YOU may not know this, but the first people to ever set foot on Australia, except of course the native aborigines, were the Portuguese. They landed on the western coast, found the desert landscape troublesome and not worth colonizing and tootled back off to other shores. Had they been sailing along the Eastern coast, past Sydney and up to Cape York, history may have been somewhat different - instead of a giant penal colony Australia might have been a hub of salsa dancing, speaking Portuguese and the Bruces would be sipping Margaritas with the Sheilas.
Captain Cook, after whom so much is named in these parts, did not discover Australian shores until later, but his achievements were so great history tends to remember him. On Sunday, I took a tour up the Captain Cook highway in the direction of Cooktown (in doing so passing a giant statue of Captain Cook - my first Big Thing!) to Cape Tribulation. Cape Tribulation was named by Cook "because here began all our Troubles" - it is here where the Great Barrier Reef comes to the shore, meeting the Daintree National Park, trapping any ships attempting to sail north. Cook's ship, the HMB Endeavour, ran aground here, and only survived the sail to Cooktown for repairs because a wedge of coral had sealed the vessel's hole.
Cape Tribulation is the only place in the world where two UNESCO World Heritage Sites meet. To get there, you follow a scenic drive along the coast of the Coral Sea, with white sands, turquoise waters and forested islands, beyond the sugar cane town of Mossman, the seaside resort town Port Douglas and the film set for Steven Spielberg's forthcoming film The Pacific, and into Daintree National Park itself, home to archaic and unique species of animals and plants, a hub of evolutionary biology and home to giant ferns. It was beautiful, and perhaps my favourite rainforest yet, for though I have now mentioned many rainforests, all are very different, each with different flora, structure and topography.
Cape Tribulation beach was also very beautiful, a wide expanse of sand set in a rainforested cove with very warm waters. Unfortunately, the sun refused to penetrate the dark clouds overhead, and in a combination of fatigue and frustration at hearing the same standard tourist facts once more, I did not enjoy the tour as much as I perhaps could have done.