On The Road: Trials of a rainforest trek, on the hunt for an elusive bird

A loud rustle came from the undergrowth at the edge of the boardwalk. I stopped and waited, holding my breath as I listened. The noise came again, louder this time. Expecting a bush turkey but hoping for a bigger bird, I craned my neck to see more. From under the dry leaves crawled a monitor lizard.

When I'd heard about Cape Tribulation I was sold immediately. It boasts some of the oldest rainforest on earth and it's where cassowaries live. Cassowaries are huge, prehistoric-looking flightless birds found in parts of north-eastern Australia and New Guinea. They are endangered – and thanks to a fearsome kicking ability – can sometimes be dangerous. Who wouldn't want to see one?

So I shoved everything into my rucksack, turned my back on Cairns and headed for a new adventure. I was ready for isolation and wilderness. But instead I found myself stranded in a hostel with nothing to do but read novels and make friends with other tourists.

"It's a lovely walk along the beach," I was told. "Here's the route: it should take about an hour each way." So I crammed my hat on my head, lathered up with sunscreen and set out onto the sand, past the sunbathers, past the mangroves, towards the headland.

I know you'll be relieved to hear I made it there and back. There were a few wrong turns, but I didn't end up a desiccated skeleton sprawled on the sand. And Cape Tribulation itself really is breathtaking. This is how I imagine Northern Queensland might have looked before the Europeans arrived.

So go, try jungle surfing through the canopy or broil yourself on the white sands. I've been back in civilisation for a few weeks now and I'm thinking of returning to the Cape. After all, I still need to see a cassowary.

Footprint's East Coast Australia (£13.99) is available now

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