We woke up in Townsville to the sound of what seemed like hundreds of arguing parrots. With hopes of catching a glimpse of the rare and endangered Cassowary we headed off to hike a rainforest path to visit a big waterfall in a national park about an hour north of town.
We drove north out of town and away from the coast and stopped in Ingham to get some info at the nature center there. The folks there said that Wallaman Falls still had quite a bit of water in it, and advised us that Cassowaries have a tendedncy to wait until a car goes by, then pop out of the woods behind the car, so drive slowly and keep your eyes peeled out the back window.
The road crossed sugar cane fields in the flatlands, complete with narrow guage railway for moving the harvest. This was followed by planted timber forest at the base of the mountains. Once in the mountains though the road wound its way up through native rainforest, with precipitous drops on one side. The lush growth seemed all the more impressive after spending too much time in the desert. Dark green things growing everywhere.
Once at the top of the park, we had a view of the Wallaman Falls.
In order to get there though, we had to hike down to the base. Surprisingly, it was a little less than an hour of hiking to get down. The path constisted of many switchbacks and stairs, and took us through surroundings that looked like this:
Once at the bottom, a scamble across giant black boulders that ranged in size from Mini Coopers to dump trucks gave us access to the pool at the bottom of the falls. Billy and Jen got there first and had already taken a swim. I didn’t stay in long, partly because it was fairly cold, and partly because I was a bit worried (probably unjustifiably) about crocodiles. The biting deer flies were relentless, so we didn’t stick around long, and headed back the way we came.
Despite the roadsigns warning of Cassowary crossings, we didn’t manage to catch a glimpse of the rare birds. On the way out I got out of the car to check on a rustle in the nearby brush. There wasn’t anything there, but I heard what sounded sort of like one of those wooden box xylophones, a very deep ‘kllung-gunk’ coming from the trees along the road a ways behind us. I wasn’t driving, and Billy and Jen had more interest in seeing wallabies than in searching further for a ghost of a bird whose population had dropped to less than 2000 individuals.
We drove to another trail-head and took another short hike down to the stream above the waterfall, and saw turtles, but no Duck-billed Platypusses (Platypi? Platypupae? Platypauxs?) or Crocodiles, despite warning signs.
We headed down out of the mountains, back to Ingham, and visited a wetland park. Sure enough saw a whole mess of wallabies. For the curious, here are the differences between kangaroos and wallabies:
Kangaroos can grow to over six feet tall, and look like they could kick your butt all the way to Timbuktu. They come in a variety of colors to suit your decor, ranging from light gray, to beige, to reddish brown, to charcoal gray. Their ‘hands’ are equipped with nasty looking claws, and they are capable of balancing on their tail and arms if they choose to take a ‘step’ forward with their hind legs. One thing we noticed: at no point did we see them move their hind legs independently.
Wallabies are much smaller and have shorter ears, arms, and noses for their size, and have a less muscular tail. While big male roos can reach 2 meters in height, wallabies seem to stay in the 1 meter and smaller range, but they also come in a variety of colors and patterns.
We walked around the wetlands park which at this time of year was mostly dried grass and scrub surrounding a few ponds, for a little over an hour deciding what to have for dinner. I did spot this in the dried mud around one of the ponds.
It’s about the same size as a frisbee, or a large dinner plate. Since it’s in the lowlands it’s probably just an Emu print, but it gives you the sense that these flightless giants really are holdovers from the age of the dinosaurs.
By the time we made it back to Townsville it was definitely dark. Roos are like deer in australia, and tend to be most active at dawn and dusk. Having been advised against driving during those times of day, the drive back was a bit nerve-wracking.
Over a dinner of cous-cous and string beans, I met a trio of Germans who were headed out to Magnetic Island the next day, and figured I’d tag along.