Mental Floss

Strange Geographies: Cape Tribulation

Ransom Riggs
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When most people picture Australia, the endless brown wastelands of the Outback come to mind; after all, it is the world's driest country. But there's a lesser-known landscape nestled far in the country's remote northeast that's anything but dry and barren; through the Wet Tropics of Far North Queensland run mighty rivers and dramatic waterfalls, ancient rainforests that house 18% of the nation's bird population in just 0.2% of its landmass, and endure a mind-blowing 250 inches of rain a year -- most of which falls between February and April. It also boasts some of Australia's most beautiful beaches, which are just a dozen or so miles by boat or seaplane from the edge of the Great Barrier Reef.

Cape Tribulation is literally where the road ends -- at least for any vehicle other than a heavy-duty 4x4 snorkle truck -- and the Reef is how it got its name. Captain Cook ran aground on it on June 10, 1770, nearly sinking, and recorded in his log: that "the north point [was named] Cape Tribulation because here began all our troubles." He had a bad time of it in the Wet Tropics, giving nearby landmarks colorful names like Mount Sorrow, Mount Awful and Weary Bay. That's the other side of the coin when it comes to visiting Cape Tribulation, as I did last March -- it's beautiful and remote, but the potential dangers and pitfalls are many. Read on to see what I found there.

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Cape Tribulation itself juts out into the water like the sleeping head of a snake.

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Exotic fruits and vegetables are everywhere. I stayed in a cabin on a fruit farm while on the Cape, and I'm not sure I recognized a single fruit or plant.

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This farm that grew those also grows durian, the powerful and clothes-penetrating aroma of which is often likened to rotting flesh -- unfortunately, they didn't have any on hand to sample.

Close by is a place called the Copper River, known for its robust population of crocodiles. We hired a guide to take us out to look for crocs, but only found one -- faraway and frightened of us.

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Check out more Strange Geographies columns here.

To order prints or get high-resolution downloads of the photos in this essay, click here.

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