|Journal for 25-Jul-2003 : Mossman|
We last rode the Captain Cook Highway north of Cairns in 1995, and then it was absolutely brilliant. The road lips along the ocean for nearly 50km, with only the odd palm tree to interrupt the water views. When the ocean gets boring, the other side of the road is either spectacular coastal mountains, eucalypt forest, rainforest, sheer cliffs, or various combinations there of. Today the road was the same, but the traffic volume (at least five times as much) meant we spent more time looking over our shoulders at the upcoming trucks and busses.
We rode up to Mossman Gorge, an impressive series of rapids and rainforest. Last time we were here there were two or three other people enjoying the scenery. Today there were several hundred. The growth in tourism in far north Queensland is nothing short of amazing. The locals tell me it's been steadily growing every year for (at least) the last ten years. And it's not just tourism. On our last trip up here, I took a photo of a cane field proudly signed "Port Douglas Industrial Area". Today the cane field is gone. So is the sign. There is no need to explain what all the factories are for. Nor all the new resorts and housing estates. Mossman the town too is very different. Eight years ago every building was made of wood. Now the commercial district has expanded in the new Queensland tradition of concrete shopping malls. Part of it is Port Douglas establishing itself as a major holiday centre, part of it the sealing of the road up to Cape Tribulation, and the sugar trucks only rumble over this route during crushing season.
OK, I'll stop complaining about progress, after enjoying an excellent meal at a wonderful modern restaurant that certainly wasn't here ten years ago either. Here is where we leave Australia's east coast. I'm expecting/hoping this is the end of the holiday resorts and gift shops for a while, and we'll be back into Queensland circa 1956.
I should mention the weather. For the past few days we've hardly seen the sun. There hasn't been much rain, but lots humid muggy sweaty air. For the tropics, it hasn't been all that hot either, not cracking 30 for almost the past week. It's a lot like a Sydney summer.
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