DM and MM's Lord Howe Island Trip Diary

Day 2 - Steven's Reserve, Top Shop, Ned's Beach

Sunday, 12 January, 2003

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10:23

It rained heavily on and off throughout the night - the pounding on the roof making itself known through slumber. I got up once to visit the toilet, and it was pitch black. Despite windows, there was no light whatsoever coming into the room. I had to feel my way along the walls to the bathroom, where I turned on the light.

Woke up at about 07:00, and decided that getting up early to make the most of the day as pointless when it was pouring rain. Eventually got up closer to 08:00, showered, and had breakfast. The view from the windows looked bad and a quick trip outside confirmed the sky was almost totally overcast.

The cloud blew over the island fairly quickly though, and by 09:30 or so the sky had cleared enough to consider going out. We decided the short walk through nearby Steven's Reserve would not be too taxing or ghastly if the heavens opened again, so packing umbrellas we set out.

The walk starts only five minutes from our cabin and we set out on the loop through lush palm forest. mixed with banyan figs and some other species. The sheer amount of greenery was overwhelming. Small palms sprouted everywhere in the dense undergrowth and large clumps of fungus dotted the many fallen logs and branches. The path was carpeted with fallen leaves, moist from the rain but never wet enough to form puddles on the spongy ground. The walk was very pleasant and the rain held off until we finished it. Partway along we spied a pigeon-like bird with brown plumage but bright forest green wings. It moved slowly near the path and didn't frighten much as we approached to within about a metre. We found out later this was an emerald ground dove.

Once out of the walk, the rain began again and we took shelter beside a huge Norfolk Island pine by the beach for a few minutes as it blew over (the rain, not the tree).

On the way back to the cabin we popped into Thompson's Store to buy some fresh bread and some stale bread to feed the fish at Ned's Beach. We also picked up a hot vege roll for Michelle and a satay roll for me, which were delicious as we ate them sitting back on our porch watching more pouring rain.

Now we're taking some time out to read and hope the weather improves for later.

17:15

About midday we took another walk around the "village" to pick up fresh fruit and veg from Top Shop, some shampoo for me fro Joy's, and burgers and chips for lunch from Thompson's.

Top Shop was only one small room, but had a good selection of nice looking produce, as well as fresh meat, fish, and deli meats. The man in front of us asked if they had any topside steak and the shop guy pulled out a huge slab and said, "How much do you wnt me to cut off?" The man asked where the meat had come from and the guy said it was locally grown.

"How old was it?"

"18 months to two years."

"I've seen some very old looking cows on this island..."

"Not this one. There's two in the paddock across the road - the owner should have shot them 10 years ago. But they have more IQ than he does."

Eventually the man bought his steak and we were served. We bought apples, bananas, potatoes, zucchini, and mushrooms. At Joy's Shop Michelle browsed a while while I got my shampoo. Then we went to Thompson's for burgers.

When we got there the lights were out. I'd read in the Somerset info guide that the island power sometimes goes out because the generator gets overloaded. So I ordered a vege burger, beef burger, and serve of chips in the dark. Thankfully the grill was gas powered so there was no problem there. We took the food back to our cabin to eat on the porch, watching the rain fall once more.

Ever since we arrived, it had been raining on and off - hard rain for about five minutes and then stopping for about an hour, during which time the sun would usually come out. Hopefully this pattern will give way to some solid fine weather so we can do longer walks without getting wet.

After lunch we rested and read for a while. I had a small nap.

Then we prepared to go to Ned's Beach for a swim. The weather turned really sour for a while, with a good 15 minutes of rain and solid overcast. It was colder than yesterday too. But I was determined to have a swim and we left as the rain was easing off.

We walked the easy road down to the beach, where about 20 kids were in the water, catching small waves on boogie boards. Younger kids were on the sand, playing amongst a group of 20 or so very tame ducks. An older man was snorkeling in a calm part of the bay, with no waves, so that's where I went in for my swim, leaving Michelle to watch and guard our stuff.

As soon as I went into the water - not even knee deep - I was surrounded by large fish! Obviously this is where they get fed, so they come very close to shore and people. Dipping my head under I saw several species, including some very brightly coloured ones with stripes and patterns in multiple colours. The largest fish were 60-70 centimetres long. It was quite fantastic and amazing.

After swimming with the fish for a while, I came out, dried off, and we went back to Somerset. The sun had come out and it was really quite pleasant at Ned's Beach, which is on the protected side of the island from the gusty wind that has been blowing since we got here. By the time we walked back to our cabin though, it had started raining again - nicely timed.

I had a shower to wash the salt off and ate some tinned fruit to drive the taste of the sea away.

20:20

After reading for a bit we had a simple dinner of sandwiches using the fresh bread we bought earlier today. It was delicious.

Then we watched the news on TV. Halfway through we walked down to the lagoon to watch the sunset and hopefully get some good photos. Unfortunately, it was too cloudy on the horizon for really good sunset shots. So we walked across the island to Ned's Beach on the eastern side where a colony of muttonbirds nests at night.

As we watched the slowly dimming sky, we saw a handful of white terns wheeling in the evening sky over the headlands on either side of the beach. After 15 minutes or so, as the sky was getting quite dark, we noticed the first large black bird joining the smaller white terns. I guessed this was a muttonbird, but it simply flew around for a while. Eventually some others joined it, and we saw one land and take off into the palm forest at a run.

As we watched, enthralled by the spectacle of an ever-increasing number of birds wheeling around in the sky above us, more and more birds landed nearby and scurried off into the trees. Some landed within a couple of metres of us, and others flew by overhead or next to us, almost within arm's reach. We stayed watching the birds for several minutes. By the time we left there were dozens of birds, newly landed on the grass next to us, some less urgent than others to head into the trees and their burrowed homes. We stepped within a pace of one, shining our torches on it to get a good look at the glossy black feathers.

As we walked back along the road through the forest, we heard all around us the raucous cries of the muttonbirds. Shining our torches intot he forest we could see them everywhere, seemingly arguing over who would be first into the burrows for the evening. We saw a bird sitting still on the road, and it didn't even move as we walked up and I reached down to stroke its back. Many others were also within touching distance of us as they sat docilely on the road or at the edge of the trees.

Eventually we made it back to our cabin where we had some dessert - pineapple for MIchelle and and leftover apple/walnut slie from the plane for me.


Oh, when walking back from Joy's Shop earlier, we spotted some odd-looking birds in the forest by the road. They looked young as they had downy feathers. I wondered what they were. As we walked past them, Michelle said, "When did the chicken cross the road?" I looked back, and sure enough right behind us was a chicken, crossing the road with her brood of half-grown chicks.


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