Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Iron Range

Heathland of the Iron Range (Photo by Narca)

The Iron Range... what does that name conjure for you? For me it's synonymous with remoteness, a place of mystery, a place with rich interweaving of viney rainforest, heathlands, and mangrove-fringed tropical beaches. Its fabled birdlife crisscrosses the Torres Strait between wintering grounds in Papua New Guinea and breeding grounds on the Cape York Peninsula. In this region of only two seasons––drought and flood––access by road is impossible for months at a time. The Iron Range! The timing of our entire trip to Australia has pivoted around being able to get to this place.

After we leave the main Peninsula Developmental Road with its clouds of red dust, washboard, and speeding drivers, the road east leads through progressively lusher forest and hills, until we're back in the rainforest haunts of cassowaries. We aim for Chili Beach, arrive after dark, and set up camp. The night is warm and humid, and the surfsound lulling, as we drift into sleep.

Chili Beach (Photo by Narca)

Morning brings us the first of the Iron Range's fabulous specialties––a huge, black Palm Cockatoo flies right over our camp. Jim tracks it into a Beach Almond, where it is unobtrusively perched near the treetop, gnawing the almond-like fruits and seeds. He finds it by the sprinkle of vegetable bits falling onto the path.

Palm Cockatoo at Chili Beach (Photo by Narca)

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