Living on Lord Howe Island


Discovery Day climb to Goat House

Posted by Pinetrees Lodge – Thursday, February 19, 2015

Family outing to Goat House

Nits! Probably the worst four letter word in our house. An early call advising of an outbreak of nits among the local school kids meant a sudden readjustment of Discovery Day.

For those who haven’t been here in February, we celebrate Discovery Day on 17 February to remember the day way back in 1788 when Lord Howe was first discovered by Europeans. We have no evidence of Polynesian visitors, and no indigenous people, so Lieutenant Henry Lidgbird Ball and his crew got the naming rights. Unlike Australia Day with its contemporary display of big tattoos and excessive beer, Discovery Day is all about the kids and the young at heart. It starts with a school fundraising ‘fish fry’ dinner and is followed by a night-time sports carnival for all ages with events such as barrel rolling, tunnel ball, tug-of-war, slow bicycle races (i.e the last to cross the line wins), three legged races, and the most dangerous of all, wheelbarrow races. It’s a great night, but we weren’t there.

Getting back to the nits, and being first time nit outbreak parents, we decided to turn Discovery Day into a day of discovery. Instead of sending the kids to school (and going to work) we had a family outing to Goat House – about as far away from school as we could get. This isn’t a typical family picnic. Goat House is 400 vertical metres up Mt Lidgbird, at the base of the 200 vertical metre cliff that leads to the summit ridge. It’s a daunting place to be, and depending on the day, a daunting place to get to with 3 and 6 year old girls. The lower part of the track has well-formed steps, and the short section along Smoking Tree Ridge is pretty much flat, but then it gets steep, and steeper and steeper. Half way up the north face is the first rope line (more useful when the track is wet and slippery), and this is followed by a series of rope climbs and traverses to get to the cliff line.

Can you imagine the girls’ facial expressions when they, for the first time ever, looked up at the enormous overhanging cliff above? Just out from the jagged volcanic rock, dozens of Red-tailed tropic birds drifted in the thermals. Elsie and Pixie both nearly fell backwards as they followed the birds over their centre of balance, which in the location, is not recommended. Adjusting to the downward view, the girls saw the island below their toes (from a bit above the height of Centre Point Tower in Sydney). It was stunning. Finally, we had to negotiate the last scramble to the Goat House cave, which for little kids required some careful foot placements and a bit of nerve.

Our lunch of peanut butter sandwiches and chocolate was far below the quality of a Pinetrees packed lunch, but we were out on a spontaneous adventure. We were lucky to have stale bread. The location, though, would surpass any world class restaurant so, on balance, we were doing pretty well.

For those of you frowning at our school-day expedition, you should rest assured that we covered multiple subjects in a short time. It was like speed reading on your feet. We covered history (indigenous people, Captain Cook, Polynesian sailors, the First Fleet, Norfolk Island), geography (valleys, saddles, ridges, cliffs, summits, lagoons, oceans, volcanoes), ecology (trees, grasses, birds, insects, habitat, sun, shade, moisture), languages (Pixie has an invisible Unicorn friend who speaks Unicorn), and maths (how long to the top?, how long to our next chocolate stop?, if there are 12 pieces in a chocolate bar and we’ve had 2 each already…) – just as a few examples.

The descent was slow on tired legs, and the girls held it together where we’ve seen adults come apart. There were no tantrums or fights – just an increasing number of stumbles, giggles and sugar stops as the day wore on. We’ve dreamed for years of taking the girls on a serious Lord Howe adventure, and the Discovery Day climb to Goat House delivered. You should try it on your next trip to Lord Howe.

Now we’re back to nit anxiety.

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About Dani Rourke

HELP! I have 2 children, 25 staff and up to 75 guests. I was a lawyer for 10 years, but escaped. My husband and I moved from Sydney to beautiful Lord Howe Island to run Pinetrees Lodge, which has been in my family for 6 generations. I'm writing about family business, island life and the whole work/family disaster. Did someone say balance? When I'm not writing, my lovely staff do it for me - they see more of the island than I do.

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