Farewell Lord Howe

We’ve been here seven days but it feels much longer. I think because we were digitally removed from the world we totally rested.

No phones, wifi, tv, emails ……..

It’s quite refreshing. Try it sometime.

Our last morning was beautiful. Sun shining & water glistening. The quiet ….

Most of the friends we made over the week were leaving today. The airport is busy with four flights in and out. We exchanged email addresses and promises to keep in touch. Perhaps swim together next year.

After breakfast we visited the family cemetery next to Pinetrees Lodge. They have a long history with the island.

Pixie a 5th generation died in 2010

Walking through the little cemetery connected me to the family. They are a close family who care about Pinetrees and treat all guests as friends.

The present owners / managers of Pinetrees are Dani – daughter of Pixie and her husband Luke. Along with their two daughters Elsie and Pixie they continue the tradition.

Each guest is gifted the beautiful cookbook The Lord Howe Island Cookbook.

This beautiful book tells the story of the island and the families.

It’s a great read and is full of the recipes of the food we enjoyed so much this week.

Thank you Pinetrees and LHI for a wonderful week of memories. We’ll be back.

Readers I’m off to the Adelaide Writers’s Festival for a second year. Watch out for my posts.

Saturday …..my last chance to ramble at LHI

I hadn’t done any of the longer walks here so decided to leave Steve to rest a little after his morning swim and head off.

I was on my own and Lindy the helpful activities adviser warned me to be careful on the slippery tracks. Especially going downhill.

I headed off for Transit Hill which climbs up behind Pinetrees, winds along the ridge and then drops down to Blinky Beach , then swings back along past the airport.

Of course I missed the arrows at the turn off for Transit Hill and continued up the hill I was already walking. It came out near the path to Middle Beach.

The track going up was leafy and damp and so quiet.

Wonderful old Banyan Trees
On the ridge overlooking Middle Beach a poignant memorial

I passed the solar farm and continued gently sloping up to Clear View. A wonderful outlook towards Ball’s Pyramid. The weather today is beautiful so you could see the Pyramid in the distance.

I returned along the same track back down the hill and joined the Transit Hill track. It started off gently with a timber walk over the rain runoff, then became a track of steps. Climb, climb, climb. I passed some people who again warned me about the slippery path down the other side. They had turned back!

The track looked back over Pinetrees to the lagoon

I went up to the lookout and joined two men there to see the plane take off. There are about 4 planes a day in and out. The wind was good. The plane revved it moved down the runway and after a good ten minutes of revving with no take off the plane ended up back at the little terminal. A mechanical fault?

View from the lookout
The boat returning from Ball’s Pyramid. A much smoother trip than ours yesterday.

By now my red face had recovered and as I was setting off one of the men said I didn’t look right for a walk – my silver FRANKie 4 shoes, stylish hat and painted nails. I decided to take the hard route down.

In fact in wasn’t hard. It was slippery but I took it carefully and eventually ended up at Blinky’s Beach. It is a beautiful spot. There are waves here and the surfer man staying at Pinetrees tells me it’s a good place to catch a wave. He was out there in the distance enjoying some waves. And unlike most beaches he was alone. No crowded surf break.

The final walk along the airport road was hot and boring. Except for the farm with the Dorper sheep. These unusual sheep from South Africa shed their own wool. No shearing involved. The ones here are not for wool – but for meat.

I arrived back thinking Steve would be wondering where I was. He was about to send out a search party but as he joked with our beautiful French waitress if would involve too much paper work. Nice.

We had lunch on the deck for a change. No picnic or bbq for us. It was delicious. Fish cake with a tomato basil salsa.

We walked off lunch, heading to the pontoon beach for a swim then to the jetty to watch the fortnightly shop unload. What a spectacle.

Loads of crates where being fork lifted up to the town. The PO staff were there receiving the crates and helped by a dozen children who were unloading the crates.

Saturday is busy ! More cars than I have seen all week. All collecting parcels from the shop

Box after box of wine from Dan Murphy’s made its way into the PO storage area.

I wondered what they were paying the kids. Turns out they got a packet of lollies and a can of soft drink! The kids looked very happy.

Island life for locals particularly kid looks idyllic. There were a handful of kids we recognised from the schools Discovery Day activities all splashing around and jumping in from the pontoon. Others were riding bikes. Others helping unpack crates. Saturday bliss.

We enjoyed a bubble on the deck of the Crooked Post. A small pub / bar with a great verandah overlooking the water.

View from The Crooked Post

Sundowner drinks were a very friendly gathering. It’s amazing how you bond with others staying at a place like Pinetrees. You can mix in as much or as little as you want.

We joined AnneMarie and Greg again tonight. They are from Wollongong and we’ve shared many chats and laughs with them this week. We finished the night with Greg offering to order & pay for the cheese plate. Such a love gesture as that is what it was – the cheese plate is complimentary!

Lovely Lisa wishing us farewell.

Ball’s Pyramid near LHI

We woke to torrential rain. Would our plans be spoilt?

Half our friends were doing the difficult Mt Gower climb. Others were joining us on the boat trip to the iconic Balls Pyramid.

The weather (mainly wind) has been so bad that the trip has been constantly cancelled over the past few weeks. The rain definitely put a dampener on it but after a quick phone call – it was on!

Balls Pyramid is composed of nearly horizontally-bedded lava flows, the remnants of a volcanic plug formed in a former vent of a volcano. It is about 21 km from Lord Howe and is 551 m high and 1 km long.

Steve decided to swim the distance to the jetty to save him the 2 km walk. I walked in the rain. But by the time I got there at 7.30 it was clearing.

Steve came swimming in much to the amusement of our fellow travellers! He climbed up the jetty steps, dried off, got changed into dry gear and we all boarded the boat.

He needn’t have worried about dry clothes. The rain started! Out came the rain jackets and for me a poncho as well. Our seats at the back near the open sided boat meant we got not just the blowing rain but the spray as the boat hit wave after wave.

We cruised along the coast past amazing rock formations. you can see how choppy the water is!

A half an hour into the trip I was seriously wondering why I had come. It was so tough and soooooo wet.

The trip was nearly aborted but the captain decided we looked hardy enough to press on. So at the end of LH we headed towards Balls Pyramid 22km away in open water. Luckily the rain stopped, the sun struggled through and it was a lot more comfortable.

A dolphin accompanied us to Ball’s Pyramid

We could see the rock rising out of the water shrouded in clouds. In 1964 as a 20 year old Dick Smith along with some friends sailed to LHI and attempted to climb Balls Pyramid. They didn’t make it.

It was successfully climbed a year later by some Sydney climbers.

Dick Smith returned in 1980 and made it.

Finally made it.

The sun shone through just as the snorkelers entered the water. I couldn’t resist so I got in with no wet suit. It wasn’t too cold and I found myself swimming along with big yellow fish and even spotted a shark. It was just a smallish Galapagos shark. Nothing to worry about.

Adjusting my mask with a small stack behind me.

Back onto the boat and with dolphins swimming alongside us it was a smooth trip back. We went around the rest of the island stoping at the base of Mt Gower.

The side of Mt Gower. It doesn’t look easy to climb!

Oh those poor climbers. Today was not a good day for climbing what is known as a fairly difficult climb. Part of it has ropes that you must use to pull yourself up.

Today we met John, a swimmer from Sydney, who had the bruises to prove he had done the climb.

We arrived back fairly dry so stopped for coffee at Anchorage, one of the few restaurants here on Lord Howe.

We’d missed lunch at Pinetrees but they very kindly got us a bowl of the Asian style broth with chicken. Delicious. We had two big bowls so shared with Graham & Gail who we’d met on the boat. Poor Gail was not a good sailor. It was so rough she needed the sick bag so thoughtfully provided !

An afternoon swim and then it was drinks time. Time passes easily on island time.

We met some more lovely people at sunset drinks. Jenny & Bill from Glebe. Lots of fun.

Sunset drink anyone?

Dinner was once again amazing. The nicest Japanese style eggplant. Yum.followed by swordfish for me pork belly for Steve.

Dessert was a crème caramel with citrus served with a smile by Lisa.

Our new friends Graham & Gail left a little Cherry Ripe chocolate on our placement. A thank you for sharing our lunch. Lovely Swedish Lisa laughingly called them grandma chocolate- they don’t need much chewing!

Congratulations to Helen , AnneMaree, Greg and several other brave souls who made it up Mr Gower. It can’t have been easy.

Fun & Games on LHI.

Breakfast followed by a few games of the word game Banana Peel! That’s a different start to the day!

Games are a good way to get to know people and the Melbourne friends like their games and they always invite us to join in.

I followed up with another few games of backgammon with Tony. One game s spectacular win. The next a spectacular loss!

I joined the eco tour of the lodge. Led by Cameron it is a great part at Pinetrees Lodges daily working life. The gardens have gradually been redesigned by Cameron who seems to be a man of many talents. Very in touch with the environment he talked is through the garden, water collection and usage, the electricity, food provisions, staffing and general running of Pinteees. He was so engaging and knowledgeable.

Cameron head of grounds & gardens.

Suddenly it was nearly midday and our lift to Neds Beach was waiting.

Carol our driver volunteer took us on the regulation 20km per hour short 10 minutes drive to Neds on the opposite side of the island.

We snorkelled around the coral with the large blue fish. We spied lots of other coloured fish – no wonder as there are 450 species and 90 types of coral. Steve even had one nibble his toe.

We shared our delicious fish & steak BBQ with Phil and Jo – a couple of scientists now nursery owners from Wagga. So much fun and so interesting.

Steve and Phil rule the BBQ

Another swim and snorkel then a rest under the trees, reading before our longish walk back to Pinetrees. These longer walks are difficult for Steve but he does it ! We had intended to stop for drink at The Crooked Post for a drink but it had a sign saying closed for Discovery Day.

Discovery Day is a big day here at Lord Howe. Feb 17th celebrates their discovery in 1788 some 234 years ago by and named for Admiral Lord Howe by Lieutenant Henry Lidgbird Ball of the British navy. The island was first settled in 1834 and became a supply station for whalers.

There are now about 350 people. A small 3 teacher school. Many of the families are 5th generation including the family who still run Pinetrees Lodge.

What a program.

The celebration involves a fun sports day on the cricket oval adjoining the school. There are running races , sack races, three legged races, oldies races….. you name it there is a race. There is a break for dinner – which usually involves a big fish fry!

We called in and enjoyed a beer while watching the little kids do their running races, & sack races, urged on by parents and friends. This involves almost everyone on the island. I saw Cameron from the Pinetress eco tour. His two young children attend the school which has around 30 students. When they reach high school they either get home schooled or fly away to boarding school.

A crane with lights so activities could run late.

It’s looks like a fairly close knit community though like all small places it would have all the usual problems.

We stayed until the Dinner break – a bbq / fish fry in the school playground and went onto our own delicious dinner on the deck. Tonight a seafood bisque and strangely I broke my fish habit and had the confit duck!

Tomorrow a boat trip to Ball’s Pyramid- something Steve has been so keen to do.

Snorkelling on Lord Howe

Heavy rain so a slower start.

Steve still enjoyed a swim with the swim crew. They are all the Melbourne people who did the swim week with Trevor Hendy last year.

Steve talked the swimmers into swimming out and around the little island known locally as Rabbit island. they were very happy with that swim.

I stayed and learned to play backgammon with Tony. He patiently showed me what to do and of course with his guidance and some lucky throwing of the dice I won. Second game not so lucky. But I like the game.

We took our picnic and walked the foreshore towards the boat sheds. We were going on a snorkel trip at 3. The weather cleared and we took off. We had a great glass bottom boat with Dean our captain. He was very knowledgeable and made a great effort to get us into a good area out of the wind for a snorkel. I was pleasantly surprised.

After terrific snorkelling in Galapagos and at Lady Elliot Island I was pleased to see so many beautiful coloured fish. And a little Galapagos shark. Also a turtle and a big manta ray. The trip was with compliment of Pinetrees. Thank you very much!

Saw a few turtles.

I forgot to mention our visit to the weather station near the airport. We went with Peter from Chase ‘n Thyme Tours. Twice a day, every day of the year, weather balloons are released simultaneously from almost 900 locations worldwide! This includes 30 released in Australia . The balloon flights last for around 2 hours.

We were there in time for the 10.15 release.

And away it goes. It’s quickly released then floats up and away quickly.

Dinner was great. We shared again with Greg and Anne Maree. Lots of laughs.

Fish again for me and scotch fillet in a beautiful jus for Steve. Dessert a semifreddo with nut praline. Delicious.

Exploring Lord Howe

Steve set out at 7am for a swim with some of the other keen swimmers.

They swam to the pontoon about a 1.5 km along the lagoon – and back! I had a walk following them along.

Back in time for breakfast we had to be ready for pickup by Peter from Chase n’ Thyme tours. I. booked a few weeks ago. It is about 2-3 hrs and Peter has a 12 seater van and takes you to as much of the island as possible.

Chase ‘n’ Thyme

It was a perfect orientation to the island. The history and geography. Peter is married to a 5th generation local and he’s lived here for 30 years.

He took us to the south of the island and pointed out the features including the two Norfolk Island pinetrees that act as a navigational guide to boats entering the lagoon.

Pinetrees mark the lagoon entrance.

There are pine trees all over the island and are really regarded, by the head gardener at Pinetrees, as a pest. Their needles drop and leach the soil. They don’t break down easily and also germinate causing more trees to grow! But they are here to stay and certainly look attractive.

Mt Gower in the background.

We drove up to Neds Beach where there is a good coral reef close in – so is a must for snorkeling.

Then to the top of a hill and saw the solar farm. It and the Tesla batteries were provided at a huge cost by the NSW Govt. The power source is proving very valuable and has improved the cost of power to the island.

We saw the jetty where once a fortnight the supply shop arrives with the order for the resorts, restaurants and locals. It is a very popular day in LHI and occasionally due to very bad weather it is held up and everyone suffers. It’s also the reason why everything on the island is very expensive and planning for goods has to be thoroughly done.

Peter dropped us off at the pontoon area. This is the Main Street where they are a few shops and a restaurant, PO, local hall, a small bar called The Crooked Post and a general store. All on short hours! You must plan your visits to be between 10-12 and 2-4. Or miss out. Mind you the Crooked Post opens at 3ish or so the sign says!

Pinetrees has delivered us a bbq. This is part of their lunch options. A picnic , a bbq, or lunch on the deck.

Today we chose a bbq and after getting the woodfire going enjoyed our sausages. Next time I’m opting for fish! It comes with vegetables to grill, salad. All the trimmings. Even a beer or wine!

We packed up and left the picnic basket under a tree for pick up by Pinetrees later. We walked back via the coastal walk and enjoyed an hour rest before another swim.

The dinner was once again delicious. A Japanese style eggplant entree then fish for me and pork belly for Steve.

Steve had met Damon from Sydney. He’s here with the family for his mother in laws 70th. They have the Banyan Cottage. It looks great for a family celebration getaway.

Check out the Pinetrees website and see the Banyan Cottage. Just lovely.

https://pinetrees.com.au/pinetrees/

We are now used to no tv, no wifi, no phone. no contact.

Tony from Melbourne is going to teach us to play backgammon. Lessons start tomorrow!

We’ve met a few people now and enjoy chatting with drinks or sharing dinner.we seem to be the only people from Brisbane. Lots from Sydney and Melbourne.

Let the exploring begin.

We started the day with a great breakfast on the deck at Pinetrees. The staff here are lovely. They remember your name and help plan your day. You can choose a picnic or BBQ lunch or stay and have lunch on the deck.

The lagoon is perfect for a swim or a snorkel.

So what is there to do on LHI? It’s mostly about walking, swimming , snorkeling, golfing, bike riding and generally getting out into nature and making the most of it. Fortunately our weather is looking good. Apparently it’s been rainy and windy the last few weeks.

We’re a bit limited with some activities but I’m able to walk and Steve can swim so between us we are getting some activity.

After breakfast we walked to the little museum. It’s run by volunteers and has a lovely deck and cafe. It’s also one of only two places on the island with public wifi. I resisted!

The museum gives an overview of the history of LHI. This island is a unique place on earth. It is world heritage listed. More on the history later.

We passed the hospital- one doctor and two nurses. They are kept very busy with locals and then the visitors who seem to fall off bikes, or slip on walking tracks, or fall on Mt Gower. Let’s hope we don’t need medical attention.

The hospital

We checked out Joy’s general store. It has a huge range of things. From fresh and frozen produce to gifts, toys, useful items and alcohol.

Government House has very low security! The islands administrator lives there. It S just lovely.

Our picnic lunch was ready for us and we found a shady spot near the lagoon and enjoyed our ham, cheese, beetroot and feta salad followed by cheese and crackers.

A perfect lazy picnic.

The sun was shining and the water blue so I had my first swim. It’s beautifully clear water. It’s easy to swim out to where the coral starts. You start to see coloured fish or if you’re lucky a turtle or some rays. Steve did when he swam out a lot further.

The water temperature was just perfect. It’s around 23 in the water so very comfortable. Apparently, it’s best swim weather over the summer months. February in particular.

The afternoon was spent reading and dozing in the afternoon sun and suddenly it was G & T time.

Dinner was once again delicious. A few lightly spiced prawns followed by swordfish for me and beef cheek for Steve. Dessert was a small cinnamon donut with poached pear. It was Valentines Day so we enjoyed a few bubbles.

Sleeping was easy.

Hello Lord Howe Island

A jewel in the ocean. That’s what it’s like arriving at LHI.

Arriving with Mt Gower ready to climb!

The two tall mountains, Mt Gower and Mt Lidgbird stand watch over the sparkling lagoon.

The 2hr plane flight in a small 30 seater was smooth and easy.

We pulled into the airport and straight through to be met by Lindy and Tom from Pinetrees Lodge.

We wondered how many other swimmers would be on our flight and it didn’t take long to meet up with Jane & Tony from Melbourne who along with their friends Anna & Brad , Helen & John had enjoyed the swim week so much last year they booked again. They were just as disappointed as we were that we wouldn’t be doing it.

We had a little drive with Tom pointing out some of the island features before arriving for a welcome drink and orientation.

It’s very relaxed and we quickly met another lovely couple from Wollongong AnneMaree & Greg, who are also returned visitors. It’s seems once you’ve been once you are likely to return.

Everyone cycles, snorkles and walk. We’ll be a little restricted with our knee and arm problems but intend to make the most of our week in paradise. It really is beautiful here.

Our room a Palm Room is comfortable, not huge, but has everything we need including a timber verandah with chairs and a bench bed. It overlooks a garden area with chairs for reading in the sun. There is no tv or wifi so time is devoted to relaxing outdoors.

Pinetrees is close to the lagoon which suits us as a short walk later we are at the waters edge and the boathouse.

Guests gather at the boat shed for ‘sundowners’. A beer , wine , bubbles on the deck or spilling over onto the grass. It’s a great pre-dinner spot to watch a spectacular sunset.

Dinner is served on the deck at 7.30. It’s coolish – more than I expected but the warmth of the international staff is just right. We sat with Annemarie and Greg from Wollongong and had a great night.

We had Lisa from Sweden and Francisco from Chile looking after us explaining the dinner for the night. It was all delicious. Four courses but not big and there is always a choice of a fish, meat or vegetarian.

It changes every night and features local fish and interesting local herbs and garnishes.

The watermelon starter with labne and pomegranates was fresh and delicious.

Following up with fish with the loveliest carrot and ginger glaze. Dessert featured chocolate or a light raspberry granita. Perfect small light serves.

The staff at the lodge encourages guests to get out and exercise during the day. They supply picnic baskets so you can move around and find a perfect shady spot up relax and enjoy a light lunch.

Even though the swim week has been cancelled Steve has organised a swim each morning with the Melbourne swimmers. They will swim along the lagoon or out and around the island.

I can tell we’ll have a great week.