A wallaby was making itself comfortable outside my hostel, nibbling at its grassy breakfast without a care in the world. After nearly a month in Oz, this was the closest I had come to seeing any of its native wildlife. After taking pictures from every imaginable angle I reluctantly left it alone to finish its early morning snack in peace.
I was visiting Mission Beach, Australia, a coastal village which boasted endless white sandy beaches and patches of the Great Barrier Reef along its shores. Three months before my visit the resort had been struck by Cyclone Yasi, a Category 5 storm which flooded and destroyed a large chunk of Australia’s East Coast. Mission Beach had been one of the most affected areas and it was only just beginning to get back on its feet. Usually overrun with tourists, the devastation had caused businesses to shut and tourists to blacklist the struggling area.
I was staying at Absolute Backpackers, (http://www.absolutebackpackers.com.au/), which was run by friendly staff who were more than happy to explain what there was to see in the area. Eating in the recommended local pub was the first time during my visit to Australia when I didn’t hear a single British accent, this was the proper Australia where burly men in vest-tops downed pints of beer over plates of steak. It was refreshing to say the least!
The next morning I headed down to the beach. My original plan had been to do some of the local rainforest walks but Yasi had destroyed the tourist walkways, leaving the forests treacherous. The village itself was eerily quiet with barely anyone around. Businesses were boarded up and debris was still strewn at the roadside. The staff at the hostel had encouraged us to support the remaining businesses and being a poor traveller, I felt awful that the only thing I could afford was an ice cream from a local cafe.
The thick strip of trees that had once lined the beach lay like ghosts along the shore. The beach itself was still beautiful, an everlasting strip of sand which met a calm sea, the broken trees and deserted view adding to the town’s haunted feel. A short way out to sea was Dunk Island, a usual tourist spot which was normally popular with day-trippers but had now been closed for the foreseeable future due to Yasi. It seemed mad that such a violent disaster could happen in such a peaceful place. Walking along the beach, skydivers began to drop from the sky, landing softly on the sand. It reassured me to see that all was not lost in this beautiful place.