After the 21 hour journey north to Cairns from Agnes Water, the 6 1/2 hour journey back south to Townsville did not faze us. Rainforest hillside stood by, their peaks shadowed by lone cotton wool clouds, as we drove out onto the Bruce Highway. Curtains of sugarcane and banana plantations lined the roadside as suburbs turned to farmland.
Leaving the highway temporarily, we veered through snaking roads, the debris of less careful drivers littering the corners of hairpin turns. Further on through rainforest we were lucky to spot a lone male Cassowary, a giant flightless bird we had not been able to see whilst exploring the Tablelands last week. It bobbed along the roadside on its powerful legs like a flamboyant ostrich, its bright blue and red face standing out against the green backdrop. Equipped with a raptor-like claw and bone fin atop its head, it has been named the world's most dangerous bird but also said to be misunderstood. However there was no time to test either theory as we rolled onward.
We stopped at Cardwell and sat looking out on the water, feeling a lot better than we had when we had stopped 18 hours into our journey north. The tide was out leaving a blurry mirror of wet sand that reflected the sky and its clouds. In the surrounding silence the water sounded as if it quietly creaked against the shoreline.
The landscape shifted from lush tropical green to an ochre of dry bush, dotted with the sandy mounds of termite hills. Brown turned to black as the charcoal aftermath of a bushfire came into view.
Whilst the humidity of the rainforest had been left behind, the heat remained as we arrived in Townsville. It radiated from pavements and windows where it felt more like Sunday than the Monday it was.Read more