Paradise Found

 

 

Lord Howe Island, New South Wales

 

Early January 2017. For once we’d arrived at an airport with plenty of time to spare and what a blessing that turned out to be. It was the first working day after New Year. Australia was returning from its holidays and going back to work. And then there were all the tourists now trying to leave Sydney, between one and one and a half million of them, according to our taxi driver. So what could make a departure from Kingsford Smith’s domestic terminal, bright and early that sunny morning, any more exciting? Simple. The entire baggage computer system can crash.

 
 

 
 

Walking in through departures, a sea of people. Queues spiraling off all around the concourse, at least three separate queues that I could see. And none of them moving anywhere fast. We sought advice and I took my place at the end of the recommended queue. 20 minutes ticked by. I’d struck up a good rapport with the couple now standing behind me but advanced less than three feet. Assorted ground staff approached demanding boarding cards but everything relating to our flight was in Mike’s shirt pocket. And he’d long since disappeared. The stress levels were starting to rise.

 
 

 
 

Nor was the systems failure our only problem. The luggage allowance for Lord Howe Island is minuscule, 14kg. Both our cases were over it but we’d decided to wing it. So to speak. Bad idea. In his travails around the airport information desks Mike had established that the weight rule is rigorously enforced. Any luggage deemed overweight is marked accordingly, with the risk that it could be pulled from the hold. Mine was a bit over, Mike’s was a lot.

So, as it turned out, during his absence Mike had been busy. Next to a luggage weighing machine he’d been offloading some of his stuff into our overflow suitcase (destined for left luggage to await our return). The tripod was turfed out. So was the alarm clock. Some of his clothes. And still the case failed to make the grade. A couple of people were watching him intently from a nearby bench “What on earth have you got in there mate.. that suitcase looks half empty.” Mike explained the Lord Howe problem.

As a last ditch measure my indefatigable Other Half stripped off his shorts, right there in the middle of the airport concourse, switched them for the jeans in the suitcase and pulled on those instead. His audience waited anxiously as the case returned to the weighing machine. “And..??”
“13.8!”
“Yaaay!!!!!”

 
 

 

And so, eventually, here we were again in a teeny tiny plane with those criss-crossey things.. oh you know the drill, we’ve seen this movie before. Except that this time we were headed out over open ocean, 779 km (484 miles) north east of Sydney. For anyone on board with a sensitivity to flying low over water, especially on landing, the runway at Lord Howe presents something of a challenge. As you can see. Mercifully the Qantas stewardess had spent the earlier part of the flight walking up and down the plane offering wine. Including top ups. Yes, it was before noon. No, I am not sorry. There were mitigating circumstances after all.

 
 

 

The stunning view from Kim’s Lookout

But, oh my, oh my. Was it all worth it? Well of course it was. From just about any vantage point on Lord Howe the landscape is idyllic.

 
 

 

Looking south from Malabar

 

The island is a volcanic remnant formed over 7 million years ago, about 10km (6.2 miles) long and between 0.3 and 2.0 km (0.19 and 1.24 miles) wide. Incredibly, weathering has eroded the island to just 1/40th of its original size. Lord Howe is dominated by two mountains, Mount Gower the tallest at 875 m (2,871 ft), far right above, and Mount Lidgbird alongside.

We became fascinated by another mountain lying 23 km (14 miles) offshore. You can just glimpse it in the photo above, poking out of the sea centre right on the horizon. Balls Pyramid. Uninhabited but for birds and the last known colony of the Lord Howe Island stick insect. 

 
 

 

Closer.. a rather menacing presence in this shot. But perhaps I’ve just read too much Stephen King. The Dark Tower came instantly to mind.

 
 

 

Balls Pyramid

Out there be dragons. Or stick insects.

 
 

 

On Lord Howe we walked and walked and walked. Along the beaches, up hill and down dale. The island has many well marked trails, graded for level of difficulty. Given the nature of the terrain there are many steps and getting to some of the best viewpoints can require a challenging climb.

 
 

 

In some places the paths are so steep ropes are provided to haul yourself up.

 
 

 

Much of the interior of Lord Howe is clothed by trees, a welcome relief from the heat of the sun. Kentia palms (Howea forsteriana), a houseplant for most of us in cooler climes, are endemic to Lord Howe.

 
 

 

Pandanus forsteri

 
 

 

Banyan Fig

 
 

 

The intrepid photographer. Reunited with his shorts.

 
 

 

View north from Intermediate Hill

 

Around 350 people reside permanently on Lord Howe with tourist numbers restricted to 400 at any one time. Self catering once again here we briefly experienced life as an islander, sharing our little patch of paradise with a horse and a flock of hens. Take a walk in the paddock and the chooks would suddenly appear from all corners like bees to a honey pot. Visitors provide rich pickings it would seem.

The stunning natural beauty and quieter way of life on Lord Howe have been protected since 1982 by its listing as a World Heritage site. You would need islander status to be permitted to build and then only on existing sites, land for development has already been allocated and no more will be released. When a house does come up for sale it is offered to islanders first. Only if it then fails to sell will the property go to the open market. The last time this happened was seven years ago with the property selling for 1.2m AUD (£730,000). With only a couple of small shops for a limited range of provisions (although, importantly, that does include a Bottle Shop), everything here is expensive. Unless it can be produced on the island goods have to be flown in or conveyed by the fortnightly supply ship.

 
 

 

And then there is the wildlife, predominantly birds

The first encounter came as something of a surprise. I heard it long before I found it, an unmistakable call so familiar and yet so seemingly out of place. The Eurasian blackbird. Introduced originally to New Zealand it apparently hopped across the ocean and liked what it found so much it stayed. And why not indeed.

 
 

 

White tern

 
 

 

Gorgeous

 
 

 

White Terns don’t go to all the fuss of building a nest, they just lay an egg in the fork of a tree or even just a small depression on a branch. The chick has well developed feet, should it need to hang on!

 
 

 

Blinky Beach

 
 

 

Sooty Terns

What got me is how trusting these birds are.  They were nesting right on the footpath down to the beach.

 
 

 

Do you mind if I pass this way Sir?

 
 

 

Awwwww…!!

Totally unfazed by my hunkering down right next to it.

 
 

 

Although it was probably just as well I didn’t do anything out of turn..

 
 

 

The Common Noddy

 
 

 

“Do you come here often?”

 
 

 

At Ned’s Beach there’s no need for scuba gear to see the fish, or even a snorkel. Nope, just paddle out into the surf and they will come to you. Could the fish food dispenser located in the beach hut have anything to do with it one wonders?

 
 

 

Some of the customers are pretty spectacular

 
 

 

Mutton Bird Point

For me the highlight of the bird watching experience came on our final walk. And we almost missed it. The walk was a long one and weariness was setting in. But the path to the lookout was just a short diversion after all..

See those white specks on the headland? The zoom lens on the bridge camera picked them out.

 
 

 

Masked boobies

 
 

 

Constantly squabbling. The noise was quite something.

 
 

 

Now that’s better. A moment of peace.

In the centre, a juvenile

 
 

 

Every so often one of the birds would take off from the headland and give us the once over

 
 

 

Absolute magic. I could have stayed there all day.

 
 

 

Or even all year..

 

On the journey back to Sydney the weight issue reared its head again, but this time with bells on. At the airport check in desk the suitcases, as you might expect, are carefully assessed. Of course this time we were properly prepared. Or were we? Because for the return flight even the passenger has to get on the scales. Jeans included.

There are two issues confronting the pilot, as it turns out. First off, as we’ve already seen, the runway is exceedingly short. Hence the teeny tiny plane. But secondly there’s limited re-fuelling on Lord Howe. When the plane leaves the mainland it has to have enough juice on board for both the outbound and inbound trips. And thus, on his arrival on the island the pilot needs to make a careful calculation. If there’s more weight than fuel for the return flight something, or someone, has to stay behind..

 
 

 

One thing’s for sure. There’d surely be no shortage of volunteers.

Yours truly was at the front of the queue.

 
 
 

pin it?


 
 
 

2017-04-04T11:52:33+00:00 April 3rd, 2017|Tags: |58 Comments

58 Comments

  1. TextileRanger April 3, 2017 at 2:15 pm - Reply

    Thank you for giving me a lovely virtual trip to start my Monday morning off right!

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 8:04 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome. Only wish I could do it every Monday morning!

  2. Vera April 3, 2017 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    Thoroughly enjoyed sharing your trip, and even had a momentary longing to paddle my toes amongst those fishes, which soon left me when the thought of perhaps getting eaten by a shark came into my mind!

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 8:13 pm - Reply

      You’d be quite safe there. The water is shallow for a long way out and crystal clear. Any shark would be easy to spot. And I can vouch for the fact it is also nice and warm!

  3. Caro April 3, 2017 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    How on earth do you know the names of all the vegetation and birds, Jessica? Your research (or guide book) is impressive. What a wonderful place to visit, absolutely glorious, not surprised you wanted to stay – but I suppose all that walking had whittled off a few essential kilos for the return flight as you and Mike are safely back in Devon. Great read, was with you all the way (in spirit, obvs).

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 8:25 pm - Reply

      I did a bit of research but was mostly helped by our considerate hosts who left bird and plant identification guides in our cottage, not to mention maps for all the walks. And it had reliable internet access. Imagine that.. a little pin prick of an island in the middle of an ocean. Ours is rubbish in comparison.

  4. Steve April 3, 2017 at 4:22 pm - Reply

    Absolutely fantastic and I thought I got to some great places. Our next stop is to a private Scottish island. No electricity, no internet and no mobile phones and just a couple of cottages and 4 of our friends coming with us. Hopefully will see otters and much more but to live up to Lord Howe Island it is going to have to work hard. Anyway there is no limit as we arrive by boat!

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 8:31 pm - Reply

      Your Scottish adventure sounds wonderful. I would love to have some time away properly out of contact, what a great way to relax. No electricity though… hmmm.

  5. An Eye For Detail April 3, 2017 at 4:34 pm - Reply

    How absolutely beautiful. Your post and story of the weight problem is wonderful and thank you for writing all that! What a place. Not likely that I will ever see it, so this was a real treat.

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 8:36 pm - Reply

      If we ever get a chance to go back we’ll be much better prepared! It was always going to be a challenge to meet the weight limit though. We were in Australia for over six weeks in total, you can’t do that on 14kgs. Hence the overflow suitcase in left luggage.

  6. justjilluk April 3, 2017 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    I had better not show the DP this post. The birds !!!! Wow.

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 8:37 pm - Reply

      The birds were just wonderful. A real highlight of Lord Howe for me. And being able to get so close to them too.

  7. jannaschreier April 3, 2017 at 6:42 pm - Reply

    I did wonder, for a moment there, if you would ever forgive me for mentioning the words ‘Lord’ and ‘Howe’ on my blog! But it seems you fell in love with it just as much as we did, which made up for the somewhat hairy journey. You brought back very happy (and noisy!) memories for us. It is one of the, if not the, most magical place I have ever visited.

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 8:43 pm - Reply

      It’s not just the landscape, the weather and the birds, it is just so laid back. The quality of life there surely can’t be beaten. Perhaps they get fed up with the constant influx of tourists. Maybe? Or the limited range of food choices in the shop? I’m grasping at straws here..

  8. Kris P April 3, 2017 at 7:40 pm - Reply

    You did Australia right, Jessica. I’m so impressed! I think you should make a book out of your trip – I have no doubt it would sell well (and perhaps fund your next journey of exploration?).

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 8:45 pm - Reply

      It would be more proactive than waiting to win the lottery.. thanks Kris.

  9. Sue Garrett April 3, 2017 at 8:28 pm - Reply

    Just as well that you didn’t need to change in the airport. Don’t those terns dive bomb you as the Arctic Terns do?

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 8:59 pm - Reply

      The two in the picture were certainly keeping a close eye on me, I hoped my hat would save me from those beaks! But it was fairly low key and I think we moved on before they started to get uncomfortable. We first saw sooty terns many years ago in the Seychelles. I remember walking through a similar breeding colony, although much bigger at close to a million birds. There they do serious dive bombing, it was actually quite alarming.

  10. Denise April 3, 2017 at 8:41 pm - Reply

    Quite spectacular. Loving the banyan fig. I imagine some of the scenery must feel most overwhelming, but in a good way.

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 9:02 pm - Reply

      In some of those viewpoints I just sat looking at it for a long time. So incredibly beautiful it is hard to believe you are actually there.

  11. smallsunnygarden April 4, 2017 at 12:11 am - Reply

    It must have been entirely Awww, Ooooh, and perhaps a bit of Aargh, but clearly well worth it! Such a gorgeous post, Jessica 🙂

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 9:04 pm - Reply

      Thanks Amy. Yes, all of those!

  12. Linda Brazill April 4, 2017 at 1:17 am - Reply

    You will be talking about, remembering and still enjoying this trip 50 years from now. What an incredible experience.

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 9:14 pm - Reply

      We’d been planning and saving for this trip for a long time. I was terrified that after all the anticipation it would disappoint. But it never did.

  13. Beth @ PlantPostings April 4, 2017 at 2:12 am - Reply

    Oh my, I’m so in awe of the views. It truly looks like paradise! Memories for the ages, right? And your photography is so effective, we all feel like we were right there along with you. Awesome. (I was actually feeling a little nervous during the luggage part. I’m glad it worked out OK.)

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 9:19 pm - Reply

      I was feeling very nervous during the luggage part. It didn’t help that I’d not taken a phone so I couldn’t contact Mike and find out where he was. Don’t tell him though, he’s been nagging me about getting a new phone for months.

  14. Virginia April 4, 2017 at 6:43 am - Reply

    Oh Jessica – you missed a caption … the second photo of the terns …. “One good tern deserves another” … surely!! What a wonderful trip – although being weighed on the return trip would have flummoxed me!

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 9:25 pm - Reply

      I’ve previously been to another island with a colony of sooty terns and they actually sold T shirts with that slogan! I should have thought of it..
      Yes, being weighed was a bit of an embarrassment. Thankfully the hand luggage came on the scales with me, enough to muddy the waters somewhat.

  15. Amy at love made my home April 4, 2017 at 8:11 am - Reply

    Wow, definitely well worth getting there!!! It is stunning isn’t it. I think that I saw this island on a tv show, but it looks even more amazing in your photos, so must really be incredible in person. Glad it was worth the hard work to get on the plane!

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 9:28 pm - Reply

      It is just such a relaxing place to be. There are a few cars but the main way to get about, for tourists anyway, is by bicycle. A completely different world.

  16. Rosie April 4, 2017 at 9:30 am - Reply

    How wonderful everything looks and your photos are stunning. Glad the photographer was reunited with his shorts after all the weight and wait anxiety at the airport:)

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 9:33 pm - Reply

      It was a bit of an anxious time. Never mind, made it in the end. These things are sent to try us. And they do.

  17. germac4 April 4, 2017 at 9:31 am - Reply

    I’ve never been to Lord Howe Island, so it was a treat to go there, and I didn’t even need to worry about luggage. The colour of the water is amazing and the fish swimming right up to you…wow! I haven’t seen any of those birds, except the good old Blackbird (I love to hear him sing on a summer’s evening.)..glad you got out of there with your jeans and shorts! You have picked some great places to visit.

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 9:39 pm - Reply

      I’m glad you have blackbirds too. Their call is wonderful in summer. The only trouble is they start at first light and we have one in the tree nearest to the bedroom window. We’ve just moved to British Summer Time so it’s about 6.15 at the moment. Getting a minute earlier every day..

  18. emilymbrown13 April 4, 2017 at 10:09 am - Reply

    How absolutely glorious! What a great start to the year.

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 9:46 pm - Reply

      The only problem is leaving the tropics and coming back to West Country grey skies and rain!

  19. Jo April 4, 2017 at 11:30 am - Reply

    Paradise? I think you found Heaven on Earth! What a beautiful place and all that bird life. Stunning photos. I had a little giggle at the jeans episode.

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 9:51 pm - Reply

      The White Terns are just gorgeous. And I never expected to see Boobies. A real highlight for me.

  20. Brenda April 4, 2017 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    Looks like paradise to me. The menacing presence of Ball’s Pyramid adds a fitting magical quality. I imagine they have to work to keep the birds and animals off the runway. It looks like cattle (or something) are grazing near the end. Fences will work for them, but the birds? Ouch.

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 9:59 pm - Reply

      Yes, they were cattle. Presumably they’ve got used to (very) low flying aircraft by now. On a previous holiday we were on an even smaller island with a grass airstrip and every morning before the plane came in a man would cycle up the runway to check for livestock. One day we saw him return, still on his bike, but with a large tortoise under one arm!

  21. frayedattheedge April 4, 2017 at 7:14 pm - Reply

    Absolutely fabulous!! On one of the legs of my New Zealand trip, both the luggage and the passengers were weighed – as I was last on the passenger list, I had to wait for the next plane!

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 10:00 pm - Reply

      Noooo! I hope you got an extra day’s holiday 🙂

  22. snowbird April 4, 2017 at 11:29 pm - Reply

    Oh goodness me, a paradise for sure! Loved the birds and delicious views, I haven’t visited so it was a real treat to read this. I’m laughing as I type at hubs antics with the shorts, shame that pic didn’t feature!! As for the luggage bit and yet another, even teenier, tiny plane, well, I’m shaking just thinking about it!!! Sweet Jesus, it’s a great big NO from me!!! You really are brave! Hats off to you!xxx

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 10:02 pm - Reply

      I needed the wine!

  23. Brian Skeys April 5, 2017 at 7:05 am - Reply

    It is difficult to find words to adequately describe this post Jessica. For those of us who have never visited, thank you for sharing your time there.

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 10:05 pm - Reply

      The post will help me remember it, that and the hundreds of pictures that didn’t make the cut. Thanks Brian.

  24. Anne April 5, 2017 at 10:36 am - Reply

    It looks a wonderful place Jessica, thanks for so bravely taking us there.

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 10:18 pm - Reply

      Thanks Anne. Not really brave, just a few deep breaths and yes please, I’ll have a top up!

  25. Linda P April 5, 2017 at 12:05 pm - Reply

    Another wonderful blog post Jessica, Thank you.

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 10:20 pm - Reply

      Thanks Linda.

  26. Mrs G.H. April 5, 2017 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    Journey of a lifetime, memories for ever. A privilege to share it with you. x.

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 10:22 pm - Reply

      Thanks. It will be a difficult act to follow.

  27. Marian St.Clair April 5, 2017 at 3:36 pm - Reply

    Spectacular! Goodness, I feel absolutely boring in comparison:^)

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 10:25 pm - Reply

      No, no way! I’m needing Spring though. The first few weeks coming back to winter were truly dreadful.

  28. Julieanne April 5, 2017 at 9:27 pm - Reply

    It does look like paradise. Wow. I guess you wouldn’t have to mind wind though! Those sooty terns are so cute.

    • Jessica April 5, 2017 at 10:32 pm - Reply

      You can see the wind in the shot of me with the camera, the grass is being blown almost flat. But, as you know, it’s warm wind. A bit different to here! And that was an exceptionally windy day.

  29. Peter/Outlaw April 6, 2017 at 6:40 pm - Reply

    How tempting it would be to never leave this magical and peaceful place. I’m not a fan of flying and do a little self-medicating before boarding regardless of the hour.

    • Jessica April 8, 2017 at 8:55 pm - Reply

      The self medicating does help doesn’t it. And one always arrives happy!

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