From Sydney’s chilly winter we flew three hours north to Cairns in far north Queensland, where the Cassowary Coast begins. The cassowary is a large flightless bird native to north eastern Australia. They measure between 4’9″ and 5’9″ tall and have black feathers with a brightly coloured head. They are a protected species and are seen as a sacred bird by local aboriginal tribes.
Cairns was something of a surprise to us. After the hustle and bustle of Sydney, with its constant streams of traffic and skyscraper buildings, Cairns seemed so small and quiet in comparison. The majority of shops and businesses seemed to be aimed at tourists, of which there were a lot. The city just wasn’t what we had expected. It was almost like stepping back in time to a seaside resort from a few decades ago.
I don’t mean to say that Cairns has nothing going for it. It’s one of the most popular stepping off points to the Great Barrier Reef, especially for diving fanatics. It is also home to the Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park, one of the best sight-seeing tours we have ever done.
The Tjapukai people are one of the 600 or so aboriginal tribes that exist in Australia. They don’t believe in writing down their stories, instead passing them by word of mouth, which made our visit to the park so much more interesting and interactive than we had expected. Everything we learnt there was either told to us by an actual member of the tribe or demonstrated by them. They enacted their Dreamtime story of creation, which for this particular tribe is that life came from a cassowary egg. We watched them perform a traditional dance and listened to them play traditional music with drums and didgeridoo. We even had the opportunity to join in with boomerang and spear throwing.
Three hours drive south from Cairns is the picturesque Mission Beach, where the rainforest meets the ocean. Once again we were surprised by how green some parts of Australia are. Our hostel, where we drove their 12 seater mini-bus in exchange for accommodation, was nestled amongst tall beautiful trees just a short walk from the beach. It was so quiet and often the only noise around was the birds.
The city of Townsville, another four hours south, marks the end of the Cassowary Coast and this blog post. To be continued…