This could just be the most beautiful place I have ever seen. An unusual combination of Tahiti, Fiji, Hawaii and Australia.
An island seemingly stuck in the past on purpose.
The island is immaculately cared for, the local residents clearly aware of the unique place they have the privilege to live on. Residency doesn’t come easy, most of the 380 permanent residents have been here for a very long time, there is a transient working population that have temporary accomodation, however long term residency is based on land or business ownership. Marriage seems to be a common answer to the “how did you end up on the island? “ question.
The islands entire economy is based on tourism and they do it well! The township is very spread out, with a small concentration on the west coast facing the lagoon supporting water or land based tours. These small businesses all work out of sheds on the beach, giving the township a very laidback country feel.
We find ourselves directed towards Wilsons hire, just a short walk down the main road where we hire bikes for our stay. Macca hires out all modes of transport and has over 300 bikes for hire. It transpires he also organises fishing charters, fuel deliveries, snorkelling gear and bait. (We head back to him constantly over the next month, for any unusual query that we have - “can we buy marine ply?” - “I know a few people, give me a day or two” is the frequent response)
Most businesses on Lord Howe are like this, a veritable plethora of ‘jack of all trades’ in unexpected combinations.
The Anchorage (local cafe) also sells internet, fresh bread, random fruit and vegetables and turns into the only bar in the evening.
With bikes at our disposal we set out exploring this magical place. Each road surprising us with its increasing beauty. We actually start to laugh as we come around each turn, it is just that ridiculously pretty.
Our initial ride takes us simply up and down the west coast, past the museum, police station, hospital, local school and administration building (which doubles as the liquor store - see I told you - weird combinations)
Many of the accomodation options are well hidden behind the immaculately kept landscape and most offer dinner options. We are kept amused by the randomness of days that many of the restaurants are open, it almost seems like a Monty Python skit. Mondays and Friday nights with a fish buffet on Sunday - Blue Moon resort, Arajilla offers dinners all nights, the Golf Club offers up a bar and dinners on the nights that it runs competitions (still not quite sure what those nights are), and the list continues.
Our entertainment continues with signs such as:
All welcome for rugby 4pm Tuesday and Thursday.
Garage sale at Amy’s (apparently everyone knows where Amy lives as that information is not included on the sign).
Community market on this Sunday from 10.30 to 2.3o, no idea where, but no doubt someone will point us in the right direction.
Thorngate Farm open 8-9am, sells market garden produce (also provides the public internet for the island and at a push will sell you fuel)
We quickly discover the steepness of the island as we ride up the main street to get to the other side, where there is larger shop to provision from “Joys”, Joys it would appear has a great selection but not a lot of joy, man she is one grumpy lady. After a few minor purchases we depart speechless at the $91.15 price tag for one small bag of groceries. Yeah, I get it, it takes a lot of effort to get items out to the island, but still!!
Getting groceries back to the boat is via bike, some days I feel like a farm girl, others an idiot as I drop the bike unexpectedly and break 6 out of the 12 eggs.
Access to the island for us is by our tender, Lil’LY. It is about a 5 minute ride in through crystal clear waters in an amazing lagoon, on the lucky days we spot a turtle or a few larger fish. On unlucky days it is rough and we get soaking wet. We drag the tender up on the beach usually with a few words of disagreement as to whether the tide is coming in or out (coming in we need to drag the tender way up the beach and she is HEAVY, tide going out we leave her on the waters edge knowing that she will be high and dry when we get back).
Island life is amazingly laid back, the days start slowly with an extensive conversation (read hours) as to what should we do today. Given the amazing weather at the moment Jamie and I are both keen to get into the water and do a test dive on our new dive gear. As with all things boat, it takes an enormous effort to pull out the compressor, assemble all the dive gear and get it set up and into the dinghy. We toddle over to the closest public mooring (we could almost swim there) and I backwards roll into the water - probably not the best idea as I barely miss scraping my head on the coral. Probably should have checked the depth first as it is only 2 metres (rookie mistake), I bob quickly back up to the surface and warn Jamie just to slide in.
The water clarity is amazing and there are a decent amount of fish and hard coral varieties but the water being so shallow makes for a ‘bouncy’ dive and we soon get frustrated and head back to Lil’LY. Getting out of the water normally onto an inflatable is difficult, increase that difficulty by 10 when you are wearing weighted dive gear. Luckily for me Jamie is around to assist dragging the gear back up. We quickly work out a system of pulling the weights out of the BCD pockets and tossing them into the boat, then clipping the dive gear onto the ropes on the side. With the dive gear secured and not able to float away we can get into the boat and then unclip the gear and drag it in. When I say we, I really mean Jamie as it is a heavy and awkward lift.
Discussions on the way back to Lukim Yu centre around catching up with the locals at the dive shop to get better intel on the local dive sites.
Loving our time here with our amazing friends Tiff and Dave, Tiffany having flown in two days after we arrived. Lots of fishing and surfing for Dave, laid back dinners, French champagne (thanks Tiff), trivial pursuit rematches and more.
Most nights we sit on the back of the boat transfixed by amazing sunsets framed by the dramatic landscapes of the island.
We make friends with SV Blanchette moored next to us, 2 Canadian guys both called Dave, taking our Dave total to 3. To avoid confusion we name them no fish Dave (that’s our Dave), Island Dave (he owns and lives on an island called Blanchette, hence the name of the boat, it belongs to him and his wife) and Shark Shorts Dave - he was wearing these cool shark shorts when we met. Days of dinners, golf and general mayhem ensue until the boys eventually leave heading to New Zealand. I’d usually say fair winds and following seas here but we’ve kept up to date with their passage and although they have arrived safely they had 40-50kn winds and huge seas. All in all a terrible passage…….
Tiff and Dave leave after too short a visit, leaving Jamie and I to continue to explore the island……… bye for now
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