastal road through from Cape Tribulation to Bloomfield. They wanted to do this to make a coastal route and help the logging industry. Yes, logging still took place in the Daintree in the 1980’s. When this road was proposed many of the local inhabitants and many hippies and naturalists through the region were outraged.

They organised a protest to stop the road from going ahead. It was huge, people were peached in trees, they buried themselves in the ground, chained themselves to trees and bulldozers and stayed in place for weeks on end. The Government of the day was so distraught they had to send a police force and a makeshift jail up to the region. The protest was insane, they would stop at nothing to protect the forest. It was so big it made international news headlining how Australia was destroying the world’s oldest rainforest.

Unfortunately the Government built the road in from behind the protesters in a sneaky manoeuvre. However the Government might have won the battle but they lost the war. The opposition party in the state of Queensland vowed that if they were elected, they would organise for the Daintree to be protected under World Heritage Listing by UNESCO. This was the first environmental platform to be used and win an election in Queensland. When the opposition came into power not only did they keep their promise about heritage listing the Daintree, but they protected the whole of the Wet Tropics. What a win for nature. Who knows what the future would have been for the region had this not happened. But, because it did, not only were so many natural aspects of the region saved but it allowed a sustainable tourism industry through the region to thrive. Cape Tribulation Saved The Wet Tropics.

Photo credit: Photos courtesy of Scott Plume, Barefoot Tours