While the days are still warm, it is worth doing the walk between Bittangabee Bay and Hegarty’s Bay, an area of the Light-to-Light Walk, inaccessible by car. The Light-To-Light Walk is in the southern part of Ben Boyd National Park, which I have previously featured in: https://candeloblooms.com/2016/08/16/ben-boyd-national-park-part-1/ and https://candeloblooms.com/2016/08/23/ben-boyd-national-park-part-2-photo-essay/. The walk stretches 30 Km from Boyds’ Tower in the north to Green Cape Lighthouse in the south. Here is a photo of the interpretive board provided by National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).While we would love to do the walk in its entirety one day, at least most of the key areas (Boyd’s Tower, Leatherjacket Bay, Saltwater Bay, Bittangabee Bay and Green Cape) can be visited by car on day trips, except for Hegarty’s Bay, which can only be accessed on foot, either from Saltwater Bay in the north or Bittangabee Bay (photos below) in the south!While we had heard about its great scenic beauty, its inaccessibility was an added lure, so in July 2017, we finally did the 9 Km return walk between Bittangabee Bay and Hegarty’s Bay and it was everything we expected and more! The walk takes 3.5 hours return, though we actually took a bit longer as we kept stopping for photographs!We started from the Bittangabee Bay Picnic Area and walked down the hill to the beautiful Bittangabee Bay Beach with views of the green green water of the sheltered bay and the Imlay’s old storehouse to the south. It’s a lovely little sandy beach, backed by a small creek and lagoon, with rocky platforms either end. We love just sitting on the rocks to the north of the beach! We rockhopped north to another small cove. The beach was teaming with hordes of soldier crabs, marching down to the water’s edge or diving into their burrows, before we too dived into the bush to rejoin the track north to Hegarty’s Bay.After crossing the lovely little Bittangabee Creek, we headed uphill through a thick forest of banksias, sheoaks, pittosporum, melaleucas and beautiful gums… to stunning heathland…
with intermittent views of the ocean, then descended to Black Cliffs, an amazing large rocky platform… with spectacular views in all directions. Here is Green Cape Lighthouse to the south… We loved exploring the rockpools, teaming with life: barnacles, sea snails, mussels, chitons, limpets, crabs, starfish, cunjevoi and a myriad of seaweeds and kelp.The stunning beauty of the bay was amplified by dramatic storm clouds and golden light.We followed the Light-To-Light track markers north over the rock shelf, then back into the heath and grassland, with more colourful flora,
and tantalising views of Hegarty’s Bay…before dropping down to a creek and Hegarty’s Bay Camping Area with its quirky structures in a forest clearing. Unfortunately, the camera lens smudged with the rain, but hopefully, these photos will give you some idea. We watched Glossy Black Cockatoos ripping bark off the sheoaks in their search for grubs. Just beyond is Hegarty’s Bay …with its stunning red cliffs and fascinating geology, including a beautiful deep waterhole!Unfortunately, it wasn’t really swimming weather, and we did in fact have to shelter under rocky overhangs to eat our sandwiches during heavy rain, but once it had stopped, we retraced our steps back south. That’s a White-Bellied Sea Eagle flying down low across the bottom photo! As we neared Bittangabee Bay, we took the alternate route back past the historic foundations of Imlay House. Here are photos and the plan from the NPWS board:The Imlay brothers, George (1794-1846), Peter (1797-1881) and Alexander (1800-1847), were the first European settlers in Twofold Bay, establishing the first permanent whaling station at Eden in 1834. While they were the major whalers for the next nine years, competition from other whalers forced them to open a second whaling station at East Boyd, with crews further south round Bittangabee Bay, where they had substantial stock runs. In 1844, they laid foundations for a stone house right beside the small creek behind Bittangabee Beach, to be set amongst bark huts, fruit trees and gardens, but sadly, George died in 1846 and Alexander in 1847, with Peter migrating to New Zealand in 1851, and the house was never completed. We also watched a very busy, quiet lyrebird foraging for grubs with its strong powerful legs, with a very clever and opportune White-Browed Scrubwren in its wake, enjoying the proceeds. We actually saw six lyrebirds that day, so it is a good spot to see them. I suspect they are fairly used to campers in the area! We also saw these equally quiet Eastern Grey kangaroos!It was such a beautiful walk and we would highly recommend it! Some final photos from Bittangabee Bay Beach…!For a map and more detailed information on the walk, it is worth looking at: http://www.wildwalks.com/wildwalks_custom/walk_pdfs/saved/Saltwater%20Creek%20to%20Bittangabee%20Bay%20(nsw-benbobnp-sctbb).pdf.
Next week, I am returning to my craft library, with posts on books on Textile Printing and Natural Dyeing.
These days, there is so much information online, that it is worth planning the practicalities of your travel by consulting the internet for the most up-to-date information on prices, opening times etc. I still like to travel with the odd hard copy though, so long as it’s not too heavy and bulky, but do try to get the most recent publication!
Lonely Planet Guides generally all follow a similar format, so I will describe the Lonely Planet guide we used for France. It starts with:
Quick Reference Guide on the inside cover: Symbols and Price Ranges used; Exchange Rates; Rough Costs; Useful Phrases; Business Hours; Telephone Codes; Emergency Numbers; and Conversions.
Colour Map with key points of interest highlighted and a reference page number, followed by :
Glossy colour plates featuring Classic Destinations; Food and Wine; Festivals and Events; Activities; and Arts and Architecture;
List of Contributors;
Getting Started :When to Go; Costs and Money; Travel Literature; Internet Resources; and the Top 10 (Adventures/ Culinary Experiences and Shopping Sprees);
Variety of Itineraries (Classic Routes/ Roads Less Travelled/ Tailored Trips);
Snapshot of Contemporary France;
French Culture: National Psyche; Lifestyle; Blogosphere; Economy; Averages; Do’s and Don’ts; Population; Sport: Football, Rugby, Cycling and Tennis; Multiculturalism; Media; Religion; Women in France; the Arts: Classic and Modern Literature, Top 10 Literary sights, Cinema, Music, Architecture and Painting;
Environment : the Land; Flora and fauna; National Parks; Environmental Issues and Conservation Organizations;
Food and Drink: Staples, Regional Specialties, Drinks, Celebrations, Where to Eat, Vegetarians and Vegans, Dining with Children, Habits and Customs, Cooking Courses and Vocabulary.
The majority of the book is devoted to a detailed description of each different area of France, including:
Introduction and Highlights;
Black-and-White Regional Map;
Geography and Climate;
Sights and Activities;
Food and Drink;
Getting There and Away: Air; Bus; Train; car and Motorcycle; Bicycle Hire; and
Feature Boxes on relevant history, festival, food, people, crafts etc
The directory at the back covers all the practical information required:
Accommodation; Activities; Business Hours; Children; Climate Charts; Courses; Customs; dangers and Annoyances; Discount Cards; Embassies and Consulates; Festivals and Events; Food; Gay and Lesbian Travellers; Holidays; Insurance; Internet Access; Legal Matters; Local Government; Maps; Money; Photography and Video; Post; Shopping; Solo Travellers; Telephone; Time; Tourist Information; Travellers with Disabilities; Visas; Volunteering; Women Travellers; and Work; as well as a detailed section on:
Getting Around: Air; Bicycle; Canal Boating; Bus; Car Hire and Distances; Autoroutes; Licences; Insurance; and Road Rules; Hitching; Taxis; Train; and Tours.
Health: Insurance; Vaccinations; Deep Vein Thrombosis; Jet Lag; Health Car; Environmental Hazards; Sexual Health; Womens’ Health and Travelling with Children.
Language: Pronunciation; Etiquette; Gender and Essential Vocabulary for: Accommodation; Conversation; Directions; Signs; Emergencies; Health; Numbers, Paperwork; Question Words; Shopping and Services; Time and Dates; Transport; and Travel with Children.
Finally, there is a Glossary; a few blank pages for notes; the Index; a Map of World Time Zones, and a Map Legend.
Alastair Sawday’s Special Places to Stay: British Bed & Breakfast for Garden Lovers 2007
Sawdays is another well-known travel company from Bristol, England, which searches out special places to stay in Britain, Ireland; France; Italy; Spain and Portugal. It was founded by Alistair Sawday, a keen environmentalist and sustainability advocate. He was a Green Party candidate, founded the Avon Friends of the Earth and was Vice-Chair of the Soil Association. His company was honoured with a Queen’s Award for Sustainability, as well as being voted Independent Environmental Publisher of the Year twice.
This delightful book starts with an introduction explaining the Sawday philosophy and how to use the book and general and regional maps.
There are detailed descriptions of over 60 Bed-and-Breakfast establishments with beautiful gardens with contact details, addresses and websites; directions; number and type of rooms; price; meals; closed times and coded symbols (Wheelchair accessibility; Children, Dogs, Smoking, Credit cards; Vegetarian meals; Licensed; Working farm; Swimming pool, Bicycles; Tennis court; Local walks and Fine Breakfast Scheme).
In the back is a Bird Calendar; a list of Garden Organisations; a Brief History of Garden Styles; Lists of Garden Books and Gardens to Visit and a Map of the National Cycle Network.
Twenty Best Walks in Australia by Tyrone T Thomas 1989
Tyrone Thomas has written a number of guides to bushwalks throughout Australia and this particular book covers 20 hikes, which he considers to be the best in Australia, a number of which we have done, including Sydney Harbour; walks around Blackheath in the Blue Mountains; Mount Gower and Malabar Hill on Lord Howe Island; Mt Kootaloo circuit on Dunk Island; Green Island, near Cairns; Mt Warning on the NSW-Qld border; Katherine Gorge, Northern Territory; the Grampians; the High Country and Wilson’s Promontory in Victoria; Mt. Kosciusko; and Cradle Mountain, Lake St. Clair and Tasman Peninsula in Tasmania.
Each walk is graded as one day/ overnight and easy/medium and hard. The book contains comprehensive track notes; maps; and distance, time, weather, transport and access details, as well as points of interest, warnings and navigational advice. The walks selected give an excellent overall view of the huge diversity of walks and environments in our vast continent and is particularly aimed at international visitors with limited time, though is still very useful for locals, and its light weight compact format makes it very portable for bushwalkers.
Seventy Walks in Southern New South Wales and A.C.T by Tyrone Thomas 1998/ 2004
A recent addition to our library, now that we live in this area and are keen to explore this new area.
Produced in a similar format to all his books with introductory brief notes on distance; time required; best time to visit; grade; environment, map reference and last date reviewed; followed by comprehensive track notes, accompanied by maps, diagrams; ink sketches of native flora and a few colour plates.
There are also notes on safety precautions, first aid in the bush; and equipment and food suggestions for bushwalking. While we have already visited the National Botanic Garden in Canberra, Big Hole in Deua National Park; Mt Bushwalker; and local areas like North Head; Bournda National Park; Mt Imlay and Merrica River, we look forward to using this guide to plan walks like Mt Dromedary near Tilba Tilba; the Nadgee Wilderness; Bendethera Caves; Pigeon House Mountain; the Monolith Valley; the Castle and the Kosciusko region. It’s good to know we have so many wonderful spots to explore!
Walking Round in Circles: Twenty-seven Circular Walks in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park by Jane Scott and Patricia Negus 2007
A beautiful book, which we bought after our trip to Western Australia, after visiting the home and art studio ‘Swallows Welcome’ of the artist Patricia Negus (https://www.mrros.com.au/member/patricia-negus/) in Margaret River in April 2011. She and her husband Tim built a mud-brick Chapel of the Flowers to house all of her 102 beautiful wildflower paintings. Dawn Klok designed the leadlight windows and the porch mosaic was made by local artist, Jenny Hunt.
Patricia teamed up with Jane Scott, the author of this book, and Ray Forma to form Cape to Cape Publishing and they have produced a number of books about the Margaret River region.
I love this particular book as it has such beautiful illustrations and photos and holds fond memories of the walks we enjoyed in this beautiful national park, using this book as a guide. Below are some of her illustrated pages in this book.
The great thing about this area is that while you can do the entire walk from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin, it is also possible to walk small sections and this book is an excellent guide to the 27 walks available.The following photos are from our wonderful beach walk at Cosy Corner:
Accompanied by clear maps, each walk is described in great detail and is broken up into smaller sections with details on access, distance and time, warnings where necessary and interesting notes on points of interest like whale watching; bush tucker; plants of granite outcrops or the limestone coast; historic settlements; the timber industry; fungi and orchids; caves; butterflies and moths; and creatures of the open ocean or intertidal zones.
There are also notes on bush safety; first aid; geology; springs and tufa deposits; tides and currents; weather and climate; and native vegetation in the front and a bird list and bibliography in the back.
It is such a beautiful area, especially when the wildflowers are in full bloom! We loved our walks at Cosy Corner (photos above) and Cape Clairault (photos below), where we saw 6 rock parrots amongst the boulders on the beach. The sand was pure white; the waters aqua; and the coastline so unspoilt and natural! I could not recommend a visit to this incredible area nor this beautiful book highly enough!Random Thoughts on Travel
And for those of us, who may not be able to travel at the moment, some consoling thoughts! Often the experience may not necessarily match up with the expectations! The next two books which explore this theme.
Slow Travel : Sell the House, Buy the Yacht and Sail Away.. by Mari Rhydwen 2004
For all those people, who dream of getting a yacht and sailing away, it is well worth reading this book for the realities of life on the open sea, especially if you are satisfying a spouse’s desire! I feel a bit guilty because I lent it to a friend, who was then totally put off the idea!!!
Despite the downsides of petty officialdom, bribery and corruption,the threat of piracy and rollercoasting from boredom and total exhaustion to moments of sheer terror, it’s also a journey of discovery about life on water, learning to sail, visiting isolated natural spots, diving in the world’s best reefs and letting go of notions of personal identity like work, material possessions and personal space. A very amusing and interesting read!
The Art of Travel by Alain de Bouton 2002
In this thoughtful collection of essays, Alain examines the reasons for this paradox, as well as the ‘how and why’ of travel.
He starts with a discussion of anticipation and why it may sometimes be better or certainly different to the real thing! As he says on page 15:
‘Anticipatory and artistic imaginations omit and compress, they cut away periods of boredom and direct our attention to critical moments and, without either lying or embellishing, thus lend to life a vividness and a coherence that it may lack in the distracting woolliness of the present…. (as does) memory (which is) an instrument of simplification and selection’.
These comments about anticipation and memory rang very true for me.
He supports his observations with the thoughts of well-known writers: J.-K. Huysmans on the anticipation and rejection of travel, as well as Baudelaire on ambivalence toward places, Flaubert on the attractions of the Orient, Wordsworth on the benevolent moral effects of nature, Burke on the sublime, and Ruskin on the importance of careful observation.
Other essays look at the reasons for travel: a mode of escape from current circumstances; a chance to make a fresh start and see things with fresh eyes; a time to contemplate (‘Journeys are the midwives of thought’ p57); the appeal and allure of the different or exotic; or just pure curiosity.
All these reasons ensure the success of this final book on a very different type of travel.
The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel by Rachael Antony and Joël Henry 2005
I loved this book! It’s quirky and fun and enables a fulfilment of all the above reasons for travel with a series of unusual challenges without the expense of conventional travel! Some of the suggestions include:
Alternating Travel: Discover your own home town by alternating your direction- first road on the right, then next on the left, ad infinitum!
Anachronistic Adventure: Travelling by an outmoded form of transport or explore your city with a vintage guidebook.
Fly By Night: Explore a destination by night until the sun rises.
Voyage to the End of the Line: the end of the railway line; bus route or ferry trip and
Ariadne’s Thread or any other name for that matter! Get a friend to make a list of their 10 favourite or personally meaningful places in the city (eg the first time …), plot these places on a map and draw a line (the thread) between them and follow it.
And of course, for we armchair travellers, the internet is a wonderful source for information, dreaming and inspiration. Now that our appetite for travel has been stimulated, I am exploring some of my favourite bucket-list gardens overseas for the next fortnight!
Merrica River Nature Trail is another walk we had wanted to do for a long time and it lies in the northern precinct of Nadgee Nature Reserve, a 20 671 ha wilderness area. In fact, it is the end of the road and car access to this wonderful wilderness area. From Merrica River, it is a 3 to 4 day hike (55 km) around the coast to Mallacoota, Victoria, and is another bucket list camping trip, involving heavy packs and booking ahead. Only 30 hikers are allowed in the reserve at the one time and the cost is $10 per night per person. Permits can be obtained by phoning (02) 6495 5000. I would love to visit it in November to see the masses of moulting swans, resting on Nadgee Lake, while waiting for their new plumage to grow, as well as to run down the enormous sand-dunes at Cape Howe in Croajingalong National Park, also involving a long walk in. There is not that much information online about Merrica River, but I did read in a bushwalking book that in Spring, the banks of the river were lined with King Orchids Dendrobium speciosum in full bloom, so we resolved to visit it on the last day of September. We had not envisaged how wonderful the Spring wildflower show would be, so it was a double visual treat in store! Because there were so many wildflowers (over 800 species in Nadgee Nature Reserve), this post will be more of a photo essay, in which I will probably just refer to the genus name, unless I am sure of the species name. Here is a much magnified map from the National Parks board of the area:To get there from Eden:
Travel south along the Princes Highway for 22.5km. Turn left on Wonboyn Road and follow it for 8.7 km, just before the fork to Wonboyn Lake. Turn right into the gravel Old Bridge Forest Road and travel for a further 5.6 km, turning left at the fork-it is well signposted.The Merrica River carpark and the start of the track is located across the Merrica River causeway.The Merrica River Nature Trail is 4 km to the mouth of the Merrica River, where it joins the sea, so it is worth taking a sunhat, drinking water, walking boots and bathers if it is a warm day. The track starts through a tunnel of Coast Banksia Banksia integrifolia. The track crosses a creek, which flows into a small waterfall, then joins the fire trail through a eucalypt forest to the beach… and the mouth of the Merrica River… lined with grey lichen-covered rock blocks, with forest right down to the edge of the water.The vegetation in Nadgee Nature Reserve has been almost undisturbed since European settlement and has such an isolated remote feel. We walked down along the river to see if we could spot a King Orchid, but only found one specimen far on the other side. We did however find a base camp with a kayak and a fireplace under the huge Bracelet Honey-Myrtles, Melaleuca armillaris, which flower later in Summer. What a wonderful spot to camp! I loved the brown and gold colour of the water, evidence of all the tannins in it! We then turned our attention to Disaster Bay and waded across a shallow knee-high passage, following the cliff line on the right… where we discovered masses of King Orchids in full bloom on the higher rocks – such a spectacular show and well worth the long walk in! They obviously liked that aspect with full northern sun and even salt spray and wind! The lower rocks along the shoreline were very attractive with quartz banding and were covered with oysters, as well as being refuge for scurrying crabs! We saw a Pied Oyster Catcher, a Reef Heron (photo below), and a Black Cormorant searching for food and Gannets diving, but alas, no whales, Ground Parrots, endangered Eastern Bristlebirds, or the pair of resident White-Bellied Sea Eagles! We ate lunch out on the rocks facing the ocean and looking straight across Disaster Bay to Green Cape Lighthouse, around the corner from a couple of salmon fisherpeople! Then, it was time to retrace our steps, taking more wildflower photos and watching and listening to the many forest birds, including Grey Fantails, Eastern Yellow Robins, Golden Whistler, White Throated Tree Creepers, Lewin Honeyeaters, Satin Bowerbirds, Wonga Pigeons, Grey Thrush, Lorikeets and the migratory Fan-Tailed Cuckoo, who has returned for the Australian Summer. We didn’t see any other animals, as most of them would have been asleep in their tree hollows, but here are some photos of the homes of the resident ants: Finally, here are the wildflower photos, grouped according to colour :
White and Cream:
Forest Clematis Clematis glycinoides; Wedding Bush Ricinocarpus pinifolius; Daisy Bush Olearia sp; Apple Berry Billardiera scandens; Sweet Pittosporum Pittosporum undulatum; Pimelea linifolia; Beard-Heath Leucopogon sp; and a Boronia species.Yellow, Gold and Orange:
A number of different native pea genus: Pultenaea; Dilwynia, Bossiaea – all that is certain is that they all belong to the Family Fabaceae!; Golden Glory Pea Gompholobium latifolium; Hop Goodenia Goodenia ovata; Guinea Flower Hibbertia sp;Toothed Guinea Flower Hibbertia dentata;Fireweed Groundsel Senecio linearifolius; Pomaderris elliptica; Stringybark Wattle Acacia linearifolia; Prickly Moses Acacia ulicifolia; Melaleuca megacephala;Pink and Purple:
Waxlip Orchid Glossodia major; Native Iris Patersonia sericea; Love Creeper Comesperma volubileGreen: Large Hop Bush Dodonaea triquetraand the pods of the Sunshine Wattle Acacia terminalis.There were even some interesting fungi.It was a wonderful day out and we were so impressed with the Kings of Merrica River, that we immediately followed up with a visit to Nethercote Falls the next day to see if their King Orchids were also in bloom, as we had missed them last Spring and we were thrilled to discover that they were! Third time lucky! I have added the new photos to the old post: November Falls. See: https://candeloblooms.com/2015/11/19/november-falls/. Next month, we will finish the year with Wonboyn Lake and Bay Cliff, truly the pièce de résistance of the area and a fabulous place to enjoy the Summer! Till then…!
In early Spring, we finally made a visit to Mt Imlay, a long-held ambition ever since we first arrived here. Mt Imlay (886m) dominates the skyline from Merimbula to the Victorian border and is accessed via Burrawang Rd, 20 km (15 mins drive) south of Eden, on the Far South Coast of New South Wales. Here is a photo of the National Parks map: It was named after the Imlay Brothers, who settled in this region in the 1830s and 1840s, establishing a huge pastoral, whaling and trading empire. It was known to the local aborigines as ‘Balawan’ and is a place of spiritual significance for them. Apparently, it was used as a site for telepathic communication with groups to the north near Wallaga Lake. The foothills were selectively logged in the 1960s and a fire trail was built to the summit, giving access to the trig station, but the track was closed in the 1970s to allow the area to revegetate. There is also a Telstra Sea Phone facility, built in 1994 and serving as the last communication link between Melbourne and Sydney for coastal vessels. In 1972, 3808 ha of steep, heavily forested country around the peak was reserved as Mt Imlay National Park, which has since been extended to 4822 ha. The park has a variety of habitats and is an important refuge area for the conservation of the local native flora and fauna, including a number of threatened or geographically significant species. The summit is of particular scientific interest because of its predominantly undisturbed nature, the presence of several threatened plant species and its biogeographical similarity to Tasmanian peaks. I will be describing our walk soon, but first some introductory notes about this beautiful national park.
Most of Mt Imlay National Park was formed during the Ordovician Period, 500 to 435 Million years ago, from sedimentary and metamorphosed rocks of the Mallacoota Beds, part of the Southern Highlands Fold Belt, including greywacke, sandstone and shale. The summit of Mt Imlay and the upper slopes are younger, with Devonian (395 to 345 Million years ago) rocks of the Merimbula Group, lying above the Ordovician sediments. The Merimbula Group includes sandstone, conglomerates, quartzite, siltstone and shale. Quaternary sediments form narrow river flats along the Towamba River on the northern edge of the park. The soils on the summit and ridges are shallow with many rock fragments and the upper slopes are very sandy, loose and very erodible and subject to movement. I always marvel at the tenacity and optimism of seedlings growing in rock! The summit area is only small and drops steeply in all directions with cliff lines in the north and east and a series of steps on the western slope. These steps are formed by the differential erosion of the alternating bands of sandstone, conglomerate and shale. Ridgelines extend from the summit, dissecting the rest of the park, which has narrow rocky ridges and deep gullies, as seen in the photo below.Vegetation
The ridges and dry lower slopes are covered by open forest, dominated by Silvertop Ash, Eucalyptus sieberi and also includes Yellow Stringybark E. muelleriana and occasionally E. globoidea and Blue-Leaved Stringybark E. agglomerata. The understorey is shrubby and includes Native Cherry Exocarpos cupressiformis, Hickory Wattle Acacia falciformis, Shiny Cassinia Cassinia longifolia, Tetratheca thymifolia , Narrow-Leaf Geebung Persoonia linearis, Acacia obtusifolia , Prickly Broom-Heath Monotoca scoparia , Smooth Geebung Persoonia levis, Banksia collina, Bedfordia arborescens, Hakea macreana, Mountain Speedwell Derwentia perfoliata, which had just finished flowering when we visited, and Hibbertia saligna, which is regionally uncommon and at the southern limit of its range. The steep south-east facing slopes (especially just below the ridge crest) are covered by stands of White Ash, E. fraxinoides, a species with a restricted distribution.
The moist sheltered gullies and slopes support a tall open forest of Yellow Stringybark, Monkey Gum E. cypellocarpa and River Peppermint E. elata, with a shrub layer of Hop Goodenia Goodenia ovata , Blue Olive-Berry Elaeocarpus reticulates, Lance Beard-Heath Leucopogon lanceolatus and Fireweed Groundsel Senecio linearifolius.
There are also pockets of rainforest, including Black Olive-Berry, Elaeocarpus holopetalus, Banyalla Pittosporum bicolour, Soft Tree-Fern Dicksonia antarctica, Hard Water Fern, Blechnum wattsii and Pomaderris species, including Pomaderis phylicifolia subsp. ericoides.
Other ferns include: Necklace fern Asplenium flabellifolium (Photo 1); Bracken fern Pteridum esculentum; Spreading Shield Fern Sticherus lobatus (Photo 2); and Fragrant Fern Microsorum scandens (Photo 3). Climbers include Austral Sarsparilla, Smilax australis, which is shown in the first three photos at various stages and Drooping Mistletoe, Amyema pendula (Photos 4 to 5).On the rocky summit is a woodland, dominated by Narrow-Leafed Peppermint, Eucalyptus sp. aff. radiata, but also including Silvertop Ash and Messmate E. obliqua. There is also a stand of less than 200 trees of the very rare, endemic Mallee Gum, Eucalyptus imlayensis, which emerges from a closed tall heath, containing Leptospermum scoparium (1st photo below), Scented Paperbark, Melaleuca squarrosa, Mat Rush Lomandra longifolia, Sunshine Wattle Acacia terminalis (2nd photo below), Prickly Broom-Heath Monotoca scoparia, Common Oxylobium Oxylobium arborescens, Boronia pinnata and Hibbertia dentata. Other plants we saw on our walk included: Hairpin Banksia Banksia spinulosa (photo 1), Old Man Banksia Banksia serrata (photo 2), and plenty of flowering Epacris impressa (photos 3 and 4), which was quite spectacular!The Imlay Mallee is only found at a single site on the steep rocky east-facing slope at an altitude of 850m to 870m. It grows to a height of 7 metres and is multi-stemmed with smooth orange-brown and grey bark, which is shed from the stems in ribbons. Seed production is rare and there are no juvenile plants recorded. Mallee Gum appears to be related to Tasmanian eucalypts, an association backed up by the presence of Eriostemon virgatus, which normally grows in Tasmania, Mt Imlay being one of the few mainland locations of this shrub. Known by its common name, the Tasmanian Waxflower, it is the only four-petalled Eriostemon in Eastern Australia. The Weevil Aterpus kubushas, also found in Tasmania and the Victorian Alps, has also been collected on the summit, further evidence of Mt Imlay’s biogeographical similarity with the Tasmanian peaks.
The summit of Mt Imlay also has a number of threatened and biogeographically significant plant species including: Pomaderris costata, Persoonia brevifolia (close to northern limit), Monotoca elliptica, Saw Sedge Gahnia subaequiglumis, Prostanthera walteri, and Leafless Pink Bells, Tetratheca subaphylla, seen in the photo below. We enjoyed seeing the early Spring blooms of another endangered endemic species, Boronia imlayensis, seen in this photo. It had only just started flowering on our visit in late August. We could not identify this shrub- perhaps someone could help us?Recent mapping of the park revealed that half of the park is fragmented old-growth forest, whose hollows provide essential habitats for all the arboreal mammals.Fauna
Native mammals include: Red-Necked Wallaby, Swamp Wallaby, Greater Glider, Brush-Tail Possum, Eastern Pygmy Possum, Platypus, Wombat, the Large-Footed Myotis and Bush Rat. There are three threatened species: the Long-Nosed Potoroo, the Koala and the Tiger Quoll. Native birds recorded include: the Gang-Gang Cockatoo, the Superb Lyrebird, the Little Eagle, the Wedge-Tailed Eagle, the Wonga Pigeon, Common Bronzewing, Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoo, King Parrot, Grey Currawong, Little Lorikeet and Red-Browed Finch. Reptiles include: Red-bellied Black Snake, Brown Snake, Lace Monitor and Cunningham’s Skink.And now to our walk, as seen in the National Parks map above! From the Princes Highway, a 20 minute (10 km) drive up the gravel Burrawang Rd through the East Boyd State Forest with dramatic examples of the devastation of clear felling practices along the way , as well as revegetated areas from 1977 and 1978, brings you to the Burrawang Picnic Area and the start of the Mt Imlay Summit Walking Track. At the start of the walk and the last stretch to the summit are Boot Cleaning Stations with an information board (seen in the 2nd photo), to stop the spread of the Cinnamon Fungus, Phytophthora cinnamomi. These include a brush to clean your boots and a dip with a chemical solution to wash your soles. Already, a number of species have been affected including the Austral Grass Trees, Tea Broom-Heath, Common Heath, Leafless Pink Bells and Hairpin Banksia. The fungus attacks the roots and causes them to rot and has already destroyed large areas of Grass Trees in particular.The track is described as a challenging 3 km walk, rising 600 m to the summit (6 km return; 3 to 4 hours), but because the walk is broken up into different sections and there is so much botanical interest, we managed it quite easily with photography stops along the way. Also, I think we are fairly fit, as our daily walks in Candelo involve steep hills either side of the valley, and we weren’t even stiff the next day. I was very impressed with my usually suspect knee, which behaved beautifully on the walk with not a twinge of pain! The walk follows the ridge up the right hand side of the mountain, shown in the photo below. The track is marked by silver tags on the trees and there are interesting information boards at intervals. The first stretch of the track is a bit boring through dry open eucalypt forest along the old road, but once you reach the Austral Grass Tree (Xanthorrhoea australis) ridge, it becomes much more interesting. We ascended a steep path past Dianella tasmanica outcrops (photo 2) to our first set of large boulders. We skirted around a natural amphitheatre on the same level, then ascended to the base of a cliff with huge boulders under a tall forest of Silvertop Ash trees. A steep slope leads to a razorback ridge, which runs 500m to the trig station. There were lots of Spring wildflowers in a variety of colours- whites, creams, yellows, pinks, blues, purples and reds. Here are a few more photos. In order: Eriostemon virgatus, Lance Beard-Heath Leucopogon lanceolatus , Hakea macreana, Pomaderris phylicifolia subsp. ericoides, Sweet Wattle Acacia suaveolens, and Common Heath Epacris impressa (last two photos). The stunning photo opportunities were further increased by the spectacular views of the coast, north to Mt Dromedary (photos 1 and 2) and Eden, including the wood chip mill (photos 3 and 4); west to the mountains (photos 5 and 6); east to Green Cape and Bay Cliff and the Wonboyn River (photos 7 to 10); and to the far south, the holiday shacks, beaches and river entrance at Mallacoota (photos 11 and 12).Unfortunately, the day was a bit cloudy and grey and the summit quite cold and windy, so we ate a quick picnic lunch at the top, disturbing a roosting Little Eagle in the process. Then descended back to the Silvertop Ash forest, where we met the only other bushwalkers we saw that day- a couple with a six year old daughter, whose timing was better as the sky had just turned a bright blue for their arrival at the summit. Their views would have been even better! These photos contrast our day (photo 1) and that of the next couple (photo 2). We really enjoyed visiting this iconic local landmark. Next week, we explore the Merrica River, another stunning walk in Springtime. I will finish with a lovely photo of the stump of a dead Austral Grass Tree, which captured our attention!
On the eve of my birthday, I thought a post on landmark birthdays was appropriate! My birthday falls on the first day of Winter, which is special enough in itself, and while I enjoy all my birthdays, there have been 3 stand-outs : my 35th birthday in France, my 40th birthday on Lord Howe Island and my 49th birthday on Cape York in Queensland. The Lord Howe celebration was planned, but the other two just happened to be in exotic places, because my birthday fell during our travels. As this post is fairly long, I have divided it into two sections, which I will post either side of my birthday week. I have had such a lovely time writing and researching this post. It has been like having these holidays all over again!!!
The year I turned 35 was a pretty special year, not only because we eventually found our home in Armidale, as well as our country property at Dorrigo, but also because just prior to these purchases, we had a wonderful ten-week holiday in England and France with the whole family. Most of our major holidays have been at turning points of our lives, between leaving our old home and settling down in our new life, and this occasion was no different. We had been renting for a year, all the time searching for our new home unsuccessfully, so we decided to take a break and fulfill that long-held dream of taking the kids overseas.
It was a wonderful experience and even though there was the odd moment, it was fantastic travelling with young children. Because they were so young – all under 8 years of age – we were able to plan a nature-based trip, staying mainly in country areas, and were able to avoid places like Disney World! It also opened many doors to us, especially in France. The French love children and were so impressed that we had brought the entire family from such a long distance away, as well as the fact that I was able to communicate with them in their own language! Whenever we arrived at a new place, the kids would be whisked away by the hosts and plied with hot chocolate and croissants at the kitchen table while we unpacked or we would find them playing upstairs with the owners’ children or reading Tintin books in French.
We had so many amazing experiences from sailing on the Norfolk Broads in one of the original wherries; sitting with the puffins on the cliffs at the Fair Isle Bird Observatory; walking on the Cliffs of Hermaness with the bonxies and tysties; visiting Gerald Durrell’s Rare and Endangered Species Zoo on the island of Jersey, viewing prehistoric cave art 14000 years old in the Dordogne, watching pink flamingos feeding in the Camargue marshes; and hiking in the Pyrenees amongst wildflowers. I have touched on some of these experiences in my post: My Love Affair With France. See: https://candeloblooms.com/2015/11/12/my-love-affair-with-france/.
My 35th birthday in the Limoges countryside was definitely one of the highlights! We’d just spent the day exploring the beautiful potager gardens at Villandry and visiting Clos Lucé, the last home of Leonardo da Vinci, with models of all his amazing inventions (see photos above), and as we left the Loire Valley, I hinted to Ross at the possibility of spending the night in a château (see photo below) for my birthday, only to be told it was far too expensive! We drove on and on along the scenic back roads of the alternative tourist route and by 8.30pm, we still hadn’t eaten dinner, nor found accommodation for the night! In the evening light, we spotted a little chambre d’hôte sign on a tree, just south of La Trimouille. Proceeding down the tree-lined driveway, we discovered the beautiful old Château de Régnier.
Because it was so late, we decided to enquire about the price , only to find that it was very reasonable and quite affordable! On asking about nearby restaurants, the hostess Anniq apologised profusely, saying that had she known that we were coming, she would have prepared us a meal. She also apologised for the overgrown state of the circular driveway lawn, which had not yet been mown for the upcoming hunt! She phoned the local hotel, only to be told that dinner might not be possible because they had run out of bread! I suspect the kitchen may have been about to close! But no problem! Anniq had a whole loaf, which she sent down with us to the hotel dining room. After a five-minute wait, a surly waitress clomped out and took the bread from us without a word, disappearing back into the kitchen. Not a menu in sight, so no difficult hassles translating menu meals! Out came the bread, now sliced, with a huge bowl of pâté and some sliced avocado. Thinking this was dinner, we bogged into the pâté, only to be surprised by a main course of beef and fried potatoes with a delicious red wine, fresh pears for dessert and then coffee, all without having to make any decisions!!!
Because it was my birthday the next day and also because we were down to our last clean clothes, the’ best’ outfits, we decided to spend another night at the château. Doing the laundry while travelling was always a hassle and I was dreading having to use a French laundromat, but Anniq insisted on washing all our dirty clothes herself in her laundry, set in one of the lovely old outbuildings, and hanging them out to dry in her bat-filled attic overnight.The next morning was warm and sunny and we had a lovely extended breakfast with lots of conversation and laughter. Anniq was a wonderful communicator and between our dodgy command of each other’s languages, we were still able to make ourselves understood, even discussing quite complex matters! Ross gave me a beautiful green woollen cloak, which we’d bought in Ireland, and some lovely perfume. Anniq gave us a guided tour of the current château, built in 1820. The original Château de Régnier was built in 1399 for the Loubes family, but it had been in the Liniers family for 5 generations since 1799. The château had 25 rooms, 5 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms and a small, disused, cobwebbed family chapel underneath our room (bottom photo). The walls were covered with an Aubusson tapestry and trophies from the hunt- stuffed birds, foxes, boars and deer. Anniq showed me her shell collection and her own hand-painted porcelain.
Her husband Charles showed us the stables, laundry, machinery sheds and dairy, all housed in these superb old brick buildings. The bottom photo is of the gatehouse.The kids ran all day, dressed in their Sunday best and gumboots, in the long grass with the family dogs, two friendly Weimaraners called Hamlet and Jean, and Ibis, a very active, visiting Jack Russell terrier, with whom Chris fell in love. He is in the photo below. After lunch, we wandered down to the creek, from where the château had the appearance of a ‘Sleeping Beauty’ castle! I picked a bouquet of Summer wildflowers- buttercups, forget-me-knots, grasses and lots of pink, purple and white wild blooms, as well as a bunch of apple mint for dinner. The girls found a baby bird and waded in the creek. Of course, Chris fell in and ended up swimming in his clothes!On our return to the château, Anniq made us a cup of tea with shortbread and we met an English couple, who had discovered this wonderful place a few years ago and now always called in en route to their holiday house in Spain each year. Because they could not speak French and Anniq’s English was limited (although she was attending English classes at night), whenever they called in, Anniq would invite her neighbour Yvonne, who spoke excellent English, for dinner. Dear Anniq had made a special trip into Limoges to buy me a birthday present, as she didn’t have any spare hand-painted porcelain of her own to give me. She bought me a beautiful china terrine, decorated with French wildflowers, a cherished gift which I still have today. She also gave me a bouquet of her own pink roses- the first of the season.My birthday dinner was amazing! An entrée of an egg, tomato and lettuce salad; a choice of roast pork or goose with fried potatoes, carrots and peas for our main course with a green salad made by Yvonne; and palate fresheners between courses and a different wine with each course. The pièce de résistance was the homemade chocolate cake, aglow with candles and served with icecream, followed by a selection of cheeses and coffee. It was such a funny night! Both Brian, the Englishman, and Charles, the proud Frenchman, were very similar in character and neither was EVER going to learn one another’s language! They spent all night slinging off at each other in their own languages and Yvonne and I were very amused by their accuracy and similarities!
It was raining by the end of the night and as Yvonne departed, she invited us to visit her in her 11th century home at Courtevrault Manor the next day. It was amazing! Her bedroom, on the first floor next to the 11th century turret, was situated above a deep dungeon, accessed via a door on the ground floor and into which French soldiers would throw their English captives during the Hundred Years War. The depth and number of skeletons down there was unknown and did not unduly worry Yvonne!
There was also a 13th century addition with a well underneath and the main house with 11 bedrooms, a stone-flagged kitchen and amazing artwork, including a painting by Raphael. Yvonne was obviously very well-connected! She had her own gardener, who lived onsite, lit her kitchen fire every morning and kept her and his family in vegetables all year round. The vegetable garden and herb garden were huge and the flower garden filled with Old Roses and a huge Philadelphus shrub. There was also a dovecote, a pool and a creek, which ran through the garden. It certainly was an amazing opportunity, not often afforded to the normal tourist and a very memorable birthday!
Five years later, it was my 40th birthday and I wanted it to be equally special! I worked an extra job all year, sorting private mail boxes for Australia Post, in the wee hours of the morning – 4am on Mondays and 6am on the other weekdays. By the end of the year, I had earned enough to buy my coveted Bernina sewing machine and fund an 8 day trip to Lord Howe Island for the whole family to celebrate my 40th birthday. We had always wanted to visit Lord Howe Island. It is one of those very special places, especially if like us, you love nature, the environment, birds and bush walking. It was listed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1982. We took a small plane with Eastern Airlines on the 29th May out of Sydney and, after a 1.5 hour flight, had to circle the island twice until the winds were conducive to landing on the tiny airstrip in the middle of the island. We had an excellent view of Ball’s Pyramid, the world’s tallest sea stack at 551m, 26 km south of Lord Howe , as well as the lagoon and all the island landmarks.Before you can purchase your flight tickets, your accommodation must be pre-booked, as there is a limit of 400 visitors on the island at any one time. There is no camping on the island. Because we had the entire family with us, we booked a self-contained apartment at Hideaway Apartments on Middle Beach Rd, halfway up the hill from Joy’s shop. Because there are weight restrictions on luggage, you cannot bring your own food and supplies are very expensive, due to the fact that everything has to be brought in via the Island Trader. Consequently, our diet was fairly basic, until a departing couple of tourists left us the stuff they hadn’t used! There are few cars, so we walked everywhere or rented bicycles for longer trips. It was such a lovely free feeling, cycling with the breeze in your face, past aqua seas and tropical palms, and not a care in the world about cars or traffic! We were so lucky with the weather too- sunny blue skies and no rain, unlike the mini-cyclone last week! Here is a link to the official brochure : http://lordhowe.com/files/2014/11/LHI-Holiday-Planner.pdf.
and I have also included a map to give you an idea of some of the things we did from : https://www.lordhoweisland.info/travel-essentials/map-2/ On our first day, we walked up to Clear Place to get our bearings and had a beautiful view of Muttonbird Island and Wolf Rocks. In the Valley of Shadows, the kids enjoyed playing in amongst the pendulous aerial roots and buttressed trunks of the massive Banyan trees (Ficus macrophylla subsp columnaris), whose long branches extended over a hectare (2 acres). There is also a forest of 40 feet high Kentia Palms (Howea forsteriana), one of 4 species of palms endemic to the island and the world’s most popular indoor palm for 120 years.
The palm seed industry was started in 1906 with the formation of the Kentia Palm Seed and Plant Cooperative and is a key component of the island’s economy, along with tourism. See : http://lordhoweisland.info/library/palmseed.pdf. The Kentia Palm is a lowland palm. The other 3 endemic palms are : Curly Palm (Howea belmoreana), another lowland palm, which grows slightly higher up; Big Mountain Palm (Hedyscepe canterburyana), which grows from altitudes of 400m up to the summit of Mt Gower and Little Mountain Palm (Lepidorrhachis mooreana), which only grows on the summit. There are also some lovely specimens of Pandanus (Pandanus forsteri) with their long prop roots on the walk to Boat Harbour.
At Middle Beach, we came across 16 Landcare members planting 200 native trees for their Big Muttonbird Ground Project, which aimed to restore the natural bushland and nesting habitat of the migratory seabirds : the Flesh-footed Shearwater and the Black-Winged Petrel, both classified as vulnerable on the Threatened Species List for NSW. They were very appreciative of our help and wrote us up in the Lord Howe Island Signal, their local paper.
We had lunch on the top of Transit Hill, which has a 360 degree view and was the site of the 1882 observation of the Transit of Venus across the sun. These photos are of the western side of the island: Mt. Gower; Blackburn Island; and the main area of settlement, looking across to the island and the lagoon. We saw our first Emerald Dove here. We loved the birdlife on Lord Howe Island. There are 180 species of birds on the island , which provides breeding sites for 32 species, of which 14 are sea birds and 18 are land birds. A good website to consult on the bird life of the island is : https://www.lordhoweisland.info/things-to-do/bird-watching/nature-calendar-2/ and http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/wildlife/2014/12/birds-of-lord-howe-island .Because of its isolation, bird species are often similar, but not quite the same as their mainland relatives. For example, the Lord Howe Island Currawong has a longer, more pointed beak and totally different call to its Eastern Australian cousin, the Pied Currawong. The Lord Howe Island Silver-Eye is endemic to the island and has a white ring of feathers around its eye. It has a heavier build, larger feet and claws and a longer bill then the mainland Silver-Eye. The lack of natural predators meant that the birds had little fear and were easy targets when humans arrived in 1788, followed by rats in 1918, as well as introduced owls and feral cats. Their habitat was further destroyed by feral goats and pigs. For information on the island’s extinct birds, see : http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/pages/e137ac48-41b7-4f69-9b60-359a0763c635/files/lord-howe.pdf and http://www.lordhoweislandbirds.com/index.php/extinct-birds.
The Lord Howe Island Woodhen, a flightless rail endemic to the island, was brought to the very brink of extinction (less than 30 in late 1970s and restricted to 2 tiny populations on the inaccessible summits of Mount Lidgbird and Mount Gower), but thanks to a successful captive breeding program begun in 1980, they have increased in numbers ( 200 in 1997; 117 in 2001), though they are still considered a highly endangered species. We saw this woodhen up on the top of Mt Gower. For more information on this lovely little bird, see : http://www.lordhoweisland.info/library/woodhen.pdf and http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/animals/TheLordHoweIslandWoodhen.htm.Then, there are the migratory birds, who return year after year to breed. Lord Howe Island is the only known breeding ground of the Providence Petrel, which arrives in March for its Winter breeding season (see photo below). The island is also the only breeding site in Eastern Australia of the Flesh-footed Shearwater, which breeds in large colonies on the forest floor between September and May. It is the only breeding location in Australia for the Kermadec Petrel and Grey Ternlet and is the most southerly breeding location in the world for the Sooty Tern, Common Noddy, Black Noddy and Masked Booby. The White Tern breeds on Lord Howe Island between October and April.The Red-tailed Tropic Birds are also Summer visitors, arriving in September from the North Pacific Ocean and performing their airborne courting rituals off Malabar Hill (208m), where we saw them on our second day. Lord Howe Island has the world’s largest breeding concentration of Red-tailed Tropic Birds. They nest on cliff ledges between Malabar Hill and North Head and head off late May back to the North Pacific Ocean.
Looking to the north from Malabar Hill, we could see the Admiralty Islands and to the east, Middle Beach (with Muttonbird Island in the background) and Ned’s Beach.We walked out to Kim’s Lookout, then headed back down to Old Settlement Beach, so called because it was the site of the first settlers in 1833. For more on the natural history, it is well worth consulting Ian Hutton’s website : http://lordhowe-tours.com.au/. Ian Hutton is the island’s resident naturalist and has written many scientific papers and over 20 books, as well as producing 3 videos about Lord Howe. He is a keen photographer and has run Lord Howe Island Nature Tours since the early 1990s.We had a beautiful day for my 40th birthday! It started with present-giving, including an unexpected bonus, when departing guests left us their food, including bottles of red wine and port! We spent a wonderful morning snorkelling down at Ned’s Beach. Lord Howe Island has Australia’s, and in fact the world’s, most southern coral reef ecosystem. Due to its location at the cross-roads of 5 major ocean currents and the influence of the warm East Australian Current, which flows south from the Great Barrier Reef to the Tasman Sea, the island has a rich and unique biodiversity of tropical, subtropical and temperate species, including 447 species of fish, 305 species of marine algae, 83 coral species and 65 species of echinoderms (sea stars and sea urchins), as well as sea turtles, dolphins and whales. There are over 60 world-class dive sites, including the spectacular Ball’s Pyramid, and most of which are only 10-20 minutes off shore. The alluring Admiralty Islands are home to 30 dive sites. See: http://www.prodivelordhoweisland.com.au/pages/admiralty-islands-dive-sites.We were blown away by the colourful corals, the bright green seaweed, the huge sea urchins and clams and the amazing variety of fish from rainbow coloured wrasses of pink-aqua-green or orange-yellow-green combinations with blue fins, blue double-header wrasses, black-and-yellow striped butterfly fish and purple striped fish to large schools of sea mullet. And that was only an nth of it! For a more in-depth look at the species list for Lord Howe Island, please consult : http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/3ed1e470-6344-4c6f-b8f1-c0e9774ce639/files/lordhowe-plan.pdf.
My birthday lunch was at the restaurant of the luxurious Capella South, now called Capella Lodge. It was delicious, especially the sticky date pudding, and having just watched the Getaway program on Capella Lodge, I feel extra lucky to have dined there, as the restaurant is now exclusively for Capella guests. See : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvtnYMx6ovM.
Through the restaurant windows, we looked straight up at Mt. Gower, our destination for the next day. We cycled down to the start of the track to check it out and saw our first, very quiet Lord Howe Island Woodhen in the wild. The air looked like it was full of little specks of ash, with all the Providence Petrels being buffeted about by the strong wind. We met an older fellow, Les, who had been in ill health for 4 years with heart problems and Ménières Disease, a disorder which affects the inner ear and balance, resulting in tinnitus and attacks of vertigo, so we really hoped that he wasn’t going on the guided tour the next day!The hike to the summit of Mt Gower (875m) is considered to be one of the 20 best walks in Australia. It’s a 14km round walk (7km straight up hill and 7km back!). Because of the rugged and often risky terrain, you can only access it with a guide and Jack Shick, our guide, is one of the most experienced on the island, having been a mountain guide for more than 20 years. See : http://www.lordhoweislandtours.net/.We started walking at 7.45 am, as the walk takes 8.5 hours to complete. There were 6 adults (including our guide) and our 3 kids and yes, Les was there!!! He was determined to prove his doctor wrong, but it did slow things down a bit, especially on our return, and meant that we were often looking after Les, instead of keeping an eye on the children!!! Luckily, they are an adventurous lot and fairly sure-footed when it comes to outdoor activities. It was such a great adventure for them.
The first lesson was climbing a Kentia Palm. Being a 5th generation islander, Jack was a master, but Chris quickly got the hang of it!Once everyone had arrived, we started on the track, ascending quite quickly to the first challenge of the day- the Lower Road, where we had to don our helmets and follow a rope along the edge of the black volcanic cliff, with a sheer drop of over 100m to the sea below! You can see the ledge in the photo above , as well as photos 1 and 3 below.We came to a clearing at Pandanus-lined Erskine’s Creek , where I surprised a feral mother goat and her two black kids and found a freshly-laid Muttonbird egg. We then walked up through a forest to the saddle and then finally, the Get-Up Place, where there is a rope to help you pull yourself up the incredibly steep slope. Below is a photo of my family with a much younger Jack and Les on the far left. From the summit, there are incredible views out over all the island and the ash-speckled sky is filled with Providence Petrels (Pterodroma solandri) , wheeling and whittering to each other. This photo shows the view to the north over the rest of the island. These gentle, trusting birds can be called out of the sky, to land with a heavy thud at your feet and then be picked up and cuddled. David Attenborough has recorded them falling from the sky in this video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgHch5Bg9Jg. It is such a special experience to hold these fearless birds in your hand, a little akin to our experience sitting with the Puffins on the cliffs at the Fair Isles. See : https://candeloblooms.com/2015/09/17/when-the-king-comes-to-tea/.The summit is covered with 52 acres of mist forest with Dendrobium moorei orchids in full bloom, elkhorns, ferns and mosses, wet fungi bells, the Little Mountain Palm (Lepidorrhachis mooreana) in red berry, Green Plums (Atractocarpus stipula, the endemic Hotbark (Zygogynum howeanum) with its chilli flavoured bark, the Fitzgeraldii tree (Dracophyllum fitzgeraldii) and the endemic Scalybark (Syzygium fullagarii) with its sharp, deep red fruit, high in vitamin C. The photos below show a mist-covered Mt Gower; a forest covered Mt Lidgbird; and the orchid Dendrobium moorei in full bloom. The vegetation on Lord Howe Island is also very special, with half of the island’s 241 native plant species being found nowhere else in the world. Overall, there are 52 tree species; 24 shrub species; 24 creeper species; 12 orchid species; 28 grasses and sedges; 48 herb species, 56 fern species and 105 moss species. There are at least 100 different types of fungi. For more information about the vegetation, see : http://www.lordhoweisland.info/library/plantlife.pdf and http://lordhowe-tours.com.au/biodiversity/plants/.The high degree of endemism (up to 60 per cent in some groups) is also found in the invertebrate population with over 1600 species. There are 157 species of land and freshwater snails; 21 species of earthworms; 515 species of beetles; 27 species of ants; 137 species of butterflies and moths and 71 species of springtails. As with all oceanic islands, there are few vertebrate land animals, apart from birds. There are only 3 on Lord Howe Island : a small insect-eating bat; a gecko and a skink, both of which are endemic to the island. There are no native frogs or terrestrial mammals on the island.
Even though he is looking a little older than in our photos, it is worth watching this video, produced by Jack, to get a feel for the climb: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRkb24DPjE0. We were so exhausted at the end of the day we fell straight to sleep at the start of The English Patient, a film we had not seen and which we had rented out on video at enormous cost, especially for my birthday! We woke up early at 6am the next day to watch it before its return!
We were so stiff and sore and very very tired, so we were fair game for the spruikers and easily convinced to join Ron’s Rambles boat trip around the island! The boat was overcrowded with 40 people crammed in and the weather rough with a giant swell, so most of us (but NOT Ross!) were very seasick. Still, we did get to see the island from a different angle, but I was pleased to get back on dry land, safe and sound! This jaunty video was taken on a far better day, but will give you a bit of a feel for exploring the island by boat : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXcN2ZhzosM.
Still sore the following morning, we had a low-key day : viewing the Woodhen breeding enclosure at Stevens Reserve, swimming at Lagoon Bay and Blinky Beach and visiting Lovers Bay and the rock pools of Middle Beach, where we saw Turbans, Sea Urchins, Nerites, black-and-white Cone shells and coral. We fed the fish at Ned’s Beach: Silver Drummers, Mullet and enormous King Fish. This amusing video will give you an idea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NbtNtlYf4U.We finished with an evening of jazz and dinner at Pinetrees Lodge, the largest and oldest resort on the island , having housed guests since 1895 and now run by the 6th generation of the original family.
Yet to explore Mt Eliza (147m) and North Bay, we cunningly decided to hire sea kayaks, so we could spare our still-sore legs! We had an easy and quick trip down to North Bay with the wind behind us, climbed Mt Eliza and explored the rock pools of Old Gulch, but at 3pm, when we started our return paddle, we discovered that the wind was now against us and it was strong! We made little progress, so in desperation, we tied the kayaks together then, with much swearing and pushing, we finally inched our way past yachts, amused onlookers and the imminent arrival of the Island Trader, heading straight for us, back to the original beach. It was so good to get home and we’d achieved balance- now, our arms were as sore and stiff as our legs!!!We went down to the wharf the next day to see the MV Island Trader (http://www.islandtrader.com.au/) being unloaded. Owned and operated by the islanders, it makes fortnightly trips from Port Macquarie on the NSW coast and delivers all the islanders’ needs from groceries, building supplies and hardware to cars and furniture, and even a few passengers- though the trip takes much longer than flying! We revisited Old Settlement Beach, site of our other dream resort, Trader Nicks, now known as Arajilla Resort. If you had the money, it is so hard to choose between the two : Capella Lodge has the views, but Arajilla, nestled in amongst old Banyan trees, is closer to everything and has a lovely beach! For information on Arajilla, see: http://www.arajilla.com.au/ or http://lordhowe.com.au/.We watched White Terns wheeling in the sky and snorkellers in the Sylph’s Hole, then made our way back to Ned’s Beach to say goodbye. A Sacred Kingfisher farewelled us at the airport. We flew home that afternoon, having had the most magical island holiday – an unforgettable way to celebrate my 40th birthday!!