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Top adventures around Cairns

Dave Cauldwell
Top adventures around Cairns (Photo Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours)
Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours like to label their safety helmets. (Photo Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours)
"The highest platform rises 19.5m from the forest floor. From here you whizz 78m down the longest zipline, stopping halfway and dangling above a fast-flowing creek."
Dave Cauldwell

Although the weather has been a little biblical of late, ninemsn discovers that Tropical North Queensland is still a great destination for thrill-seekers.

Come early June, Cairns city centre will be awash with Lycra-clad folk when the inaugural Challenge Cairns sprints into town. Contestants must swim 3.8km, ride another 180 and then run a full marathon (42.2km) to have any chance of crawling away with the six-figure purse. But for those of us who don't have bionic bodies and pain thresholds the size of the Outback, there are other, less taxing pursuits to get the adrenaline bubbling. The four adventures described below are all within easy reach of Cairns. Best of all — you don't have to wear Lycra to do any of them.

Quad Biking

If you thought having mud splashed over your face was something only done in a day spa, think again. A visit to the 100-acre stock farm at Daintree Station (around 40 minutes north of Cairns) is the place to embark on a two-hour Jungle Rumble Quad Adventure. The muddier you get, the more fun you'll have. You don't need any experience or a license — just a steady thumb on the accelerator.

After a quick driving lesson weaving in and out of cones, it's time to head off around the farm on a mixture of furrowed tracks, rocky embankments and narrow rainforest paths. You'll even get your feet wet as you dodge rocks while driving through a creek.

The first real obstacle is a small dip which leads down into a creek and then steeply up the other side. In my enthusiasm to get to the top I accelerate too hard and ram the bike up a steep verge. I can see more cloud than ground and the bike feels as though it's going to topple over. But no matter how high your level of incompetence, patient guides are always quick to the rescue. And I need plenty of saving ... I'm towed out of a boggy puddle and faced the right way again after spinning out on a muddy hill.

Towards the end my confidence is high and I feel like a quad commando. The next thing I know my chassis is jammed in the earth and my back wheels are off the ground; the line between confidence and cockiness is a slim one indeed.

Tubing

Chicken and avocado; beer and peanuts; inflated inner tubes and rivers: three of life's perfect combos. Around 45 minutes south of Cairns is a fast and frothy section of the Mulgrave River that is ideal for tubing. Guides from Foaming Fury accompany me in their inflatable kayaks. Spontaneous splashes counter the humidity. I'm whirling, shouting, laughing.

River Rule #1: If you love your tailbone then avoid shallow parts of the river at high speeds. Listen to your guides and steer your tube where they tell you.

River Rule #2: Where you look is generally where you'll end up. Ahead I spy a large rock poking out of the water and, unable to take my eyes off it, my tube smacks into the side and I spin out of control and enter the rapids backwards.

River Rule #3: Never enter the rapids backwards. The buoyancy of the tube will save you from bruises if you hit something, but it'll also propel you towards the rocky bank if you're not careful. After narrowly avoiding some low-lying branches, I face forward and spy a bridge in the distance. It's not an aqueduct but it has holes in it, so following River Rule #1 I aim for a specific hole and emerge unscathed to continue my topsy-turvy ride which is fathoms of fun.

Jungle Surfing

Standing nearly 20m off the ground, above the canopy of the world's oldest rainforest in Cape Tribulation. I could be in EwokVillage here. It's quite fitting then that Yoda and Princess Leia are sharing my platform. Not literally, but at Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours they like to label their safety helmets. Today I'm James Bond.

Set in a 45-acre reserve that borders Daintree National Park (two-and-a-half hours from Cairns) are a series of five platforms connected by ziplines. The highest platform rises 19.5m from the forest floor. From here you whizz 78m down the longest zipline, stopping halfway and dangling above a fast-flowing creek. Banana plants and other tropical trees fan out their lush leaves while I spy with my wide-open eyes something beginning with GBR. It's not the nationality of my tuxedo-clad persona, James Bond; it's the Great Barrier Reef.

In true 007 style for my last zip I turn upside down, my fingers brushing the canopy and arms flailing as I zip the final 25m. I arrive at the platform disorientated, dizzy and desperate to go again.

Sea kayaking

With its Jurassic Park-like scenery and rugged coastline, Port Douglas is a great place to paddle. If you're lucky you'll spot dugongs scoffing sea grass and turtles darting past your paddle. Back Country Bliss runs a variety of trips on double or single sit-on-top sea kayaks.

Waves undulate beneath my kayak as I head out to sea battling against a headwind. I'm in the front of a double kayak which means it's up to me to set the pace. It's the task of the person in the back to paddle in synchronisation.

One of the best things about kayaking is that it enables access to otherwise difficult-to-reach places. However, my kayaking partner and I are finding it difficult to reach anywhere. Our strokes are out of kilter, we can't steer and we end up crashing into several other kayaks. Some advice: unless you know your partner's paddling style, get your own kayak.

Things get easier as we flip around and head towards a secluded beach. We rush into shore on the crest of a wave and with the wind at our backs it's clear to see that it'll take more than a cataclysm to blow away Tropical North Queensland's sense of adventure.

Got any more extreme adventure ideas to do around Cairns? Enter your comments below.

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