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Michelle asked the Qantas check-in lady what time we could check in and she said as long as we were flying today we could check in any time. So we did...
When our bags were placed on the scales we held our breaths because we weren't sure if we would go over the 14 kg baggage limit and incur excess baggage fees (or worse, be forced to leave stuff behind - which apparently they sometimes do if the flying weather to Lord Howe Island is bad). We were pleasantly surprised to find our bags were closer to 7 kg each and we barely topped the 14 kg limit combined! The check-in lady laughed and said she'd recently checked in a woman who was 12 kg over the baggage limit and definitely didn't let her take it all. She also asked if we'd like to get on the earlier 11:30 flight, which had seats available. We took the chance to start our time on the island a little earlier. Then she warned us that there might be some delays because of the weather - and that the 06:00 flight still hadn't left (at 10:00!).
So we walked through the security check and into the gate area where we could sit and watch the planes or check out the shops and cafes there. I sat for a while, while Michelle scoped the small selection of shops. Then we sat at a small cafe bar thingy and had drinks.
We still had a while to wait, as we found our flight progressively delayed to 11:55, then 12:10. We read our books for a while, and did some random wandering about as you do when waiting at an airport.
At one point I went to the toilet, which was in a small side corridor off a wider passage that led also to the women's toilets. As I emerged from the men's, I stepped out into the passage right into the path of a woman who hadn't seen me (as I hadn't seen her, because of the sharp corner between us). She kicked into my forward foot and then proceeded - in exquisite slow motion that I was utterly powerless to prevent - to gracefully fall headlong flat on her face on the floor.
She got up quickly, brushed herself off, and bustled off quickly as I expressed my profound apologies and asked if she was okay. She seemed to be, and to be in a hurry (possibly from embarrassment more than anything else), so I went back out to Michelle and my book.
While waiting, aslo ate some of the sweet chili bread I bought before leaving home - as a snack to avoid buying overpriced airport food.
Eventually our flight was called for boarding and we went to the gate where we boarded a bus on the tarmac. There were 31 passengers on the bus, almost all older people. There was one teenageish couple and two kids, but everyone else was middle-aged at least.
We boarded the plane - a De Havilland Dash 8 32-seater. The lone cabin crew member gave us the safety instructions. Then we taxied away and took off into the grey Sydney sky.
As we levelled out above the cloud deck, we were served a lunch box containing a roast beef sandwich and a piece of apple/walnut slice. I had Michelle's sandwich as she ate a cheese and vegemite scroll that we'd bought with us from our local bakery. The apple and walnut slice was good - very cinnamony. Later the crew guy brought around a huge silver tray piled high with Minties. I took two.
After nearly two hours flying time (into a strong headwind - initial prediction was 1 hour 35 minutes) we closed in on Lord Howe Island. The first thing I spotted out the starboard window was the spiky peak of Ball's Pyramid, misty in the distance but impressively huge. Then Mount Gower appeared and we were soon flying in low over the lagoon before touching down.
We left the plane, not really knowing what to expect except that someone from our accommodation was supposed to meet us. The first woman we approached helpfully asked us where we were staying and pointed us at another woman when we said "Somerset". The woman - Cheryl - greeted us and then turned to gather in some other people who were staying at the same place. She instructed us to wait out by the van for our luggage. As we waited in the gusty wind, I took my first photo of Mounts Lidgbird and Gower. While waiting, Cheryl pointd out that Ian Kiernan (Mr Clean Up Australia) was standing right next to us, having been on the same flight.
After several minutes, the luggage appeared - pushed manually by two old men on large trolleys. Everyone grabbed their bags and dispersed to the various vans from the different accommodation places. We piled ours into the Somerset van with three other people. One was an old lady from Switzerland here for three weeks.
Cheryl drove us to Somerset Apartments in a slightly roundabout way, giving us all a bit of a tour of the island as we went - stopping here and there to point out features and backtracking a couple of times. At Ned's Beach she pointed out the muttonbird burrows in the ground and said they flew in at sunset and people gathered to watch them.
Eventually we got to Somerset and Cheryl let us off into the hands of a young woman called Reanne, who showed us to our cabin - Hibiscus 4. Then she gave us a tour of the Somerset property - showing us the transit room (for early checkouts), laundries, barbecues, and so on. She mentioned that none of the cabins have keys - there's no need to lock anything. She also told us about the shops and which were the best to buy food from - Top Shop best for fresh fruit and veg because they get it flown in daily whereas the other two shops only get weekly ship deliveries, although it's more expensive; Joy's best for most things; Thompson's closer and handier but more expensive and not as much variety.
Finally left to our own devices we decided to visit all three shops in that order to procure supplies for dinner and breakfast. We set out with calico bags that Reanne supplied to us, walking up the hill to Top Shop. As we approached, a heavy cloud loomed overhead and dropped fat raindrops on us. We neared the shop and thought we could stop for shelter, only to find it was closed Saturdays! So we kept walking and the rain eased off after cooling us down a bit - a blessing really as it was warm and sticky.
We reached Joy's and took a few minutes to scout it out and assemble a basket of groceries - milk for brekky cereal, as well as cheese for sandwiches, potatoes and zucchinis and sausages for dinner, and a few bits and pieces. We then set off for home, via Thompson's where Michelle had a quick look inside.
We got home and rested for a while - watching a bit of the Australia versus England game on TV from Hobart. I realised we needed oil or margarine for cooking on the barbecue, so we took a quick walk back to Thompson's to get a tub of marge - noting while there that they sold fish 'n' chips and burgers for lunch.
We got back, prepared the veges and defrosted some sausages, then went out to cook them on one of the barbecues. A guy was using the barbecue next to us to char a huge slab of meat - and was still going by the time we were done! We chose the undercover barbecues by the side of our cabin rather than the exposed ones down the lawn in front because several times there had been brief, but quite intense, rainshowers.
Dinner cooked, we ate on the porch of our cabin, in the cool evening air, watching the sun set amongst the scudding grey clouds. Hopefully the wind and rain will ease off tomorrow so we can do some walking and swimming activities.
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