Crabs And Other Creatures On Mission Beach

This morning we woke up in the suffocatingly humid heat and sorted out our things ready to go to Mission Beach. They run a free shuttle bus from the hostel to the Greyhound bus stop and so we’d made sure we’d put our names down the night before to make sure we could go. I think it’s such a good idea that they do it as we’re so far out away from things to do that it would be too much hassle to stay here. After the free breakfast we headed down just before 10 to get the bus but found that we were early and so perched on two little log seats outside reception to wait. Trying to pass the time, I read a couple of leaflets and found one about the Skyrail near Cairns, a cable car which takes you over the top of the rainforest. It looks amazing and I think it’d be great to see the forest from above; I hope we can do it! At the last minute, I realised I’d forgotten my camera and so had to run back to the room. If I’d have missed the chance to photograph a cassowary I would have been devastated but rushing back meant that people were already getting on the minibus and we were some of the last. A couple of other people came over to the bus and it became clear that they were getting the greyhound bus and so immediately took priority over everyone else. There were a few looks at us as if to say “You need to get off” but luckily there were two seats left and we were able to stay. I was itching to go off and have a look around so if we’d have been made to stay, I don’t know what I would have done.

I sat back and relaxed on the minibus ride over and focused on the beautiful views instead. On one side of the road, huge boulders overlooked us surrounded by a thick layer of green and lush trees whilst on the other, the aquamarine waves lapped at the shore. I was so excited to get to the famous beach but first we had to visit Woolworths to get out some cash in case we need to pay with it when we get to Cairns and of course as a back up. This meant we had to stay on while other people got off and went to enjoy themselves. Grrrrrr, Unfortunately when we got to the shop we found that we had no signal to use the app to get cash out and so settled on some jellybeans instead and went back to the bus. Now it was our turn to get off and explore. When we were in the middle of the “town”, we asked to stop and clambered off into the heat, heading straight for the beach.  We were going to be picked up around 3 for the trip back to Woolworths to get our shopping and so we had a while to explore. The beach was amazing. A thick line of green trees lined the beach and gave it a paradisiacal feel, as though you’d find it on a post card somewhere. It was also fairly deserted so nobody was running past in front of you and it felt almost like a deserted island somewhere. It was great.

As we slowly wandered down the sands towards a cluster of rocks, we watched loads of tiny “baller” crabs darting across in front of us and disappearing down tiny holes.  Surrounding these holes were millions of miniature balls of sand which created a carpet type of thing. I’ve watched loads of documentaries with time-lapses showing the crabs spreading the balls, which are created when they are sieving for food, across beaches so it was really interesting to see it for real. We spent quite a while just watching them crawling about like ants and taking some photos before deciding to venture on and see what there was further down. We had to be really careful where we were standing because they would just appear out of nowhere in front of you and we really didn’t want to crush any! A little bit up the beach we saw a blue bottle jellyfish washed up on the damp sand with a single stinging tentacle strung out behind it. Here and in New Zealand they are called blue bottles due to their colouring however in other parts of the world they are known as “Portuguese Man-o-Wars” which is what I know them as. Whilst they aren’t as venomous as the box jellyfish or the irukandji, their sting still hurts and so we avoided getting too close to it and continued our walk.

Suddenly I spotted something dry and crusty in front of us and, careful to not squash any crabs, we quickly wandered over to have a look. It was a shovel-nose guitarfish and so extraordinary to see up close if not extremely sad to see it like this. Shovel Nosed Guitarfish are a type of ray which was initially thought to be a member of the shark family due to their shark-like shape and movement. Although I appreciated seeing something I’d never seen before, I wished it could have been when it was alive as opposed to baked under the hot sun although for some reason, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I hoped I’d see a live one at some point. Codie shouted something so I tore myself away from the ray and went over to see the dead fish he’d found which looked quite cool because it had rows of really sharp, pointy teeth poking out of it’s mouth. It’s a shame so many things on the beach are dead; I understand that it shows the biodiversity of the sea but I wonder what had been killing so many things. Perhaps it’s just the usual thing like getting caught in the tide or simply reaching the end of a life but I’m not sure.

Finally, we made it to the rocks and Codie made me climb over them to reach a point where we could take a photo. I wasn’t too happy about this as I didn’t want to whack my camera on anything when trying to remain upright and wearing terribly unsuitable shoes for rock climbing but I did it anyway (whilst moaning of course). Once we’d had some pictures together and we’d looked at all the crystallised salt patches on the rocks, we carefully clambered back over to a shady patch and sat down for a break. A woman in front of us went in the sea for a swim without a stinger suit and it amazed me how she didn’t seem bothered at all. We’ve not seen any box jellyfish or anything yet but had just seen a washed up bluebottle so we knew there were some stingy things around and yet she carried on swimming as normal. I couldn’t do it, I’d just be paranoid the whole time and start imagining I was being stung! Instead, we found the bag of jellybeans and watched the tiny lizards running around us and over rocks and tree stumps. There was a really tiny one that seemed to just hover around us for ages and then ran across my foot and sat on my toe for a bit. I wasn’t expecting it at all and part of me wanted to jump because it was tickling me but I stayed still to appreciate it while it lasted. Sadly, the jellybeans weren’t as nice as we thought with them mainly being liquorice so they were shoved back in my bag which is when I noticed a larger lizard in front of us. I got up quickly to have a look but ended up tripping over my own feet and landed knee and elbow first in the sand. Now I was jellybean-less and sandy. Oh dear.

After the disappointment of the jellybeans, we were now quite hungry and so began the walk back to the main road. I saw something sticking up in the surf and as we got closer, we saw it was a huge fiddler crab trying to get into the sea. Walking closer towards it, I got some photos of it being thrown about in the waves and being washed back up again. Poor crab. This went on for ages with him being rolled over and flipped about until he finally disappeared from view and drifted off into the water. As we continued our walk back, I saw something moving on a rock and called Codie back to have a look. The rock was full of musselly cockle type creatures poking out their ‘tongues’ and licking up the salt. It was amazing to see it happening as I’ve only ever seen mollusc-y things stationary. This beach really was full of interesting things and not all were dead! Hooray!

Now starving, we finally reached the main road but before we could eat, I needed to wash the sand off my legs. We had tried to get rid of it with the bottle of water but it hadn’t got any off and we’d just lost our water. Hmmm. The only place with a sink was outside the public toilets and after stretching my leg up and possibly ripping some ligaments, I was finally clean again. We had a little look around the local newsagents but they didn’t sell food and so in the end we settled on fish and chips from a quiet little cafe down the road. I chose calamari rings, Codie chose a battered sausage and we both shared a portion of chips. Yum. It was very tasty. We took our time munching through our meal as we still had another hour or so until the minibus came back but we could only drag it our for so long and soon found ourselves sat outside in the heat. To pass the time, I suggested we play with the tiny pack of cards my mum had given me and so we played snap and “championeys” until the wind blew and the cards blew everywhere. Luckily it wasn’t so long until we were due to be picked up so we listened to a not-so-great playlist of cover songs drifting out of a nearby restaurant and then went to stand at the bus stop bit to wait.

Hot, sleepy and excited about looking back through our photos, we clambered out of the bus and slowly walked back to Woolworths. Even though the journey had only been about 5 mins, I was glad to be off it as the girl driving (the same one who’d picked us up yesterday) had been playing ridiculously loud music, not what we really wanted to in such a lovely area. We weren’t in a huge rush as the bus wouldn’t be leaving for another hour and so we leisurely made our way around the shop, looking for cheap and tasty things for tea.  Reduced steak seemed the perfect choice and after getting some rice to go with it and stocking up on water, we braved the bright sunlight and walked back to the bus stop. Since there was still another half an hour or so to go, the girl driving told us that we wouldn’t be able to get in the car and asked us to just wait on the benches instead. It was a bit annoying as it was really sunny with very little shade but she was going around to the front of the shop to collect the other staff and the hostel shopping so it was understandable. They wanted to get all their bags on first. Off we went to sit down, hoping that she’d come back soon when the Greyhound Bus arrived. If loads of people had got off needing to get to the hostel then we would have been automatically bumped off the list and would have had to stay there longer and with raw meat now getting warm, this wasn’t something we really wanted. Luckily for us though, only one girl did and we all waited for the minibus to come back around.

When it did, we were in for a bit of a nasty surprise. The girl had not only picked up the staff and the shopping, she’d picked up the other guests as well. With only two spaces left, the remaining staff member and the new arrival hopped in and the doors were slammed on us. I couldn’t believe what had actually happened as the driver knew full well that we’d been the first people back wanting to get on and had an almost smug look on her face when they pulled up. To make matters worse, once we’d accepted that we would have to wait at least 40 minutes for them to go and come back for us, one of the staff members who’d offered to stay behind then told the other staff sat on the bus that they needed to get off as it was always “guests first”. Well, it kicked off then. One guy got off and slammed the door, marching over and throwing himself on the bench like a little child. We did say that we were fine with them staying on to try and calm them down about and whilst a girl got back on, this guy sat there grumpily sighing and glaring. The minibus then left leaving us hot and now sat near someone who quite clearly hated us. How awkward. I’ve not worked in the hotel/hostel industry so cannot be entirely certain but I’m pretty sure that the guests are supposed to be the priority as they’re paying. Clearly not here though. Eventually the bus came back and we cautiously climbed on, well aware of the tension surrounding us. To be honest, by this time I couldn’t wait to leave and go to Cairns if only to find somewhere friendly and hospitable to base ourselves when we discover the area.

Back at the hostel and we went for a quick dip in the pool before having a shower. The pool was nice enough and had great views of the garden, it was perhaps just a little bit too murky to feel completely comfortable in. There had been a power cut at breakfast which probably cut the filter power so it wasn’t really the hostel’s fault although it took them that long to get the generator working, we’d left for the day before the power was back on. You expect that to happen in places in the rainforest though and I always find power cuts exciting, it’s interesting to see how people cope without electricity and being in a forest setting just adds to the fun. I kind of wished there was another one! After our swim, we got out and went for our showers before heading out to laze in the hammocks for a bit. It was lovely to just sit and listen to the sounds of birds and crickets whilst rocking and watching the trees in front of me. I read my book for a while but I was constantly distracted by various wildlife noises so just sat back and enjoyed listening to that instead. We stayed there until the darkness fell and somebody started blocking out the nature noises with their guitar and then headed back into the hostel to make tea. It was less busy in the kitchen so our steak and rice preparation went ok and we even managed to get decent seats for the film ‘Dinner for Schmucks’. Somebody was burning wood further into the forest so I kept getting distracted by that wondering if it was a bush fire but eventually it died and I turned my attention back to the film. It was actually quite good and once it had finished, we headed back to the room for a well earned sleep.

I had a lovely day in Mission Beach today and really enjoyed seeing all the wildlife and the skydivers landing on the beach. It’s a shame that our experienced has been tarnished a little bit by a couple of people but it hasn’t spoilt it too much, nothing could detract my attention from the little crabs!

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