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Etty Bay

Postcard from Etty Bay

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Postcard from Etty Bay

They call this the 'Cassowary Coast' and say it's the best place to spot these endangered beasties in the wild. So that's why we have come, to this tiny but beautiful alcove of a bay - just south of Innisfail, Queensland - with wet rainforest all the way down to the sea. And, as it happens, we have already passed one plain-looking juvenile on arrival, browsing by the side of the road in fading light.

There has been rain, with pools on the ground, mist on the far headland, tropical clouds black as we set up camp tucked in a corner between forest and beach, the heavy tropical air loaded with smells... that dank, often pungent mix of permanently wet leaf litter mulch, a multitude of living, breathing leaves in every shade of green and secret flowers we cannot see... and right here, the ozone rich sea mist, the surf and salt from the permanently pounding Pacific.

In the morning we wake to the drifting patter of rain on the roof. There's breakfast of fruit and yoghurt and the obligatory walk on the beach, this time in rain jackets, warm sand beneath bare feet, the air a balmy 24degC.

But we are not alone it seems, met by a beach-going cassowary, a fully grown specimen this time - both sexes looking similar - resplendant in regal but hairy plumage of glistening black... bright blue neck with a splash of red, paler blue cheeks, dangling red wattles and the hallmark wedge-like crown - used to push a path through the thickest forest vines.

Later we receive another unexpected personal visit, and consider ourselves very lucky, this time at camp. There's the slightest pause, and we can't help feeling as though we are being sized-up, up close. That head is raised, turned then cocked, with gleaming, wizened eye... that mighty, clawed front foot paused mid-stride.

We look at each other. Is this the same bird we met earlier on the beach? But suddenly it's gone, having dissapeared back into the seemingly impenetrable rainforest right nextdoor, and we wonder if us human nomads all look alike to a beach-wandering cassowary.

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