“Karla, have you been to Lord Howe Island?”, “You will absolutely fall in love with the place, what it has to offer and understand why it has my heart”
My dear friend Trevor Hendy certainly isn’t into making false claims by any means (not that I needed any convincing) but I was very keen to see for myself with 20 other willing participants headed for Lord Howe Island for the LifeChanger Challenge
What an awe-inspiring week. 7 seas and 7 peaks were the proposed LifeChanger challenges and seriously how challenging can they be if an island that is only 11km long and 3 km wide?
In short. Plenty!
Lord Howe Island is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed island about 600 kilometres northeast of Sydney and we were quick to learn that it’s not necessarily the span and breadth of the island that was going to give us the biggest challenge, but rather the height of the majestic mountains that stand out like Jurassic Park movie scenes. Encompassed by turquoise blue lagoons – the surrounding waters of the island harbours the southernmost coral reef in the world – and in my opinion the healthiest, coral I’ve ever seen.
Pinetrees Lodge was our Lord Howe Island accommodation and home away from home for our 7-day stay. There is nothing pretentious about Lord Howe Island. Everything is stripped back to basic levels but this is what makes the island unique. Our hosts Dani, Luke and staff have the most wonderful vibe at Pinetrees. With no keys, no wi-fi, only bikes as a means of transport there is basically no worries – what holidays should be made of. All meals were included in our stay, and there is a common joke going around that you leave Pinetrees ‘fitter but fatter’ just because the meals are simply amazing – BBQ lunches by the beach – 3-course dinners and afternoon teas that tempt the best of us – the food is just as amazing as the environment and an experience in itself.
DAY 1 and 2
After a 2 hour flight departing Brisbane and a quick scout of the island on arrival the day before, we were ready to begin our adventures. With a 7 am yoga call (I couldn’t resist a run and swim earlier), it was a quick breakfast before we headed out for our first hike. I think the aim of the week was to gradually build up to the ominous Mt Gower so we summited the smaller peaks which included Malabar Hill (208m) Kim’s lookout, Mt Eliza with a swim in old gulch. Shoes were back on and we soon headed back for a 3 pm picnic lunch at Ned’s beach.
Bookending the days with yoga was our new routine – and everyone was beginning to slow down to island time with the feelings of daily hurriedness slipping away.
Today was something special – LifeChanger challenges have a knack for throwing in something completely different and this time was no different. With no official visitors walking track, we followed the low road around Mt Gower (which was very hairy at times for this vertigo-challenged human) and scaled cliff edges while crunching through unbeaten paths to end up somewhere on a rocky water cliff edge where a boat was waiting to collect us and our gear once we conquered the jump. It was cool to know we were doing something not many have the chance to experience on Lord Howe with thanks to our guide and local waterman, Dean from Environmental Tours. Once back on land, we were treated with a lunch at Cobby’s Corner before a quick rest and afternoon yoga before sunset drinks and dinner.
Day 4 was a hike to what is known on the island as the goat house (apparently where they found the last remaining goats on the island). This viewing spot was approx half way up Mt Lidgebird (777m) and our view didn’t disappoint. With clear skies, the 3-hour hike was challenging in parts but the views of Balls Pyramid sitting in the distance was enough of a reward. We were treated with a lunch at Pinetrees before once again heading off for snorkelling in the lagoon. Even though the water was a little chilly being the time of the year – the coral and sea life was outstanding and very impressive!
Well, there had to be one day of rain and today was the day. Not that we allowed it to dampened our spirits in any way! If it’s raining you may as well get wet right? So donning our wetsuits at the lodge we were on our push bikes to head out for a paddle to rabbit island (Blackburn island) and walk to the top. Amazing views as the island sits in the middle of the lagoon. Once we were back we were hitting the pedals again for a cruise down the road to jump off The Jetty (somewhat of an apparent initiation if you visit Lord Howe). It must have been a sight to see with 20 people on bikes, in wetsuits, in the rain playing around in puddles… After a lovely hot shower, lunch and rest the clouds parted which allowed us to take part in the self-named Lord Howe Open tennis match (not really). But it was fun having a hit on the Pinetrees court with fellow ambassador Pat Rafter.
Mt Gower day – Standing tall at 875 metres, Mount Gower is Lord Howe’s highest mountain. Rated as one of Australia’s best day walks, the Mount Gower hike is a challenging eight-hour return trek, complete with rope-assisted climbs and dizzying drops. We traversed around 14 kilometres across the mountain’s rugged terrain, encountering some of the islands rarest plants and wildlife along the way.
This is the hardest walk on Lord Howe Island. The walk was strenuous and the track unmarked, the Island Board require that walkers only go with a licensed guide. This is in your best interest to avoid mishap and learn about the flora and fauna from your guide. On top, there is a unique fairy wonderland like moss forest with ferns and mosses covering every available rock and tree and the view from the top is breathtaking. It was a full day and we were knackered enough to skip afternoon yoga and take it easy.
After a sleep in we grabbed our bikes and headed over to Blinky Beach where we had one more summit (transit hill) to complete before breakfast. It was a nice way to shake the legs off and set ourselves up for our last day on the island. A few of us headed over for a quick game of golf before BBQ lunch at Ned’s beach before I couldn’t resist jumping on a borrowed ocean ski and explored the lagoon. Dinner again was divine and island life was beginning to feel very familiar.
Completely exhausted from the week – we were going home with satisfaction that we milked the island and what it had to offer, made beautiful new connections with friends while continuing to raise, support and build awareness for the LifeChanger Foundation and its programs. The challenge of the event is minimal compared to the self-satisfaction that accompanies the event. Depluging from the world, removing the ‘noise’ and reconnecting with others and nature is one of the best ways to enjoy time away.
Thank you , Scotty, Trev for including me on this unforgettable journey. Again, I saw many people’s lives change on this trip with many vowing to do things differently once they returned home. This kind of extremeness is good for stuff like that and I can’t wait to get busy with LifeChanger in the future.
To everyone that formed the LCC4 tight-knit group (in no particular order)
Cameraman extraordinaire Rick Rifici, Clayton and Nadine Lyndon, Scott and Em Watters, Trevor and Jo Hendy, Maria Smith, Sam Riley, Pat Rafter, Noah Tyler, Asher Esakoff, Mish and Dan Eagles, Michelle and Jamie Stanton, Billy, Deedee, Richard and of course my husband Andrew – you are all a bunch of legends and we will forever carry this trip close to our hearts.
If you feel like you would like to become involved or donate to LifeChanger. Head over to the My Cause page and find my name on the list to donate what is a ground-breaking program to create a generational shift in society. Our aim is to provide every young Australian with the opportunity to develop a healthy personal identity, empowering them to live their best life! For more info visit LifeChanger