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Published: July 23rd 2009
Two months later…a lot has happened, but little has changed. We arrived in Mission Beach at the end of May, and have been in the rainforest here ever since. We’re wwoofing at the Sanctuary Retreat, a gorgeous eco lodge set up high in the middle of the rainforest and overlooking the turquoise waters of the Coral Sea. It’s by far our favourite spot in Australia so far, and one of the most beautiful and unique places we’ve ever been. We’ve been sleeping in a mesh-walled hut for the past two months, which offers little in the way of privacy from the rainforest, and has been an incredible experience all on its own. Day and night, the creatures of the rainforest create an amazing orchestra of sound. One of the best parts about being here is the plethora of wildlife, including the endangered flightless bird, the Cassowary. There are few cassowaries left in the wild, and Mission Beach is blessed with about 50 of them. Sanctuary is lucky enough to have a few resident cassowaries, including Barbara, the matriarch of her territory. She’s about 40 years old, over 6 feet tall (standing straight up), and close to 200 pounds. She is a
VERY large bird. The best way to describe these magnificent creatures would be to envision a man-sized turkey from the dinosaur age. Cassowaries have huge feet with razor-sharp claws that resemble a 5 inch dagger. On top of their heads is a large and sharp piece of bone that looks an awful lot like a mohawk. You do not want to mess with these birds. Two more frequent visitors are a 5 year old male (nicknamed Stu) and his baby chick (mothered by Barb). The cassowaries’ roles are reversed when it comes to child-rearing, and once the eggs are laid, they are the sole responsibility of the father. The baby is about a year old now and very curious. What’s made the whole situation even more interesting is that Barbara is in the process of trying to push the baby out of Dad’s care so she can mate with him again. Often we’ll see the dad and baby booking it down a path (they run at speeds of up to 50km an hour so it's slightly terrifying if you're in their path!) with Barbara pulling up the rear. Considering that most people have never even heard of cassowaries (let alone
seen one), we feel extremely privileged to witness such amazing natural wonders. They are also a very specialized animal because their poop (yes, their poop) is crucial to the regeneration of the forest. There are more than 100 trees that rely on the digestion methods of these birds. The cassowaries eat the berries off certain trees, pass the seeds out the other end, new trees sprout from this natural fertilizer, and viola, the rainforest continues to grow. Fascinating isn’t it?
Other than the cassowaries, the rainforest is teeming with the usual wildlife - frogs, snakes, birds, spiders, possums, etc. We have never before seen so many spiders, let alone hairy ones larger than Adam’s hand. Surprisingly, you get used to them fairly quickly. There are also so many beautiful moths out here. I never thought I would use the word ‘beautiful’ to describe a moth, but the vividness and complexity of the colours and designs on their wings is incredible. About a week ago, we were visited by the Hercules moth, which, with a wingspan of 225mm, is the largest moth in the world. Also, on one of our first few nights here, we were able to spot the
6 foot long lizard
very rare and very elusive striped possum outside our hut. Even the owner of this place only sees one about every 2 years or so, so we considered ourselves lucky.
On our days off and in our free time, we’re able to walk the 15 minute trek through the rainforest to a beautiful beach which is almost always deserted. ‘Busy’ for this beach would be more than 2 people. And since we are in far north tropical Queensland and away from the ‘colder’ temperatures further South, the ocean water here is still very warm for the most part, and also free of jellyfish! There is also a great yoga studio at Sancutary that we can use whenever we want. Mission Beach itself consists of one main street with everything you need, but since getting into town is a bit of a hassle, we tend to stay up on the hill, aka Sanctuary. Thankfully, the manager of Sanctuary lets us borrow his car whenever he’s around if we do need to get anything done.
All in all, we’ve been very happy and are really enjoying our time here. We’ve gotten to meet some amazing people passing through, have had
some very inspiring conversations, experienced numerous natural wonders, and still continue to be awed by the pristine beauty of the rainforest and the positive energy it provides us with. We’re looking into a great permaculture center and farm in South Australia that we can hopefully head to in order to learn some good skills, but for now we’ll enjoy this for a little bit longer.
We’re sending our love and best wishes to everyone, wherever you all are!
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