Mission Beach

 
Friday December 21st (continued)

 
      Mission Beach is both in the middle of a large 'wet tropics' rainforest area and right on a long sandy beach. I drove through miles of impressive thick jungle to get to this hamlet, a small colourful residential area with just a handful of shops and bars. There were plenty of signs on the road asking people to be careful not to run over 'cassowaries', huge flightless birds that are struggling to survive as a species, only about 50 are left, and a few of them are apparently wandering around somewhere in the hundreds of square miles of rainforest around Mission Beach.

 

Walking onto Mission Beach
 

 

Looking back at the rainforest, which is along the whole beach
 

 

Mission Beach
 

 

Mission Beach bars and shops
 

 
      As seems to be usual for Australian hostels these days the only one I could find was half full of English, and most of the others were Germans, but this time everyone was superb fun, the most friendly hostel so far. We did drink too much in a drinking game in the evening, and I vaguely remember something about some of us going for a long walk at night on the beach, trying to find the stinger net area for a swim.

 

Stinger net safe swimming area (keeps out the jellyfish)

 

Saturday December 22nd

 
      A slow day to recover from last night. I retraced my steps for the walk along the beach last night, good to see it sober this time. There was a jellyfish, bigger than the one I'd seen in the Townsville aquarium, washed up just beyond the sea water. Not a good idea to touch it as the stinging tentacles might still be effective.

 

Careful, it's a jellyfish!
 

 
      I had a look at the shops for a 'secret santa' present for the Christmas Party later on in Cairns. After failing to find anything I went to the museum and tourist information place they have at the end of the town. These are amazingly well laid out, and employ a friendly elderly couple who seem happy to sit there all day, probably often with no one visiting. Well worth a look though, plenty of information about the forest and cassowaries, and even a film to see if you have time. I found out here that cassowaries are 40kg for adult males and 60kg for adult females. They grow up to 2 metres tall, so I'm surprised I'd never heard of this creature. The head has an impressive crest, just like the ones on dinosaur birds, so it would certainly be a shame for it to become extinct like the others. It is strange to think it's still alive.
      Due to lack of time and energy I decided to skip visiting Dunk Island (there is an artist colony there that sounds interesting). Instead as I have a car I decided to drive over to the shorter rainforest walks.
      There were two walks I had found out about that were less than an hour walking each (45 minutes and 30 minutes). The first on the road to El Arish was interesting, it started well with a little brown animal, no idea what it was, similar to a guinea pig and a litle larger. People think I must have seen a wombat. There are far too many mosquitoes, but that's what you get I suppose with a genuine rainforest. I caught up with a couple who had spotted a little blue bird, I think it could have been a baby cassowary! It was difficult to tell as it was behind about four trees and you could only occasionally see it. Not much else was seen, a few shuffles of the undergrowth were heard, unfortunately the path has too much gravel on it so all the creatures can hear you coming as soon as you set foot in the forest. I walked the last half of the path rather quickly, the mossie hassle wasn't being compensated for by rewarding sightings of interesting creatures! But despite this I decided to go for the second walk, especially as the leaflet said the path started at the end of a 1 km drive along a dirt road into the forest. This sounded more promising as the first walk was actually quite close to a main road.

 

In the rainforest
 

 
      So I parked the car a kilometre into the forest and walked to the start of the path. I couldn't believe my luck there was a rather large bird shuffling and striding around the other side of the car park, and as tall as the cars. It was about 5 feet tall when standing up properly and had a blue neck so no doubt at all I had found one of the only 50 cassowaries alive. When it eventually went back into the rainforest I started on the planned walk.

 

A cassowary! In the middle behind the far fence
 

 

Cassowary
 

 
      The actual walk had not much more to see than the first walk, just a number of unusual trees.

 

Unusual tree with fungii
 

 

Another unusual tree situation
 

 
      The children's version of the walk had some fake cassowary eggs at the end to satify the children, but also some very real cassowary dung (it's brightly coloured according to the seeds the cassowary has most recently eaten). So back in the car park, I looked around at the various exits and decided to have a look further along the track I had driven in on. And there he was standing there, the presumably male cassowary, allowing me to get close enough for a good picture. It's an awesome thing to meet a wild creature almost as big as yourself. They have a reputation for attacking if they think you have food, and I guess that was what he was here for. A local Australian cyclist came by. I signalled him to go slowly because there was actually a cassowary, but he just carried on passing us saying 'Ah, that's One Eye, beautiful isn't he?'. Not sure if he was right, the bird had definitely been looking at me with each eye, but when I walked off the bird started jogging along to try to catch up with the cyclist. Funny thing, a big wild bird that can't fly.

 

Cassowary again, shame about the picture quality on my camera's zoom
 

 

'One Eye'
 

 

One Eye

 
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