Wednesday, October 21, 2009
We woke up a little later today, around 6:30 - no sunrise pictures this morning, but the area around the hotel was nice itself, with some massive Auracarias. We had breakfast right at 8 (the restaurant doesn't open until then), and then decided to head up to Malabar Hill, at the north end of the island.
Even though our legs were still aching, we had seen some pictures that convinced us that doing the Malabar Hill walk was still warranted. The hike up was pretty quick - not very long distance wise, but with a lot of uphill. At least this time there was "regular" footing - no boulders, no cliffs, no slippery tree roots. Also, there was no forest - all of the plants were shrubs or short trees, and they topped out at about 6-8 feet tall. It was interesting that on such a small island, the landscape was so varied.
At the top, the views were indeed worth the walk. We could see all of the offshore islands off the north side, and the water between them and Lord Howe was a brilliant turquoise, clear as could be. In fact, we could make out stingrays and sea turtles in the water (video of the turtle), even though it was nearly 700 feet down. Additionally, we had unimpeded views to the south, with views of both the eastside and westside beaches, plus of course Mt Lidgbird and Mt Gower. About 10 minutes after we got to the top, another couple made their way up, and it was one of the couples that had climbed Mt Gower with us two days before. They told us that the day before, they had done some really good snorkeling at Ned's Beach, so we decided we'd try that out in the afternoon.
We headed back down, and it wasn't even 11 yet, so we decided to walk to some of the other places near Middle Beach, in the Kentia forest. One was "the Clear Place," which was a lookout point south of Middle Beach. Again, the walk through the forest was great. It reminded Justin of the hike we did on the Big Island of Hawaii in August 2005, it reminded Crystal of the hike we did in Phuket in January 2005. The lookout itself was also good, with good views all around. In addition to the Clear Place, we also walked to the "Valley of Shadows," which was basically just the forest itself. There was just a bench at the end of a trail, and we sat down and listened to the birds chirp and the waves break. It was very relaxing.
We headed back to the hotel, and changed into our swim gear and grabbed our snorkeling equipment. We headed back to Ned's, which was just past the trailhead for Malabar Hill. The water at Ned's was freezing (at least to us, without any wetsuit), so we didn't last very long in the water. But during that time, what we saw was incredible. Crystal saw a Galapagos shark, and we both saw a Rainbow Wrasse, which was a fish we had seen pictures of before we left the States. It has nearly every bright color under the sun on it, to the point it looks fake. The coral was also really colorful, and it was right there under the water, in very shallow seas. Justin could basically just walk around on the sand.
On the way back from Ned's, we stopped at Thompson's to pick up a couple of souvenir t-shirts, and ate lunch across the street at the "other" restaurant, Humpty Mick's. Crystal fish and chips, Justin got a sausage roll and chips. We headed back to our room to change shoes, then headed down south to go reef walking near Little Island. Robyn had recommended it the day before as an easy way to see a large variety of marine life. At low tide, the reef near Little Island actually rises up above the surface. It makes things much easier to see - you can just walk up to them - but because of all the sun the coral isn't as colorful. We walked around as carefully as possible, looking for especially interesting items. Some of the most interesting animals were starfish, sea urchins, and a number of different colored giant clams. They were all less than a foot under the water.
After we finished walking around, and after we got a couple shoe-fulls of sand, we headed back to the room and took a little swim in the plunge pool. Then we got cleaned up for dinner, putting on the one halfway-decent set of clothes we brought along. Somehow, our dinner-time conversation made its way to politics and socioeconomics, something the two of us individually talk about rarely, and something the two of us talk about with each other not at all. It must have been the wine. Long story short, Crystal has a little more faith in humanity to not leach off of universal healthcare and welfare services than Justin does.