Lord Howe Island is an ancient volcanic plug sitting in the Tasman Sea about 2 hours flight in a Dash-8 aircraft from the New South Wales coast. We had planned our holiday there in February to maximise warm conditions for snorkelling. Even before we arrived, it became an adventure. After our aborted flight on Sunday afternoon, we returned to Brisbane. No further flights were scheduled from Brisbane till the following Saturday. So we waited to be redirected to Sydney until being told all flights to Sydney were cancelled due to the low pressure system flooding the whole east coast. We finally adjourned to friends Wendy and Gary who kindly put us up for the night. Next day we set off again for Sydney. Our flight to Lord Howe Island was scheduled for 11.55am Tuesday. Arriving at Sydney airport at 10pm Monday, we took a cab to the Ibis airport hotel. No one informed us that there are in fact two Ibis airport hotels so after being turned away from the first one, we finally settled into room 251 in the Budget Ibis. A short night ensued of tossing and turning.
Feeling emboldened the next morning, we rocked up to the Qantas counter and asked if we could get an earlier flight to Lord Howe Island. A success finally! At the boarding gate we met our travelling companions from our aborted Brisbane to Lord Howe flight and swapped stories of the last 36 hours. Eventually we boarded the very full Dash 8 again, sighting our bags waiting to load on the luggage trolley. Perhaps things might go right on this trip after all! Within an hour and a half, we were in sight of the iconic mountains Lidgbird and Gower which make up the southern tip of the island, albeit covered in cloud.
Barbara our hostess from Broken Banyan greeted us at the arrival lounge and we waited as a second flight came in and more Broken Banyan guests arrived. it wasn’t until we were reunited at our cabin did we both realise that our luggage had not made either flight! Barbara with her ubiquitous companion Charlotte took us to Joy’s Shop to buy essentials.
Having adjusted to having no swimming togs, no snorkels and none of our self-catering food, we thought we’d hire some bikes and begin an exploration of the island. The guy at Wilson’s Bike Hire kitted us out with two rather basic bikes and suggested we try them out. No one knew that my bike had a jammed back brake pad which locked up when the wheel was sharply turned. So on executing a sharp u-turn, I did a spectacular stack in the middle of Lagoon Road. The problem was ultimately fixed and my skinned elbow plastered. It was only when I returned to Broken Banyan that I took my phone out of my pocket and found it was completely smashed and dead. Not only that but I had a fabulous iPhone shaped bruise on my thigh!
Next morning we were determined to have a better day. Cycling to Ned’s Beach we checked out the surf. A roadside stall with an honesty box had avocados, papaya and bananas. We bought an avocado, to replace the one still sitting at Sydney airport in our luggage. At 12.30, we joined Marine Adventures coral viewing, snorkelling and turtle tour, a 3.5 hour tour to North Bay with Anthony. We donned wetsuits over our underwear and watched a family of white terns protect their babies in the pisonia tree next to Marine Adventure’s boat shed.
Our afternoon was spent snorkelling over myriad types of coral and sea grass. We saw giant clams, sea urchins, parrot fish, butterfly fish – Lord Howe’s version of Nemo and many more. Landing at North Bay, we walked across to Old Gulch over so many types of weathered volcanic stones and through Kentia palm groves.
Anthony took us along the shoreline of North Bay, pointing out Sooty, Black and Brown Terns, as well as migratory Bar Tailed Godwits and Ruddy Turnstones. On our return, as the tide was ebbing, we watched two huge green turtles cleaning their bellies on an old sea plane anchorage chain.
Cycling home we arrived to Barbara informing us our luggage had finally arrived. Hooray!
However we had already adjusted to island style. Just as well, as we received a briefing that Cyclone Uesi, a Category 2 cyclone, was bearing south from Noumea.