10 Days in Norfolk Island

Day 1: Friday: Melbourne to Norfolk Island

The alarm went at 0400, but we were both rather expecting it, so it was the work of a moment to leap up and be dressed, complete the last few items of packing, and be waiting at the driveway for David and Sue at 0430.

A clear run to Tullamarine (who else but international travellors would be up at this hour?) saw us finding a park in the long-term car park, and boarding a bus to the terminal. A interesting incident along the way - a bloke boarded the bus, plonked a couple of large bags by the door, then stood up next to the door, obviously expecting to be first off. But the driver anounced over the tannoy that all bags need to be in the luggage rack, and for people to take a seat. The bloke appeared to take no notice, so the driver repeated the instruction. "The man in the white shirt, he's talking to you!" I exclaimed, whereupon Mr White Shirt turned around to glower at me. But at that point, the driver came back, picked up the miscreant bags, placed them in the luggage rack, and again exhorted White Shirt to sit down. By now there were no seats, save for the very back of the bus, so that's where WS had to go. Of course, when the bus stopped, everyone in front of him leapt up to grab their bags, so Mr White Shirt had to wait, and was in fact the last person to get off the bus! Very poetic justice!

However, we were not in too much of a position to gloat, since when we arrived at the check in counter, we saw that our plane had been cancelled. There was one 15 minutes later, but we had to wait in the queue for half an hour while the various predicaments in front of us were sorted out. Then, when we did get to the front of the queue, the "service" woman effectively suggested that it was all our fault, as we, quote, "did not know when our plane was due to leave"! It took a lot of calming words from Barb not to make me lose my cool!

But we got our boarding passes, bought some breakfast/lunch wraps, and boarded our flight almost on time, for a pleasant (and food free) Air New Zealand 2 hour flight to Norfolk Island. Our luggage must have been last on, first off, because it arrived on the carousel quickly, and we were through customs and out on the forecourt before we knew it. Friendly staff from the Resort met us there, and stow our bags onto a trailer behind a bus. But we had to wait a bit, because the Robinson's luggage took much longer, and most of the passengers were through before they appeared.

Once all assembled, it was a short but bumpy bus ride to the Paradise Resort, where were again welcomed, this time with an island juice cocktail, and some explanation about the week's activity. The hire car which Jim had organized was also arranged, and each couple had a nominated driver (Barb in our case). Once ensconced in our cabins/rooms, and settled in, we all piled into the car for a short run into Burnt Pine, the main shopping strip on the island, and what would pass for a "high street" in most country towns. The population of NI is only 1700, spread across an island that is 8km by 5km (at its widest points), so it is a small place. But for a "town" this size, it does have a lot of jewellery/shoe/fashion shops, and the prices are usually less than the equivalent items in Australia, so it is rather a shopping paradise.

We checked out the market area (Saturday and Sunday mornings), the post office (a separate organization fro Australia Post, with its own stamps), and the one bottle shop in the island. For reasons that are not clear to me in retrospect, I did not buy any beer, a fact which I came to regret, since the bttle shop closed early on Saturdays, and was shut on Sundays, right when you need it! Although it was late (1500) by now, we did find a cafe that still had some lunch items, so Barb had a ham and cheese muffin, and John had a steak and cheese pie, together with appropriate coffees. The pie was very yummy! This was at the only supermarket mall on the island, and we followed that by a browse in the included newsagent's, where we saw lots of "Grumpy Old Man" T-shirts and caps. But we eschewed these for the nonce, and John bought a beer T-shirt instead.

We walked back to the resort from the shopping strip, a trip of perhaps 1000m, and Barb went for a swim in the pool. However, her expression(s) on entering the water somewhat discouraged the rest of us from following! Her comment was "bracing"! We elected to eat dinner in the "La Perouse" restaurant at 1800. John had fish and chips, with the local "trumpeter" fish, and Barb had a salad nicoise. John had a beer, the NZ brand Speights, an English style ale. They don't seem to have much in the way of pale ales, prefering the Australian lager styles (which was also true of the local bottle shop, and I suspect the two are related).

Given the earlyness of our arising, an early night was warranted, and Barb and I were asleep by 2130.

Day 2: Saturday

John started the day with a splash

Breakfast at Olive's

Wandered the market

Discovery Tour at noon

Dinner BBQ wth Trumpeter fillets from market

Day 3: Sunday

Breakfast at Golden Orb

Wandered the market

Dinner BBQ with ham steaks

Day 4: Monday

A slightly later start to the day saw us taking breakfast in the Paradise Resort at 0830, as Donna's choice. Because the Island observes a time zone that is 1 hour ahead of Australian Eastern Standard Time, it is currently on the same time as Victoria and NSW, even though its solar time is more like an hour ahead. It is daylight at 0400, and by 0830 the sun is well and truly up.

The breakfast was good value at $11, which included the usual continental stuff. Barb and I had muesli with various stewed fruits and yoghurt, together with toast and coffee. Then we headed off to the township, Morgans and Hursts walking, Robinsons driving, to assemble at the Rawson Hall for a cooking demonstration.

There were two demos. The first was by Byron and Heidi, from the Bedrock Cafe, who cooked the local Trumpeter fish in a lemon-based vegatable mix. The locals are very proud of the fact that there vegetables are all locally grown, and that the only veggies that they import are onions, garlic and ginger. Well, almost. We discovered as the week wore on that several other eating stuffs are also imported, things that you might have thought could be grown locally, like coconuts, potatoes, and surprisingly (given the number of cows on the island!), milk.

This was followed by a much more polished delivery from a bloke who had just started up a charcuterie on the island, using local beef and pork. He had been a teacher, and it was clear from his background that he knew how to keep an audience listening. He explained how he made Haggis, Proscuitto, and Salami from these local ingredients, adapted for the local climate and culture. He had a copy of Robert Burns' "Ode to a Haggis", of which he read the first two lines, and then offered it to someone who could better do the accent. John accepted the challenge, and rattled off the first verse in a passable Scottish lilt, although to quote Ron Morrison, he may have been "muddderring the lungwage"!

Dinner at Paradise Hotel with the "Wild Wetls"

Day 5: Tuesday

Walked to breakfast at Olive with David and Sue, Donna and Jim not coming because they were still full from last night.

Walked across to Cooking Demo in Rawson Hall at 1000. Two demos of three local staples: Binki showed us how to make green banana fritters (easy - if you can get green banabas!), followed by 4 school kids, who cooked firstly Tahititian Fish, which we knew from Tahiti as "poisson cru", and secondly, coconut bread.

After the demo, we went shopping in our various ways. Barb and I looked at milk jugs, and bought a blue spode mug.

Lunch ws skipped because of the giant dinner last night, plus we sampled the various offerings at the demo. We spent

Dinner was the Food Festival sampling at Kingston

Day 6: Wednesday

Drove to Breakfast at Cafe Tempo with Donna and Jim. David and Sue did not come, again claiming that the previous night's dinner was sufficient. The service was slow, because although we were the first into the cafe, we sat down and chatted, while another group of four walked in up to the counter and ordered. So their orders got processed before ours. But we were in no hurry, since David and Sue decided to walk to Cascade Bay, and we were to pick them up there after breakfast.

Barb and shared a French Toast, which was very nice, while Jim and Donna shared some corn fritters, which they were less than enthusiastic about. After breakky, we drove out to Cascade Bay to pick up David and Sue, and inspect the rather short pier (the one people go for ong walks on!)

This pier is a rather contentious issue, as it is scheduled for extension by the Australian Government, and has been oft-quoted as one of the reasons why the Norfolk Island community needs to make itself more self suffient, or be taken over as an Australian Territory. The island desperately needs better port facilities. As I write this, the radio is announcing that there is no work unloading the ship today, because the conditions are not calm enough for the lighters to ferry goods to and from the ship, which has to anchor out in open waters. But without Australian money (from Australian taxpayers, NOT Norfolk Islanders who pay no Australian tax), there is no way that Norfolk Island can pay for such infrastructure.

We drove around on the way back from Cascade Bay, visiting the Cockpit Waterfall (not much water falling, though, because of the drought), and eventually returned to Paradise Resort. Barb and I felt the need for coffee, so we walked back the short distance to Hilli's. The others all argued that it was shut, but I had seen the umbrellas out and up, so I knew. When we did not return withing 10 minutes, the others did follow, so all six of us had coffee, before returning to Paradise, to wait for the bus to take us only slightly further around the corner of Queen Elizabeth Avenue to Mariah's Restaurant.

Mariah's was the next Food Festival event, which was a Thanksgiving Day Lunch. This was in the form of a very sumptuous buffet, with four kinds of baked fish - trumpeter, trevally, amberjack and king fish - with all kinds of local specialties of greeb banana fritters, coconut bread, pippies, poisson cru, kumera (local sweet potato), and so on.

Swim at Emily Bay

Time for a beer

Chocolat at the Ferny Park Theatre

Day 7: Thursday

Day 8: Friday

A bit of a chance to sleep in this morning, since the bus was not due until 0845. But the radio announced that the ship was to be unloaded today, so David and Sue decided to walk out to Kingston to see the operation. Getting back was a problem, since the bus constrained how much time there was, so we arranged to drive out along the Kingston Rd to meet them coming back somewhere between 0815 and 0830. But this plan rather fell in a heap, since at about 0800 a message from the front desk came that said "The Morgans are staying at Kingston". I presumed that that meant they did not want to be picked up, but Barb thought it meant that we were to pick them up from Kingston. As it turned out, it was neither, but it was only on driving down there as a safety precaution in case our interpretation was wrong that we discovered the real reason - that the breakfast was at Emily Bay, only a short walk across from Kingston!

But then Jim had to drive the car back to get Donna, and, as luck would have it, for the first tie all week, the bus not only came on time, but it came early, and Donna had already caught it. Consequently there were some ruffled feathers all round about the ad-hoc planning that eventually got us all to the breakfast on time, but more by good luck than good management.

The Baunti Breakfast was good, with scrambled eggs, bubble and squeak, sausages, bacon, french toast, muesli and yoghurt, tomato juice, and the good local coffee to follow. Entertainment from the same singer as last night, some dancing from the Tahitian Dancers, and delightful views across both Emily Bay and Sydney Bay made for a very pleasant start to the day. Back to Paradise for a little R&R until the next tour.

Which was that in the afternoon we were picked up in a minibus by Eddie, who took us on a Farm and Industry Tour. First stop was the Kentia Palm Nursery, now actually exporting Norfolk Island Pine seedlings since the market for Kenta Palms fell from $1000/bushel to $20/bushell, and it became uneconomic.

Next stop was Farmer Lou's, where we met Lou, who explained all the crops he was growing (corn, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, bananas, mangoes, asparagus, leeks, etc., etc.), and then showed us over his piggery (pong!) where there were quite a few piglets (4 sows each with about 8 piglets, and quite a few weaned ones as well).

A welcome trip out to Bedrock for afternoon tea (the excellent local coffee again), and a chance to admire the view from the northernmost part of the island.

Then to Farmer Pat's place, who walked us around her farm, including some hydroponic lettuces that her son had started growing.

The final stop was the soft drink and liquer factory, where we had another opportunity to taste all the liquers that we didn't taste yesterday! Again, we bought two bottles, this time Macadamia and Sambucca, along with a stopper to go with them.

evening; progressive dinner and convict history

Day 9: Saturday

Up bright and early to drive down to Kingston to see the Southern Tiara ship being unloaded by lighters.

Then back to Paradise to drop off the car, and then walk to The Golden Orb, wher mushrooms were on the menu again!

To the market to buy some wetls for tomorrow night.

Back to Paradise in the car, and collected various belongings for a drive out to Ball Bay to inspect the oil unloading terminal, then further round the coast to Two Chimneys, where we looked at the view, then to The Two Chimneys Winery for tastings, and some small purchases (sparkling chamoscin and verdelho).

Checked out the SubLime Cafe for coffee, but it was shut, so back into town for coffee at Joel's Cafe (and the Robinsons had lunch, since they missed breakfast). Then back to Paradise to tog up for the glass bottom boat this afternoon.

We headed down to Emily Bat in the car (the bus being cancelled) just before 1400, to catch up with John Christian, the boat owner and driver, who was readying the boat on its trailer ready for launching. We watched him launch the boat in such a way that we were able to walk onto the boat trailer and then the boat, all without getting our feet wet or requiring a jetty.

The boat trip itself was very enjoyable, not so much from the things that we saw, although some of the fish were quite spectacular, but more from what we heard: John's easy patter about what we were seeing, and the reasons and stories behind it all. He explained for example, that one of the brightly coloured blue fish we saw was "George", whom he had observed himself for 14 years, and was reputed to be around 30 years of age.

We saw many fish, several sting rays, a banded eel, and, thanks to a group of small boys who had accompanied us, a sea urchin that they had found on the reef. One of them, Keanu, was John's son, and he and three mates (all about 12) sat on the fron deck spotting fish and rays, and guiding us through the shallow waters, until John dropped them on the reef where they went looking for urchins while we explored the coral formations.

We spent a pleasant hour stooging around Emily and Slaughter Bays, and then headed back to the Emily Bay beach, where alighted, and then went for a swim. All of us entered the water, even Jim and David, and we floated about enjoying the 23 degree waters (which is not really that warm!)

Then packing up, we returned to the car. I got stung on the left foot by a bee, at least I think that is what it was, as I walked across the grass. It was painful for 10 minutes, but gradually dissipated, and I was able to walk on it once we had returned to the Paradise Hotel, where we had time for a beer, and then got ready for dinner.

Dinner was at Dino's, out on the Bumbora Point road, and as we were early, we had time to visit the point and enjoy the view (and another sunset). The dinner itself was very nice: Barb had crab linguini, grilled local tuna, and licquorice ice cream for dessert, while John had gorgonzola souffle, grilled lamb, and chocolate baci cake for dessert. We shared the entree course by swapping plates half way through.

Then back to the hotel and bed.

Day 10: Sunday

The Morgans and the Hursts were off early to visit Anson Bay, which involved walking down a long winding track which was constructed in the early 1980s to install the ANZCAN cable from both Australia and New Zealand to Fiji and Hawaii, and then on to Canada, landing in Vancouver. It was completed in 1984, and decomissioned in 2002 - however the access track reamins, and is in good condition for walking. 100 metres from cliff top to sea level, but going down was easy. On the beach we watched the waves for a while, took some photos, and generally admired the ambience.

Returning to the top, we drove back to Paradise, picked up Donna and Jim, and set off for Norfolk Blue for breakfast. We went via the Moreton Bay fig avenue, and admired the huge trees, but that was where our joy ended, as the Norflok Blue was shut, with no hint of breakfast being offered on any day of the week, let alone today. So plan B, return to Burnt Pine and choose a restaurant there - Golden Orb as it happened, but they had by this stage (it was now 1000!) run out of mushrooms. So Barb had a quiche, and John had Eggs Benedict - not quite what we both had had in mind, but it served, and duly was served.

Then over the road, some to have a quick look at the market, some straight into the Bounty Toy Shop for a brwose, and poke around. The shop was somewhat more extensive than its street frontage would have implied, so it was nearly 1200 before the last of us left. Donna bought a few gifty things, but the rest of us managed to escape bag-free. We then made our separate ways back to Paradise, David walking, Barb and Sue shopping, and Donna and Jim driving. I walked back too, but via different shops, and was the fourth to return. Barb and Sue came back last, by which stage I was in the pool. Barb bought a new watch, a rather nice largish one with roman numerals as she likes.

Some swimming by various members ensued, then book reading, tea and beer drinking, blog writing, until ...

Day 11: Monday

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