Home of the Cassowary

Trip Start May 01, 2010
Trip End Oct 03, 2010

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Monday, July 5, 2010


Back to almost sea level and close to the mouth of Johnstone River near Innisfail, we passed our first pawpaw plantations and couldn’t believe how many big pawpaws were on each tree. We didn’t stop at Stevo’s fruit stall as we still had so much fruit purchased from the Atherton market.

The next turn off to “Murdering Point Fruit Winery” was intriguing but we didn’t go and investigate. Further down the road were many more banana plantations all with different pretty coloured plastic bags on each hand of bananas. Wondered if the different colours were significant or not. We also passed many more sugar plantations, a trend which we presume will continue through most of coastal Queensland.

We thought we were heading towards Innisfail until we reached the small town of Silkwood where a road sign indicating that Innisfail was 40kms away pointed in the direction from where we had just driven! We were just about to head back when we took another look at the map and found we had been on a minor road, bypassed Innisfail and were going in the right direction. We were soon in the Cassowary Conservation Area which surrounds Mission Beach. South Mission Beach was the site of an Aboriginal mission set up by the Queensland government around 1914. It was however very short lived because in 1918 it was destroyed by one of the state's worst cyclones where every one of its buildings were ruined by the 150km/hour winds, giant waves and flooding resulting in the loss of at least 40 lives.

We settled into our big site at the lovely grassy palm lined caravan park without mud called Hideaway Caravan Park that has a really peaceful atmosphere. Behind is the World Heritage Listed Rainforest and across the road the palm lined 14 km long golden beach.

This is the point where “the rainforest meets the Coral Sea”. Dotted along the road are many restaurants and little shops giving it that holiday feel. The big sign in town announced “Magical Mission Beach - The Cassowary Coast”. So it is here or nowhere to see our Cassie! The breeze was lovely and cool and we could hear the waves lapping the beach from our caravan as we sat outside sipping our morning coffee. No time to relax as we had to set off on our first Cassowary hunt even though it was drizzling. We couldn’t believe how many different road signs warn motorists to beware of the Cassowary, including one that said “Cassowary utilize this area. Please drive carefully”.

With raincoats on, we walked along the 1.2 km Lacey Creek walking track.
About halfway through our walk, Mike stopped and motioned to me as just down the track a male cassowary with a fairly big chick were walking towards us. When they saw us they made for the bush where we could see them for a while before they finally disappeared. We were excited and told some walkers we met coming down the track, and though they looked for the two birds they were already too far into the dense forest to be seen. Even though we had no more sightings, we enjoyed the lovely walk through the beautiful rainforest with the great variety of ferns and other plants. The common fern we have always had in our garden, both here and in Africa look similar to these in the wild, though they grow quite bushy they never reach the height and with fronds as big as the ones here. Mission Beach is quite civilized with a working public phone, TV and good internet access so we were able to put many of our photos on travelpod. It has become a favourite stop point for people travelling north to Cairns and beyond from places further south. All this civilization seems to suit the green ants which we hadn’t seen since Port Douglas and Cairns but encountered here, so out with the Mortein and into battle. We are pleased to report we won and are ant free once more.

In the evening we met our German neighbours, who unlike most German travellers, have very limited English. We understood the reason is because they went to school in East Berlin where they learnt Russian instead. So we had a couple of interesting days trying to put into practice our very limited knowledge of ‘Hoch Deutsch’ which they seemed to think is better than their English. They now live in Stuttgart and he is a coach for the under 18 German soccer team so consequently he has coached many of the current players in the German team at the world cup. Mike kept teasing them the day before the match singing ‘Ole, Ole, Ole’ and they were very surprised to see him arrive at 4am to watch the match with them and the other dozen German supporters who are staying at the park. I hadn’t even realised Mike had got up so early. He said the supporters in the outdoor recreation area watching the big screen TV were very subdued. The second evening we were at Mission Beach an English girl and her Melbourne raised husband who live in Munich moved into the site between us so they could converse with the Germans much easier than we could.

Our Mission Beach and surrounds map is not to scale and quite deceptive so what looked like just a short walk to Lacey Creek is in fact seven kms! We found that out the first afternoon when we kept thinking we had missed it until we asked at the hardware shop where they told us the park was in fact, half way to El Arish. The next morning Clivia and Ansgar were about to set off with their Rucksacs to walk to Lacey Creek, then the six kms track to Licuala Fan Palm Walk and back to the caravan along the beach totalling about 25kms! When we managed to explain the distances to them they were happy to get a lift with us to Lacey Creek where we found the walking track down to Tam O’Shanter Forest was closed off for maintenance. Seems a bit odd that they need to shut a walking track through the forest unless maybe storms had brought down big trees over the track.

They then came with us by road to the Licuala forest from where they left us to walk around the park the other way before heading back the 12 kms to the caravan park. They arrived back about the same time as us weary after their long trek in the heat and humidity. We had a leisurely walk around the beautiful Licuala Fan Palm walk, one of the few rainforest areas with an abundance of these huge palms.
We were just about to go back to the car when Mike started walking down the wider track towards the Tam O’Shanter State Forest when he saw the tall cassowary standing out in the open preening himself. We walked quietly up the track taking photos as we went along in case he suddenly disappeared into the bush, especially as we saw another couple walking slowly from the other end. We were amazingly close before the cassowary did disappear into the surrounding bush and we were able to get a fairly good photo. We found out from the other couple that they had already been watching it quite a while close up and had taken a really good video. They are from Willetton and promised to email the video to us when they get home. After all that excitement, we drove to South Mission Beach and then down along the coast past all the holiday apartments and houses, some old beach shanty houses and others mansions, to Lugger Bay. Then up to Wongaling Beach from where the Water Taxi leaves to go to Dunk Island.

The office was shut for lunch and as we had just passed a beachside restaurant advertising pizzas, decided the sighting of the cassowary was a cause for celebration. After a leisurely lunch of Pizza and Hamburger washed down with a shandy and a bit of food shopping at Woolies on the way back, we arrived at the caravan park at the same time as Clivia and Ansgar, but not exhausted as they were! They soon recovered and Ansgar took over from Mike half way through the hard work of opening the second coconut which we had just picked up at South Mission Beach. They brought their chairs over and we had an enjoyable evening eating Spanish olives (a problem for Ansgar!! as his German team would be confronting the Spanish team in about 34 hours!) coconut, custard apple, which they had never tried before, Cheese, biscuits and the Hans Knackwurst bought at Woolworths.

On our second day at Mission Beach we went on a speed boat for the ten minute trip to Dunk Island and had a wonderful day. “Dunk is situated off the coast of Mission Beach and is the largest of the Family Islands group. With sun soaked beaches, swaying palm trees, crystal clear waters and lush green rainforest, Dunk Island is a tropical Island retreat”.
The weather was just perfect for our 12 km hike through the rainforest along the circuit track and up to the top of the 271 metre high Mount Kootaloo to take in the amazing view over the Hinchinbrook Channel. We had arranged for the boat to pick us up at 3pm for our return journey.

The walk took us three and a half hours with plenty of uphill sections to contend with but the last three or four kilometres was all down hill giving us plenty of time to recover. Thankfully after warming up from the walk, there was plenty of time to swim and float in the ocean and relax on the beach near the jetty before it was time to catch the boat to us back to the mainland. Our last night was spent socialising with our neighbours and preparing for the day ahead when we would be leaving Mission Beach for our next port of call.





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