Calamity, Cassowaries and Cairns

I’m gonna hit the highway like a battering ram
On a silver-black phantom bike
When the metal is hot, and the engine is hungry
And we’re all about to see the light

Bat Out of Hell by Jim Steinman

Jim Steinman, talented songwriter, musician and playwright collaborated on a number of songs with Michael Aday aka Meatloaf. Steinman died earlier this year but Meatloaf forges on. He is a very wealthy man but not from music. Meatloaf has reportedly made a fortune from property investment and development. Anyway we left Mission Beach not so much like a bat out of hell but more like an injured kangaroo.

We were reluctant to leave Mission Beach and so was Mr Gato DU. He had a sore foot. Specifically the left front tyre which was nearly worn through. Luckily our neighbour in the park spotted it. It seemed that all the bouncing and potholing we had done on the rough roads to and from Karumba had knocked the front wheels out of alignment and the left side tyre had worn badly. We quickly arranged to have a new tyre fitted and wheels aligned at Mssion Beach Tyres on our way out. Or so we thought. The tyre company had sent the wrong size tyre. No harm. A quick phone call and Goodyear Tyres could oblige in Innisfail. Only 15 minutes off route. But they couldn’t do the alignment on a motorhome. Too big for their hoist. Nor could the garage across the road. Booked out for 2 months. Nor could anyone within one hundred kms of where we were. It was now we were realising the effect Covid 19 was having on travelling in Australia. Queensland was awash with travellers – caravans, motorhomes, campertrailers and rental vehicles. They were everywhere and jamming up the system. In the end we prevailed on the good folks back at Mission Beach Tyres again. Whilst they had made the first blunder they were terrific in fitting us back into their day. We trekked the 60 kms back had the work done then on our way again. Which was a pity because we had lost most of the day at our next stop. And a wonderful stop it was. Etty Beach which is some 100kms south of Cairns is a small but beautiful bay tucked twenty kms off the Bruce Highway.

We had booked there because we were told that the cassowaries were in rare existence. In fact so much so that they came around in the morning for breakfast. That is from anyone who was foolish enough to leave food about. The couple beside us scrambled to put their food away as two of these magnificient birds strolled up and scoffed the orange and bananas left on the table. They really are a sight these birds. With their blue neck and head plumage, red wattles and hard topknot they are quite imposing. Found in only PNG, Indonesia and northern eastern Queensland they can stand up to 2m tall and get to 60kgs – smaller only than the emu and ostrich. Whilst shy in nature they are labelled the world’s most dangerous bird because of the kick they can deliver with their large three toed feet and dagger like claws. And don’t think you can poke fun and run away. Small winged and flightless they may be but they can also run at up to 50kms per hour. Luckliy the camp duo were friendly enough as they knew they would get fed. Quite an encounter. We tried to book another night but no chance.

Etty Bay – Cassoweries about

We had one night at Babinda Boulders, a small council camp beside the Babinda Creek (really a river). With only about 20 sites it was first in first served. We were lucky enough to arrive mid morning just as someone pulled out. We learned later tht caravans were lined up at seven a.m. waiting for people to leave. The nearby river has a lovely swimming hole and while it was cold it was a nice, refreshing place to swim for 20 minutes away from the hot sun. Further downstream is the notorious Devils Pool which is very fast flowing and has claimed 18 lives since 1960. Legend has it that a young Aboriginal woman drowned here whilst escaping with her lover. Her cries and tears (the falls) still entice young men in to their death.

As we had three days to kill before our booking in Cairns we stopped at Fishery Falls Campground an hour south of Cairns. This is just off the highway and its main attraction is the 20 minute walk to the falls and swimming hole. This was starting to remind me of our family Christmases in Nelson and the daily visits to Blackies and Dennys Holes up the Nelson River. All of our swimming in Australia is done in the warmth of the Coral Sea now so these excursions bought back such lovely memories. Well we thought the main attraction was the Falls. Turned out it was really the Saturday Thai Food Night and music put on by the camp managers. One half of the camp managers is Thai and rumoured to have owned a restaurant in Melbourne. Certainly her food was restaurant quality and for $13 each we tucked into Massaman beef, chicken stir fry and rice while rocking to the music of the sixties. You can probably work out the demographic here and we weren’t surprised to learn that people stop here for several months over the winter. Close to Cairns, beautiful beaches and fishing it ticks a lot of boxes for those on the road. There is even a small country pub in the village along from the campground. Another stop we will put in the book for another trip.

We enjoy staying in Cairns. The NRMA Campground is an easy ten minute bike ride into the city centre and a five minute ride to the botanical gardens. A day spent along the waterfront is probably enough but this time they had large screens broadcasting the Olympics. An hour spent relaxing in the oceanfront park watching athletics and rowing was well worth the effort to get there. The Cairns City Council maintain an impressive outdoor pool complex in the park beside the marina. Swimming in the sea is not really possible given the wildlife and it is mudflats anyway. Cairns does look a little down on its luck with many empty shops and a dearth of tourists. Covid has decimated the international tourist trade (they come for the reef) and the internal travellers just don’t do this stuff so much although the caravan park was full during the week we were there. We spent some wonderful hours walking and cycling in the botanical gardens. Scout did a guided tour of the flora and then we both had a great couple of hours on a bird watchers walk. These people know their stuff and the constant “Ah. Thats a figbird/sunbird/golden oriole” as another bout of birdsong sounded from the trees. We were obviously outed as complete amateurs being the only walkers to turn up without a pair of binoculars between us but it was a particularly enjoyable morning. I resolved to do more of this although they are a nice but odd bunch. I didn’t ask but I am pretty certain not one of them would have known who was top of the AFL or NRL Premiership. And in most cases even who was playing. It was a great break in a pleasant city. The winter weather is perfect. Nice mid to high 20s and cloudless blue skies. Now it was time to go north.

One thought on “Calamity, Cassowaries and Cairns

  1. Hi Mike,
    Lovely to hear about Cairns. Sue and I visited a few years ago when Mike and Wendy used to live there. They were in a lovely apartment about 3 blocks back from the City Centre (a short walk to town). Pretty much right opposite the new town centre building which was being constructed while we were there. I remember that Waterfront well and the pools and walk along the pathway. We spent a day out at the reef and did the snorkelling etc, did the cable car (forest trip) and stayed at Port Douglas for a couple of days. Great times!

    Travel safe


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s