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The curious cassowary approaches.

Cassowaries are large flightless birds that live in northern Australia and New Guinea, ranking behind only the ostrich and emu in size.  They are reputedly hard to find, potentially dangerous and prone to chase people if disturbed.  Quoting Wikipedia: "A cassowary's three-toed feet have sharp claws. The second toe, the inner one in the medial position, sports a dagger-like claw that is 125 millimetres (5 in) long.  This claw is particularly fearsome since cassowaries sometimes kick humans and animals with their enormously powerful legs. Cassowaries can run up to 50 km/h (31 mph) through the dense forest. They can jump up to 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) and they are good swimmers."

Up close and personal with the cassowary
before starting the run.

On several trips to North Queensland prior to 2011, I had only ever seen a cassowary once, glimpsed as it emerged from the jungle beside the road as we drove by.  So, when Sharon and I visited the region in 2011, an encounter seemed unlikely, though like most tourists we hoped to see one.

We visited Mission Beach, a town south of Cairns, on one day and planned to include a short 8km run through Djiru National Park along the Musgravea Trail in our activities.  The area was known for its cassowary population, and Sharon was a little nervous about the possibility of an encounter.  I, on the other hand, thought it unlikely and played down the risks should we be lucky enough to see one.

Sharon setting the pace after the cassowary
had departed.

We parked our car at the Licuala trackhead and were very surprised to find a curious cassowary wandering around the parking area, obviously not the least bothered by our presence.  It had probably been fed by tourists (discouraged) and now associated people with food.  Sharon and I stretched and walked around a little, taking some photos and waiting for the cassowary to lose interest.  It remained curious, and eventually I became impatient to start running, while Sharon remained reticent.  I set off down the trail and almost immediately the cassowary began chasing me while Sharon, who had remained stationary, called for me to stop.  I continued running, looking over my shoulder a little warily, and very conscious of the bird's sharp talons and potential speed.  The bird continued chase behind.

On the Musgravea Trail.

Eventually, I decided discretion was the better part of valour and stopped and turned around.  The cassowary also stopped, hesitated for a moment, and then just wandered off into the scrub.  We completed our run and there was no sign of it when we returned to the car park.  We had survived our cassowary encounter, and didn't see another on the trip.

I ran an easy 5km round Copa this morning, moving a little better, but with my bad right knee quite sore all the way.