The Casso-WARY coast – Where is Big Bird????
New month ….1st of August…….Thursday
You will always find waterfalls, rainforests, choice fishing spots, and utopian campsites high on our hit list of things to do. With Wallaman Falls, (Australia’s highest at 305 metres) only 50 kilometres due West from Lucinda, we decided to go and check it out. Driving to the falls is very pretty, taking you through tunnelling thick rainforest, past lots of cows, mini termite mounds, and windy bumpy turns……… One finally reaches the falls.
The picture speaks for itself. The height of Wallaman falls is the most dramatic aspect- accentuated by the sheer cliffs that drop down to the bottom of the gorge. The mist and accompanying rainbows come from the force of the water hitting the huge plunge pool at the bottom.(where one can sometimes catch a glimpse of a platypus) Although a little off the beaten track, all other waterfall lovers should take the time to check it out! Unfortunately, the campground is on a dry and barren stretch of land so we decided to head back to the coast and continue North.
We stopped and lunched at a little town called Cardwell. Smack in the middle of the highway, there’s very little to Cardwell and it still manages to be charming. On the right-hand side are stunning views over Hinchinbrook Island, which is so close it appears to be part of the mainland. On the left-hand side are little dinky die shops. A nice place to stop and luncheon if you’re travelling through! After a classic hamburger from Reef’ n Beef and some chocolate paddle pops, we headed on to the Mission Beach Area in search of a campsite.
The Mission Beach Area actually includes a string of beaches that run along one of the most beautiful stretches of the Australian North East Coast. The area receives Australia’s highest annual rainfall and this is truly reflected in the surrounding vegetation. Tropical, lush rainforest….to say the very least! South Mission Beach is the first beach you encounter. Peaceful kilometres of tranquil waters, access to Dunk Island and lush rainforest awaited us. Unimpressed however by the cluster of shops, caravan parks, hotels, and concrete amenities blocks that accompanied the postcard-perfect view, we decided to do a little exploring and ventured off down a dirt track marked Cassowary Conservation Area.
We had to giggle at the fact that this stretch of coast is often referred to as the Cassowary Coast- because the forests provide a refuge for the highest known concentration of Australia’s largest flightless bird, the Cassowary (kind of a cross between a turkey and an emu). Having already spotted zillions of “CAUTION: CASSOWARY CROSSING” signs and “CAUTION: CASSOWARIES NEXT 30 KILOMETRES, yet STILL not having seen one, we excitedly headed off into the conservation area.
These birds certainly are casso-WARY! We are yet to spot one. We’ve spotted their footprints, even their droppings and Eric and I are definitely the epitome of the quiet and observant bird watcher…….. Perhaps the tourist slogan for the area “WHERE RAINFOREST MEETS THE REEF” should be dubbed “WHERE CASSOWARY MEETS CROC!”.
IF ANYONE OUT THERE HAS EVER SPOTTED A CASSOWARY PLEASE E-MAIL US STRAIGHT AWAY……….
A gloriously overgrown 4WD track wound along the beachfront rainforest for about 10 kilometres. Eric and I smiled at each other simultaneously…..”This is it!- we’ve found the perfect isolated camping spot……..”, we both thought in unison. With a break ahead on the track, we anxiously peered forward through the windscreen to find………A SEALED ROAD!
Oh no……We’d come out at the other side of South Mission Beach. We speedily did a u-turn and headed back into the rainforest, now determined to try a track marked PRIVATE PROPERTY KEEP OUT. Like naughty school children, we timidly entered and drove on. This glorious little patch of rainforest backed onto a stretch of beach, directly opposite Dunk Island. We figured we’d ask the people who owned the land if they’d mind if we camped for a night.
No Cassowaries…but we did stumble upon a campsite of hippies. We introduced ourselves and kindly asked if we could camp on the edge of their property. With wide grins we were offered the typically Australian “NO WORRIES MATE- go right ahead”. Perhaps sensing that we too were potential hippies by our dusty attire, rugged car and craggy unwashed clothes, the leader of the hippy gang “CREE”, took pity on us. Gleefully excited we headed back to set up camp and have our first real tea and toast cooked over an open campfire.
Before too long Cree had wandered back to say G’day and figure out who we were and where we were travelling to. Over a trough of tea, a most interesting conversation was had by all. Cree’s curiosity was subdued as we explained that we were travelling around Australia, fishing, camping and exploring remote and secluded virgin places as we went. Being an avid greenie and environmentalist he was more than happy to delve into a further discussion of the plight of the worlds natural resources. Having spent many years chained to trees, bulldozers, and other assorted heavy machinery he certainly came up with some interesting insights and knowledge of environmental issues. One of the most delightful aspects of travelling has to be the diversity of people that you encounter along the way.
After a delicious dinner totally cooked over an open campfire (smoky flavour included) we strolled down to the beach to watch the moon rise out of the ocean behind Dunk Island. Magnificent!!!!!!!