DM and MM's Lord Howe Island Trip Diary

Day 3 - Valley of Shadows, Clear Place, Middle Beach

Monday, 13 January, 2003

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12:30

We woke again to the sound of torrential rain, and turned over for a bit more snooze. Closer to 08:00 we got up and had breakfast. The weather seemed a little more promising just before 09:00, so we set out on the walk to Clear Place, the Valley of Shadows, and Middle Beach. We wanted to visit Middle Beach at low tide, so we could walk along it and return by a different route. Yesterday at Ned's Beach I'd seen the tide times so I knew today low tide would be around 11:00.

We set out along Anderson Road to the walking track. Once into the forest it was amazing to see just how dense the growth was. Making one's way through it without a path cleared would be very difficult work.

The path led out into a cleared area with a paddock fenced off by electric fencing. We noted a sign indicating that the grass was in the process of being replaced with the native forest habitat, to allow for muttonbird burrows - the birds cannot burrow into the grassed ground.

Once past the paddock we again entered a dense palm forest, with the odd banyan tree spreadeagled over a vast area thanks to its enormous limbs and auxiliary trunks grown from dangling root systems. We passed the turnoff to Middle Beach and continued on to the Valley of Shadows, which was a small valley, thickly overgrown with the aforementioned trees. On the way we saw more emerald ground doves, and I tried to take a photo of one, but the exposure time was far too long in the dim light of the forest floor.

An old man passed us along the track, frightening me as he approached when I had stopped to take a photo. We didn't meet him on the way to the Valley, so presumed he had taken the fork to Clear Place - a surmise proven true when we passed him coming back from that place as we headed out to it.

Middle Beach Clear Place was a high, windy lookout above a sloping sea cliff covered with heath plants. We had a view out the eastern side of the island, to the small Muttonbord Island, and southeast down the coast of Lord Howe itself to the creatively named Muttonbird Point. Just over the point we could see looming in the distance the vast monolithic crag of Ball's Pyramid - a good 25 km away from our observation spot, but impressive in its mist-shrouded enormity, the top peak lost amidst the grey scudding clouds that blanketed the horizon.

We stopped only long enough for a few photos before seeking refuge from the wind back amongst the trees. And so we walked back to the previously passed turn to Middle Beach and took that route. A series of wooden steps took us down to a beautiful small beach, with shallow water sheltered by extensive rock ledges stretching into a turquoise-watered bay.

It began raining a little as we stood on the sands of the beach, but it lasted only a couple of minutes. A few other people were on the beach also, two or three fishers and an older couple walking out on the submerged rock shelf in special non-slip rubber booties.

We danced across the sand, inspecting the multitude of pebbles, broken pieces of coral, and shells that had drifted up to the tide line. The sand was intercut with exposed rock of several different types as we progressed along the beach - a smooth sandstone with rounded tide pools formed by the action of pebbles, a rough grey volcanic rock with bubbles in it, another grey rock with eroded layers visible and titled at 45 degrees, and a very tough and sharply weathered rock which formed spikes, points, and sharp edges amongst which we had to take great care in walking in order to prevent a tragic fall. We saw the black shells of snails in the tidal pools, but little else alive beyond green seaweed.

Eventually we reached the northern end of the beach and climbed the second set of wooden steps back into the palm forest. We wended our way again through this magical landscape until we reached Anderson Road, where we turned to head home via Joy's Shop for a snack.

Joy's had little in the way of ice cream, so we headed to Thompson's Store and its display case of fresh ice cream served by the scoop. I had a double cone with banana and crème brûlée flavours - delicious. I ate as we walked back to our cabin. Then I had a quick shower to wash off the sunscreen and sweat of the walk, before we sat down to a sandwich lunch.

The lunch included some fresh local tomatoes that we picked up at a roadside stall between Joy's and Thompson's, putting the request $2.50 for a bag into the honesty box. Soon after that we were passed by a man riding a bicycle, carrying a spare bike wheel in his hand. I pointed it out and said that that was the 3-wheeled bicycle we'd seen advertised for hire in one of the local amenities brochures, which caused us both to crack up laughing.

Now it's 13:05 and the rain is absolutely pouring down outside - it has been going non-stop for the past half hour or so. Lucky we got our walk in early today in the sunshine!

16:30

We've just returned from a quick trip to Ned's Beach to feed the fish there. After the rain finally cleared for a bit, we set out on the short walk, taking the stale bread we bought yesterday. As soon as we got there and pulled out the bread we found out why the ducks hang around on the beach - they made a beeline straight for us!

We ditched our footwear and walked down to the water where the gentle waves lapped at the sand. We walkd in to knee depth and were immediately surrounded by fish - lots of long thin silver fish and some larger bright blue fish. When we started tossing them chunks of bread, the ducks followed us into the surf, trying to poach the bread before the fish could get to it. The water around us boiled with fish - the smaller species about 30 centimetres long and the less numerous blue fish about twice as big. The fish bumped into our legs as they swarmed about us, tossed back and forth by the lapping of the surf.

After giving them two bread rolls we retreated back to the shelter on the beach, just as the rain started again. We washed our feet off and waited a few minutes for the rain to slacken off, then set out back to the cabin again.

Now back here, and the rain has started yet again. We seem to be very lucky (or skilful!) choosing times to go out in between the heaviest and longest showers.

18:40

At 17:30 we took the 10 minute walk to the Milky Way bar for their Monday night fish 'n' chips takeaway. It rained quite heavily was we walked, and we arrived in a steady drizzle only to find a sign indicating there was no fish available tonight! Looking at what remained of the menu, I chose the prawn cutlets and chips, which arrived shortly thereafter. We sat at a table in the tiny bar (there were only two tables inside, and two out on the porch) and ate - delicious, though it was a bit of a disappointment not to get the fish.

Meal finished, we walked back to the cabin, again through steady rain. On the way out to Milky Way, we'd seen the weather forecast posted on a noticeboard in the village - the outlook for the next three days is continuing showers and high wind. So it looks like there will be no change for the better before Friday at least.

19:20

The rain is really pelting down now.


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