At least that was the plan at a point considerably south. After all, it’s not very far from Cape Tribulation – up and back in a day with plenty of time for a good look round. Not so! The short route via the Bloomfield track along the coast is strictly 4WD. A sign at Cape Tribulation tells you of the difficulties ahead in no uncertain terms. It terrifies me so much I don’t even dare photograph it. The road is likely to slip from under you. The mountain is likely to slide down on top of you. The track can become impassable in any one of a number of ways. There are two hills that require serious expertise and the top range of 4WD capability. Not for this timid (wise?) traveller in a campervan.
The alternative is backtracking and travelling up the Mulligan Highway, 324 kilometres, away from the coast, with warnings this time about straying cattle. The cattle prove to be frilly-jowled brahmins preoccupied with their own business. The landscape is quite hilly once I twist up the range: smooth-humped rocky protuberance; Gormenghastian peak; waterfall of stone; rocky fingers reaching up from the bush to meet spectral fingers of mist; roadside grass pink and cream and gorgeous in the wind; and blossoming treetops, also cream and pink – eucalypt, melaleuca, callistemon. Once I reach savanna country there are plantations of small ant-hills like lightly skewiff inverted ice cream cones.
I stop briefly in Mt Morgan for coffee: I have a choice of instant or Mexican, and an accompaniment of f*** and c*** from a group of lads who screech up, burning rubber in a pair of utes, and order and eat hamburgers at the same volume. I don’t think Mt Morgan is on my list of Places I Want to Live, despite its picturesque industrial ruins and tiny flowers.
In Cooktown I find a spot in one of those rare camping areas that welcome dogs, and settle down for a few days of varied pleasures. I wonder how I can reduce four hours and 300 kilometres to so few photos and words, and decide that experience is much denser on foot.