Forest and Sea
Day 78 Mission Beach
Waking we find the balcony has a pretty good view over the Coral Sea and Mark has breakfast outdoors. He has already been for a drive about the resort and says the beach is long and beautiful.
We drive along small country roads to the Djiru National Park which stretches almost to the coast. The trail we walk is through the forest following a creek. There are plaques along the route which identify the plethora of fruits which are eaten by the Cassowary. I’m hoping to see one of these illusive birds as I missed out yesterday.
Unfortunately, there are no Cassowary, but we do see other birds and plenty of fish in the creek. There are large trout and catfish and lots of smaller fish, but fishing is not allowed as this is National Park land.
On returning to the car we drive towards the coast, which comprises of a series of strung out individual, very small villages. We enter Clump National Park which is jointly managed by indigenous people is and the local council. Clump point is on a headland overlooking Mission Beach and the coastline stretching south to where we are staying. The view is stunning and a commemorative bench has been placed here. We sit and have our picnic lunch looking out to sea and watching the birds glide on the air currents.
After lunch we drive down to the beach, pulling over where there is a stinger net. The beach is miles long with forest right up to it. We stroll along the beach, paddling in the shallows. The sand is lovely and soft and the beach is deserted once we leave the stinger net behind. There are strange patterns on the sand that look like beads made of sand. We are unsure of what has caused them but on closer inspection find that each pattern has a small hole in the middle and small crabs are disappearing into these. We decide that it is probably safe to assume that the crabs have made these patterns.
We all have a swim and Marcus enjoys 2 hours in the sea with Mark and I joining him for short spells. Leaving Mark sunbathing I walk some of the trail through the trees and other flora south towards Wongaling beach. This is a beautiful trail through forest but with glimpses of beach and sea.
Driving back to our apartment I scour the sides of the road for a Cassowary, but have no luck. Mark circles back to come once more to where he and Marcus saw one yesterday. ‘There’, I shout. There’s one at the side of the road. I cannot believe how tall it is, about 5 foot. Although the body is jet black the head is bright blue. What a wonderful creature, I feel so lucky to have seen this and Mark and Marcus have seen two!!
Day 79 Mission to Townsville
Driving down the Bruce Highway we come across Cardwell, the only town on this highway that is on the coast between Cairns and Townsville. Again, this is a one street town of shops and restaurants which closely hugs the coast. Across the straights we are able to view Hinchinbrook Island where granite mountains, dense with lush vegetation rise dramatically from the sea.
Many backpackers come here to pick fruit during harvest and there are facilities provided for them. We stop to have a wander along the front, which had to be completely rebuilt after the cyclone of 2011. A few anglers are fishing at the end of the pier which we finding interesting to watch for a short while, especially when one catches a large salmon.
Walking along the front we pass the Edmund Kennedy Memorial which commemorates the landing of the explorer on his fateful journey to Cape Tribulation in 1848 and a cairn which commemorates the landing of the first settlers in 1864. Near to this is a 8m high copper flame tree, which was adopted as Cardwell shire Council’s logo in the 1960’s. This looks beautiful but must be more impressive at night when gas fuelled flames light it.
Back in the car we head inland and climb into the mountains. We stop at the Hinchinbrook lookout at Bemerside. There is an interpretive shelter and as usual I read everything whilst Mark and Marcus wander up the short walking trail to the Panjoo (means ‘beautiful place’ in Banjin- the traditional owners of Hinchinbrook Island) lookout. I run to catch them and am faced with uninterrupted views of the Hinchinbrook Channel and Hinchinbrook Island. What a great stop for a photo or two or three.
Next stop is the cane refinery town of Ingham and the Tyto wetlands. This centre has 4km of walking trails and attracts around 230 species of birds (unfortunately too late in the season to see many). There is a raised walkway with informative plaques which affords a great view of the lakes. Marcus is really pleased to see loads of Tasman turtles in the lily pond, climbing up and over the lily pads.
We climb the watchtower from which we get even better views of the surrounding area. Walking to the civic centre we come across an exhibition of aboriginal art which includes mosaics, digeridoos and sculptures. The library is open, even on a Sunday and teenagers are working at the PC’s. Otherwise we pass only 3 children on our walk and come to the conclusion that in the Summer this town becomes very sleepy. It is very hot, high 30’s and this is maybe the reason.
Mark wants to drive the loop road to the coast through sugar cane country. We pass a massive sugar refinery which is pumping smoke from its chimneys. There are the biggest piles of sugar we’ve ever seen they look like heaps of sand.
Continuing we reach the town of Halifax, not quite the same as it’s namesake. A sleepy little town next to the river where most of the businesses are closed as it is Sunday. The little pub looks very inviting and we stop for a cold drink on the veranda. How do these places stay open, the prices are very reasonable and the place is not heaving? We decide it’s because it’s the only place for locals to go, the other hotel is closed and up for sale!
Time is getting on and we need to get to Townsville before dark so we head back to the Bruce highway, passing through Ingham again and on towards our next Airbnb for the night.