Why North is Best
Five Mile Swimming Hole, just south of Cardwell: A tunnel of green leads upstream to riffles above the cool clear waterhole. It beckons. Sweat appears from pores, swells and grows, breaks the bounds of surface tension, joins other drops, runs in sheets down my arms. It has been difficult to grasp Zippy’s handlebars. We decide on a break. Splash. Oh my. No crocs here? A sign warns of a spiny poisonous fish lurking in the rocks, but makes no mention of crocs. Float. Watch gum leaves slowly turn in the lazy current, small birds drink on the fly, brilliant blue butterflies visit, dapples of sunlight spread gold and bronze on the rocks below. I know why the locals brave poison fish, maybe crocs, to swim here; what better place to die than in heaven.
Cardwell. It is a rainy morning in the library. I thumb through a book on sailing, standing at the open shutters (no glass needed here) of the classic old Queensland building. The rain pounds, drums powerfully on the corrugated roof; outside large sleek green leaves of tropical plants shine silver with cascading water, yellow blossoms stay open, waiting for the honeyeaters after the deluge. The air is sweet and close, cooler, comforting, welcoming. I don’t contain a sigh. The librarian looks at me, questioning.
Mission Beach. A morning run on the beach. Patches of white sea foam, the bubbles iridescent pink and green, scud before a fresh southeaster on fine-grained pumpkin coloured sand. Rain blackened sky overtakes our bare footprints, cool drops find our shoulders, the backs of our legs. Breathing easy, striding easy, the palm fringed beach curves into the distant whitecaps. A patch of sun moves quickly out to sea bearing a silver crown of rain. We stop to stretch, sheltered from the blowing rain by a bowed coconut palm curving out over the sand, torn from the rainforest bank by a cyclone. Tight muscles ease as the showers continue north and we turn south beside the surf. It is gentle here, the ocean swells of the Coral Sea tamed by the Great Barrier Reef. Another low pressure cell moves sheets of rain in front of Dunk Island, breaking the mountain contours, smudging the surface of the sea. We could run like this forever…
You’re likely to see a cattle anywhere in Queensland.
Death By Cassowary, Almost
We walk in the tropic rainforest near Mission Beach, pushing Zippy. Suddenly, a flash on the trail ahead; a juvenile cassowary shadow boxes small trees. We are stunned. And then we see another juvenile just inside the bush. We never really expected to see the rare flightless bird, and are thrilled, and nervous. A flash of blue and red announces the protective father. Oops. These birds reach shoulder height and weigh up to 50 kilos, and their sharp middle claw is capable of serious damage. We have been warned, against the remote possibility of encountering one. I decide to sacrifice Zippy, putting him across the trail in front of us. The feisty juvenile advances on Zippy who I reckon he sees as a foe, or at least a sparing partner. “Stop!” I say, and extend my palm to his beak just on the other side of Zippy. It works. He looks at me and moves around us. Dad comes closer, but decides we are not a danger to his charges, and the three move off slowly, foraging for fruit. Whew!
Later in the day we rode Zippy about five kilometers along a muddy rainforest trail, and saw two more cassowaries. Somewhere along the way, Rusty, the little clip-on koala that our friends in Canberra gave us, decided he didn’t want to go to America, and hitched a ride on a wait-awhile vine along the way. I hope he can find enough gum leaves. With our bald tyres, the ride was a bit of a thrill: mud and slick roots, more rocks than expected and a crotch deep stream crossing. The next day we took another hike through the rainforest and along a beach beside the Coral Sea. It rained several times. I love the rain here. It is warm, even in autumn now daytime temps are around 30C (85 or so F) and a rain shower is welcomed. I’m also getting accustomed to the humidity, and particularly enjoy how much it strengthens the sweet and spicy scents of the tropics.