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Armchair traveller: The Northern Hills

29-Jun-2013

The northern hills of Lord Howe Island are often seen as the poor cousins of the big mountains in the south. Yes, they are smaller and less remote, but they still require some serious exertion. And because there are a number of peaks, you can bag three in one day. If an economist had to do a cost benefit analysis of exertion versus reward, each joule of energy would return a much higher number of units for reward, satisfaction, fitness and happiness (our friends in Bhutan probably have a method for this). With only a few hundred vertical metres of climbing, you get to traverse a spectacular skyline ridge with gentle green hills, beaches, lagoon and big mountains on one side, and vertical cliffs, sea birds and ocean on the other side.

The second day of our Wilderness Week was moody, dark and wet at breakfast. It took some effort to get people motivated. But, as is often the case at Lord Howe, the ‘breakfast showers’ cleared by 10am and the day became a cracker. There were still a few passing showers with patches of blue sky and sunshine, which means one thing – rainbows. As we reached the summit of Kims Lookout, the first patch of sunlight came through. Converging from the opposite direction were dark clouds and showers. All we had to do was wait. The result was a series of rainbows, sometimes double rainbows, with saturated light, dark shadows and blue sky. Standing next to Samantha, our visiting Anmatyerre girl from the outback (see previous post) and watching the sub-tropical world go by, was a real highlight.

By the time we reached North Bay the weather had cleared completely, which made our off-track climb of North Head relatively easy. The view from North Head is one of the best on the island – it’s like an amphitheatre of volcanic peaks surrounding a pristine turquoise lagoon. In spring, the North Head ridge in home to thousands of Sooty terns, and thanks to their fertilisation of the ground, there’s a mat of nitrogen-rich green annual plants (like coastal spinach). The green of the ground cover accentuates the turquoise of the lagoon and cobalt blue of the ocean. Photographers have to remove their polarising lenses, because the colours are just too saturated.

After exploring the high ground, we descended for a BBQ lunch of garlic prawns, Moroccan spiced kingfish and New England veal. Some people did a quick dash to the Gulch and Mt Eliza, but most were happy to relax and watch the fire.

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