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T R AV E L

Lord Howe wow-factor

Nelsonians Brian and Hilary Tear have been sailing together for 31 years, recently returning from a four-year voyage around the South Pacific, including Australia. Brian Tear expands on an island stopover aboard Taranui, a 13.3m New Zealand-designed Ganley.

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he silhouette of Lord Howe Island dominated the night skyline while Taranui lay ‘hove to’ after a three-day passage from Southport, Australia. At sunrise the distinct peaks of Mt Gower (875m) and Mt Lidgbird (777m), together with the off-lying and mystical ocean sea stack Balls Pyramid (551m), were visible. Simon, the local policeman, directed our yacht by VHF radio through the reef and used his patrol vehicle’s flashing lights as an onshore beacon. It’s supposedly the only occasion these lights are used considering the population of 400 closeknit residents never lock anything. The maximum 400 visitors who feel liberated from such insecurities can relax and enjoy the island’s uniqueness. After tying up to a pre-arranged mooring, our bikes were land-launched for the first exploration of Lord Howe. The island lies 600km east of Port Macquarie, NSW, and is renowned for its dramatic scenery, lush sub-tropical forest, rare flora and fauna, pristine beaches and abundant marine and seabird life. In recognition for its scenic beauty and biodiversity, Lord Howe was declared a World Heritage site in 1982. The semi-protected lagoon is the southernmost coral reef in the Pacific. Commuting on bikes is the main means of transport on the island. Bicycles are readily available for visitors to hire. With the low population, vehicles are few in number and are restricted to a maximum speed of 25km/h. Access is mainly by plane from Sydney or Brisbane, with accommodation available in small lodges well hidden amongst the bush.

Balls Pyramid, lying 20km south-east of Lord Howe, is the tallest volcanic sea stack in the world. 80

Bad weather, good fortune Technically, after having checked out of Southport in Australia, visiting Lord Howe was to provision and refuel. However, the weather forecast wasn’t conducive to a Tasman Sea crossing to New Zealand until 13 days after our arrival, giving us ample opportunity to explore this extraordinary island. One objective was to climb the iconic Mt Gower, which towered over Taranui with its awe-inspiring steep sides and regular orographic (mountain) cloud. The climb is regarded as one of Australia’s toughest but most spectacular day-walks and only accessible with a guide. Jack Schick, a fifth-generation islander, led us and 15 others up the gnarly mountain with hand-rope assisted climbing and impressive drop-offs. At lower levels the views were stunning before approaching the summit’s cloud cover, which is responsible for the moist forest and unique, relatively untouched flora on the summit plateau.

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