ROAD TRIP DIARIES # 20
Mission Beach is a cassowary conservation area and this alone was enough reason for Charles and I to drop in for a few days. This endangered species is Australia’s heaviest flightless bird and can only be found in the tropical rainforest of northeast Queensland, Papua New Guinea and the surrounding islands.
I didn’t know about its existence until our recent visit to Davao Crocodile Park in the Philippines. I hastily dismissed it as a cousin of the ostrich and emu, and wasn’t really fascinated about its rarity until we arrived at Mission Beach. Growing up, I only saw photos of kangaroos and koalas and it was only when I visited Australia that I got the opportunity to see them in the wild. They are surely charming creatures, but they are a dime a dozen. Spotting a cassowary is much more difficult and rewarding.
Beach Comber Caravan Park
On our short drive from Tully to the caravan park at South Mission Beach, we were entertained by numerous funny cassowary warning signs. It seemed that every few meters along the road, there was a sign to remind visitors to slow down and be wary of possible cassowary crossings. We even went so far as driving 30kph hoping to spot this elusive bird and avoid possible ostracism. Dogs and drivers are the cassowary’s main threat and hitting one in Mission Beach is nearly a capital offence, you might as well leave the town for good.
Day trippers to the nearby Dunk Island
Fresh from Tully’s carnival merriment, we set out early the next day to try the superb walking tracks around Mission Beach. Armed with some trail food and lots of calories to burn from bingeing the previous day, we drove to the jump-off point at Kennedy Bay. The walking track here was highly recommended by Charles’ parents, two intrepid travelers who have done more than their own fair share of camper vanning around Australia over the years.
Let’s begin the walk
Awesome coastal view
The 7km Kennedy Track was one of the best coastal walks we did during our road trip. It’s an alternating mix of forested trail, rocky path, mangroves and lengthy sandy shores. It led past the secluded Lovers Beach and through the lookout at Lugger Bay. The changing landscape was rather absorbing and completely worth the effort of completing the walk.
Charles walking through the mangrove area
Where the rainforest meets the sea
We made it back to the jump-off point past noon and drove off to find a picnic table by the beach. I think we both enjoyed the raw and wild view in front of us while having lunch, me looking at the stunning seascape and Charles at the topless sunbathers in front of him.
We hadn’t abandoned the idea of spotting a cassowary that day, so we set out for another cassowary hunting mission at Licuala State Rainforest after lunch. Apparently the inland walks through the state park are some of the best places to spot this shy bird. Next to Cape Tribulation, the town of Mission Beach is supposed to be the best place to see one.
Just to try something different, we found ourselves exploring the fan palm rainforest in Licuala – a special type of coastal tropical rainforest and the last of the few remaining ones that has survived land clearing. The track winds through dense groves of native fan palms with signs along the walk highlighting the adaptation of the rainforest dwellers.
Licuala Fan Palm Rainforest
My eyes were peeled searching for any slight movement in the bush. I was determined to cap the day with a Cassowary meet up and a possible photo op. But after completing the circuit walk with no sign of the flightless bird, we drove to our next camping ground still satisfied on how our day at Mission Beach turned out.
As for the cassowary…. we will see each other soon
(This is part of our 6-week North Queensland Road Trip Series, which took place July- August 2010)
Australian Road Trip 101: A Vantastic Beginning
Road Trip Diaries # 1 – An Encounter with the Strangest Animal in the World
Road Trip Diaries # 2 – Of Strangler Figs, Leeches and Long Holidays
Road Trip Diaries # 3 - Exploring Finch Hatton Gorge
Road Trip Diaries # 4 – Cape Hillsborough: On Bush Walks Beach Strolls and Star Gazing
Road Trip Diaries # 5 – Cape Hillsborough: Sunrise and Wild Kangaroos
Road Trip Diaries # 6 – Airlie Beach: Beaches Babes and Backpackers
Road Trip Diaries # 7 – Ocean Rafting to the Whitsundays
Road Trip Diaries # 8 – Unexpected Encounters
Road Trip Diaries # 9 – Exploring Bowenwood
Road Trip Diaries # 10 – Townsville: Finding Nemo and the Sunken Pandora
Road Trip Diaries # 11 – A Visit at the Billabong Sanctuary and Castle Hill
Road Trip Diaries # 12 – Magnetic Island: What Captain Cook Missed
Road Trip Diaries # 13 – Paluma Range National Park: A Walk in the Clouds
Road Trip Diaries # 14 – Of Didgeridoo, Exotic Fruits and Why I love Camping in the Bush
Road Trip Diaries # 15 – Jourama Falls: A Gray Nomad Affair
Road Trip Diarues # 16 – The Bird Man of Tyto Wetlands
Road Trip Diaries # 17 – The Quest for Wallaman Falls
Road Trip Diaries # 18 – Hinchinbrook Island: Experiencing the Wilderness
Road Trip Diaires # 19 – THe Tully Show: My First Aussie Fair