A Colombian Dream – La Cabaña Eco Hotel – Review

Green Acres is the place to be.
Farm living is the life for me.
Land spreadin’ out so far and wide.
Keep Medellin and give me that countryside.
 
Sometimes you return to a place which you loved, only to find it a disappointment. Perhaps it’s no longer trying so hard. Or maybe it’s under new management. Or, most often, the memory is just somehow better than the reality. This is not the case with La Cabaña Eco Hotel.
You may remember this place from last August when you voted that I visit Colombia. While there, I’d heard about Salento from locals and travelers alike. Still, many of those travelers seemed to be staying at hostels in town and I was looking for a bit of peace. I searched on one of the many online booking sites and found La Cabaña Eco Hotel.
One of the toughest parts of traveling non-stop is the decision-making. Every day, one must decide where to go, how to get there, in what area to stay, which flight to take, which hotel, Airbnb, guesthouse, pension, or other accommodation in which to stay, how to pay, who to trust—oh, so much. This is the reason I appreciate you so much for telling me where to go; one less decision. Because of this, it’s such a great feeling when you realize you’ve made the right decision. This place was one of my victories.
When I found myself back in Colombia, specifically in Medellin, to research an article which I hope to sell, I knew I’d need to find a little peace after a month in my very noisy Airbnb. A month of listening to (or trying not to listen to) the ruckus from the event space and three bars located below my fifth-floor apartment and wafting through the windows, which didn’t quite fit their frames, had me craving the quiet, natural surroundings of Salento. When my work in Medellin was done, I hopped a bus headed for Salento.
Thanks to construction along the way, I arrived in Salento after a six-hour bus ride which took nine hours. Apparently, flag-men make up 60% of the workers in Colombia (don’t quote me on this, as I truly have no idea). When I visited in August, I was dropped on a street corner without any clue how to get to La Cabaña. They’ve now built a bus terminal. Well, it’s actually a parking lot with a few cement buildings selling snacks as well as a kind of cool modern art sculpture. I texted Hector, one of the owners of La Cabaña and, within ten minutes, a dark SUV pulled up with a familiar face behind the wheel.
Main BuildingLess than ten minutes later, we arrived at La Cabaña Eco Hotel. La Cabaña is divided between two red and white wooden buildings situated across the street from each other. The main building, with five Porchsleeping rooms, some with lofts so you can throw the kids up there and forget about them (though you’re required to take them with you when you leave), also houses the kitchen, dining room, and various outdoor seating areas which are nice places to enjoy a glass of wine before dinner or a beer after a hike. Being in the coffee region, there’s River Housecoffee available 24-hours-a-day (also tea).
At my request, my room was not in the main building, but in the River House across the street. I planned to be here for a month and it just seemed as if it might be a bit quieter in the four-room house (five, if you count the couple who works here and lives in the room next store with their two daughters) away from the kitchen. If I chose to cook my own meals, the River House had an outdoor kitchen with a four-burner stove, a full-size refrigerator, microwave, sink, and all of the pots, pans, and accessories you need to cook a fine meal. I just needed to supply the ingredients (there’s a small supermarket and fruit stands in town) and the wine. Always the wine.
ManureAfter driving through the wooden farm gate and up the tracks cutting through the grass we arrived at my building. As I stepped out of the car I immediately landed in a soft pile of cow manure. (TOMS were not made for this.) As Hector apologized, I laugh it off. After all, this is a finca which translates to “farm” in English. To be more specific, it’s a dairy farm, producing approximately 2,000 liters of milk per day and, on a dairy farm, well, shit happens.
I entered my room and though it seemed smaller than the one I’d stayed in previously, with a king-size bed, there was plenty of room for an enjoyable month-long stay.
CowsI awoke the following morning to noise. Sure, I chose to be away from the kitchen, but some things are unavoidable. Approximately 132 different species of birds live in this area and their morning songs created an orchestra filled with a variety of instruments which were joined by the base of the cows mooing while chomping their way through the grass field outside my window. Comparing this to the cacophony coming from the downstairs bars in Medellin might be like comparing Acid Rock to the Boston Philharmonic.
Directly outside my door, the picnic table provided a desk with a beautiful view to sit and work each day (or cruise Facebook and pet dogs). Oh, yes, that brings up Dogthe dogs; Lassie and Bimbo. Lassie belongs to Hector, Lina, Maria Camila, and Alejandra. They’re the family who owns this farm (it’s been handed down from Lina’s family), as well as nearby avocado and coffee farms. Lassie is the most amazing dog I’ve ever known. She’s not just a pet, but a worker; herding cows and horses, and sometimes people. She knows her job and goes to work with no prompting. And when her work is done, she appreciates a good belly rub. (Don’t we all?) Bimbo belongs to the family next door to me. He’s a younger and smaller black and white dog who Other Doglikes to follow Lassie around on her herding chores with the understanding that, as it’s not really his job, he can leave at any time. His favorite hobbies are chasing horses (not herding, just chasing), eating bugs, and biting at my shoelaces as I walk across the street to the main house.
A breakfast buffet is included here. Depending on the day, it may consist of eggs, cheese, toast, cereal, tamales, rice and beans, arepa (a ground corn flour circular-shaped bread), fresh fruit, pancakes, french toast, juice and, of course, coffee (this is the coffee region).
Horseback rideAfter breakfast, you can to go hike in the Cocora Valley (the main reason people come to this area) amongst the Quindio Wax Palms, the tallest palm trees in the world. You may also want to go visit of coffee farm to understand the entire coffee-making process from growing the beans to brewing the perfect cup of joe. Horseback riding is a great option and can be done directly from the farm. The wrangler will take you up into the surrounding hillside or to a nearby waterfall. Another half-day tour will take you by car to the cloud forest where you’ll enjoy the most amazing views of the area, including a forest of Wax Palms, and a visit to a finca where you’ll be served a local, non-alcoholic drink called Agua Panella. This area is a wonderful place to watch the colorful colibríes (hummingbirds) native to this region.
TreesFinally, another option is to simply hike the green hills surrounding the finca. While doing just this, I happened to pass the pasture where the cows were being milked. Stopping to say hello to David who was handling this process, I was invited to do some milking myself. David showed me the pull and squeeze method (wait, that sounds dirty, but you understand) and then held a cup while I milked. He then invited me to drink it and, with some hesitation, I agreed. I’m not sure why I was surprised when it tasted like, well, milk. Nothing like a fresh milk break in the middle of a beautiful hike.
SalentoIf you choose, you can walk the just-over two kilometers into the town of Salento (one of the family members will also be happy to drive you) for dinner and a game of Tejo—what Colombians like to call their national sport—which involves beer and gunpowder.
HammockStill, even with all these activity options, one of the best things to do while staying at La Cabaña is to lie in a hammock and read while listening to the birds and the rushing river in the background. You can also enjoy watching the frenetic flight of the hummingbirds from here.
Should you choose to stay at the finca for dinner, La Cabaña serves a small menu with some traditional Colombian specialties including trout (grilled or in a garlic sauce) and bandeja paisa, what I like to call the Heart Attack Special, which includes rice and beans, chorizo (sausage), chicharron (fried pork belly), fried egg, and patacones (smashed fried plantains). This is Colombia’s twist on the phrase, “To see Paris and die.” There’s also pasta, a nice sandwich, and grilled chicken.
HectorIf you happen to be here during a busy time, you may have the great luck to enjoy their Lomo al Trapo. Hector or Maria Camilla prepare beef and pork loin by coating it with salt and tightly wrapping it in cotton cloth. They then place it in the hot coals of the campfire burning on the front lawn. Dinner is served under a canopy on the lawn with the meat, potatoes, a tomato salad, sauces, and wine (always wine). After dinner, there are marshmallows to roast while Hector pulls out his guitar and serenades the crowd with traditional Colombian songs in a beautiful baritone voice.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I’d planned to stay for a month. Well, we all know how I feel about planning and, as I saw no reason to leave, I stayed for two months, only leaving because, after a total of three months in Colombia, my visitor’s visa was expiring and instead of renewing it I decided it was time to explore more of the world.
When you stay at La Cabaña, you become part of the family.
If you’d like to more information about La Cabaña Eco Hotel, you can visit their webpage at: https://www.lacabanaecohotel.com/, like their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/lacabanaecohotel/, or follow them on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/lacabanaecohotel/
This stay was not hosted and no special rates were provided in exchange for a review. I just really love this place.
 

My Kingdom for a Picnic Table

 

After returning from the races, I change back into my farm clothes and Vernon, Jeanette and I head out to do some feeding of the animals. Terri (the baby sheep) is whining loudly for her bottle and I gladly pick her up and let her snarf it down. Switch (the dog) licks the milk from Terri’s face and Lampshade (the other dog) runs around looking for attention too. It’s a beautiful evening and I take in every breath.
In the morning, I have my coffee with Vernon and Jeanette before heading out to feed and play with the animals. Vernon takes the sheep-herding dogs out into the field for a run and Jeanette and I watch as they take turns pooping. It starts with one and, like a yawn spreads through a crowd, so does the pooping. We watch as four pups, one after another, enjoy their morning poop, and we give one extra- credit for multi-tasking as he poops and walks at the same time, copping a squat in between steps.
Sadly, it’s time for me to leave as I hope to make it to Rainbow Beach today. It’s a five-and-a-half-hour drive and, since the last five-and-a-half-hour drive took me seven hours, I hit the road by 10:15. I drive what’s known as the “coastal highway” which is, by no means, on the coast. In fact, I don’t see a drop of water except for the occasional  raindrops which fall on my windshield. It’s a bit of a dreary day and doesn’t help my dreary mood at having to leave my farm of refuge.
After about three hours, I’m feeling sleepy and see a sign for a Stop, Revive and Survive station up ahead. These are places, or rest sops, which, when open, serve free coffee to drivers in attempt to reduce accidents due to fatigue. The problem is that they never seem to be open. Still, I pull off the highway and into the rest stop to check it out. Sure enough, the station is closed. Still, this is a rest area which provides free camping. These are also scattered around Australia and, as I’m tired and have not yet tried one, it seems like a good time. While those are some of the reasons I choose to stop here, the real one is that, after the stress relief of the farm, I’m just not ready to get back to anything close to resembling a town.
The rest area is set up in an area of trees with picnic tables, some covered, some not, scattered throughout. There are basic restrooms with flush toilets, yet no hot water, mirrors, or anything to dry your hands with. As it has very basic facilities, it’s probably best that there are no mirrors. I’m thrilled when I pull up directly next to a covered picnic table. It took a free camping area to provide me with the first picnic table in my campsite.
Picnic
After getting settled, I look over towards the freeway and I see, sitting on the side of the road, an orange van with a yellow umbrella saying “coffee.” While this isn’t the free Stop, Revive and Survive station, it’s a wonderful surprise. I walk over and Michael is tcoffeehere, selling latte, cappuccino and more. I order up a Hazelnut Latte and sit at my picnic table writing.
I soon get to chatting with Jan and Neal, my “next-door” neighbors. They’ve got a sweet camper which they plan to travel for a year in next year. I offer to give them my already watched DVD’s and they invite me to dinner. A great trade as I’d bought some bread and cheese which would have been fine for this unplanned stop, but a hot dinner is much more appealing. Neal cooks up some steak and sausages, along with potatoes and broccoli and we enjoy a nice meal inside their camper while also catching up with the TV news. It’s very civilized as we then step outside and I bring over my bottle of single malt scotch for us to enjoy while sitting on their “porch.” Yup, free camping might just be the best way to go in Australia.
In the morning, Jan and Neal leave at about 8:30 as I’m just rolling out of bed. I freshen up and, as I notice Michael is back in position on the side of the road, I walk on over and order “the regular.”
I enjoy my latte, yogurt and Muesli at my picnic table (see, I’m easy to please; I just want my own picnic table) before hopping back in Van Morrison and driving the two-and-a-half hours to Rainbow Beach.
Rainbow Bach is a tiny beach town on the Sunshine Coast. I check out the two campgrounds and, while neither have picnic tables in the sites, Rainbow Beach Holiday Village is actually in town and on the water. I pay for a night and will check out the place before I decide if I’ll stay here or head back to Noosa. I’ve already called to extend my camper van rental for another two nights as I’m simply not ready to head back to civilization.
Campground
A view from my campground

After getting settled in the holiday park, I walk over to town – there are maybe fifteen shops and restaurants in the village area – and stop in the skydive center. Rainbow Beach is all about adventure activities – skydiving, hang-gliding, horseback riding, sand dune tours, whale watching tours, and tours to Fraser Island. Unfortunately, they’re all quite expensive and I’m quite poor. I chat with the guy at the skydive place for a while and he gives me some pointers on the area, as well as telling me where I can get some free WiFi.
Next, I walk down to the beach, being careful to look both ways before crossing the sand as, like some other beaches around the world, you can drive on this one, but only if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle as cars often wind up sinking in the sand and having to be towed. I head down towards the no car area on the left and enjoy the peaceful evening. There are no crowds here; it’s just me and five other people scattered around the beach. Rainbow Beach
I head over to the Rainbow Beach Hotel for some spaghetti Bolognese (or as they call it here, spag-bol) and a beer. The staff is friendly and I’m looking forward to enjoying a day at the beach tomorrow.
 
Speaking of tomorrow – yup, a day at the beach and, should I stay or should I go?
 

 

Animal Farm

I awake this morning and hightail it out of Noosa (okay, it’s actually 10:00am before I get going, and though I blame the wait for an available shower in the hostel, my dawdling might be a contributing factor). Today I’m headed to farm-country. Thangool to be exact. Any Australians out there will now be posing the question, “What would bring you to Thangool?”
If I were being my regular smart-self I might say, “Van Morrison is bringing me there.” (My camper van, not the singer and, by the way, is he still alive?)
Instead, I’ll tell you the real story. When I was in Sydney, everyone told me, “You must take the Manly Ferry and check out Manly Island.”
As I’m always on the hunt for someone manly, I did just that. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. Not only did I not find anyone manly, but I found it fairly boring. Now, if you’re a surfer, you might enjoy Manly a bit more than I, but, as I have enough trouble not falling down when walking on cement, it’s probably best that I find my water sports in the water and not on top of it.
So Manly was boring. And the ferry, well, the thirty-minute ride had its exciting moments as the water was rough and, though I worked on ships for many years, and have taken ferries around the world, there were times that I was checking out the quickest exit should we capsize. At one point, I turned to a young woman sitting alone and said, “Is this normal?”
“I don’t know,” she replied. “I’m not from here.”
We spoke further and she told me her name was Tenille (you’d think she’d know if this rocking were normal, knowing The Captain, and all) and she was from Thangool. She now lives on the Gold Coast and was spending a few days in Sydney before heading over to travel around Vietnam for a couple of weeks. She’d spent the first few days in Sydney with friends but they’d just left, and this was her first time traveling alone. She was a bit lonely and, well, I’m kind of an expert on solo-travel and understand the loneliness which can accompany it at times. We spent the day together, chatting about Vietnam, travel, and life, while strolling through the not-too-exciting streets of Manly. At one point, Tenille mentioned that she grew up on a farm and her dad is often meeting travelers at the local pub and inviting them back to the house to stay for a bit. She mentioned something about horseback riding and sheep sheering and offered to contact her folks to see if they could host me for a few days. I thanked her for the offer and let her know that I was up for it as these types of opportunities are exactly why I travel without a plan.
Cool DogSo there’s the story of why, today, I’m heading to Thangool. It’s about a five-and-a-half hour drive and I manage to do it in only seven hours (yay me!). At just over an hour into the, thus far, boring drive, I stop at a Hungry Jacks (Burger King in Australia) for a quick burger. After passing by the coolest dog in the world, I call Tenille’s mom, Jeanette and ask, “Do you think it’s worth me driving all the way over there?”
I’d remembered that, during our pre-trip communications, Jeanette had mentioned that the travelers her husband Vernon had previously invited back to the farm were passing through the area. My situation is different as I’m not passing through; their farm is my destination. While I don’t expect it to be Disneyland, I want to know that it’s worth the drive. Jeanette tells me that the drive is fairly boring, basically consisting of farms and scrub. She doesn’t want to promise too much, and I understand that I’m the only one who can judge what constitutes, “worth the drive” for me.
With some trepidation, I continue to drive. It was tough to leave the beautiful beach of Noosa and, until I drive over three-hours (past the half-way point), I consider turning back. At just after 5:00pm, I finally pull onto the farm. Standing there to greet me, like the American Gothic painting, are Jeanette and Vernon. Oh, and there’s a little, baby goat, which I later learn is actually a sheep. (Seriously, I’m from Detroit) Oh and a dog; there’s a dog wearing a lampshade on his head. (Is he drunk?)
Vernon and Jeanette give me a warm greeting and I’m shown to my room. After I transfer some necessities from Van Morrison to my room, we take a stroll around the farm. I meet the two pigs, the many “chooks” (chickens for us city-people), five-or-so horses, the sheep, the eight-or-so sheepherding dogs and Cheech and Chong, the sheep’s bodyguards. Jeanette and Vernon explain that Cheech and Chong are dogs which bond with whatever you train them to bond with; in this case a herd of sheep. Cheech and Chong live with the sheep and keep away predators and, really, anything or anyone that they don’t know. They love their sheep like the other Cheech and Chong love their spliff.
As the sun begins to set, we head inside and enjoy a nice dinner. Sam, the dog which I now refer to as “Lampshade”, has just been neutered. This is the reason for the lampshade around his neck and has nothing to do with his alcohol consumption (though, after losing his manhood, he might need a drink). This place is already feeling worth the drive and my stressed-out body and mind are beginning to relax.
At about 6:00am, I’m awakened with the sounds of cackling and crowing. Knowing that getting up this early is for the birds (ha!), I roll over and grab an hour more sleep. When I finally drag myself out of bed, Jaenette and Vernon are sitting enjoying tea and watching the news. I’ve missed this bit of normalcy lately and grab a cup of coffee and join them. After a while, Jeanette heads off to work (she’s a teacher) and Vernon and I head out onto the farm. I mention the possibility of sheep-shearing which Tenille spoke of, and Vernon doesn’t seem too keen on it. From everything I’ve heard prior to coming, sheep-sheering is tough work. Vernon explains that watching an expert sheep-shearer looks like watching a dance. They stand in one place and move the sheep around them with finesse. He goes on to explain that, when he sheers sheep, it’s more like a wrestling match, and often, the sheep wins. We decide to skip the sheep-sheering for today and he shows me some other things which happen around the farm.
Sheep HerdingWe  begin with feeding the chickens, birds, pigs, and dogs. Following that, we collect four of the working dogs and walk them over to the sheep. Vernon is training some of them to herd and he gives me a demo. Some of the sheep are let into a round pen so there’s no corners to hide in. Slash is up first. (Yup, named after the guy from Guns-N-Roses.) Slash is a master sheep-herding dog and, while standing in the pen, Vernon explains that Slash understands not to get in the middle of the crowd, but to push them towards Vernon from the outside. Slash is also good at staring down rebellious sheep which try to challenge him. Having a successful run and showing the others how it’s done, Slash is led out of the pen and its now Sophie’s turn. While Sophie has a different style, she’s pretty good at her craft and I congratulate her on a job well-done.
Sheep herding dogNext up is Slash’s son Jinx. Jinx is just learning the family business and Vernon has to give him just a bit of help so that one of the more aggressive sheep doesn’t take him on and ruin his confidence. Finally, it’s Gus’ turn. Gus is Slash’s other son and does just as good of a job as his brother did. Both seem to love the family trade and show that they have the family’s talent. Vernon explains the process of recreating the natural ability through the bloodline. “You’re actually breeding for something you can’t see.” It’s the “It Factor.”
Next, Vernon and I climb aboard the tractor – he sits, while I stand on a step and hold on for dear life – tie a round-bale of hay onto the loader, and head out into the fields to feed the cattle. I ask Vernon how many there are and he’s not quite sure. There seems to be about a hundred, and they know that when the tractor comes, so does the food. We’re soon the Pied Piper and all the cows are following us. Vernon dumps the hay and, as he spreads it out, it’s like a stampede. I quickly step out of the way, hiding next to the tractor in an effort not to get trampled.
CattleAfter the hay is spread, Vernon has me step into the tractor’s bucket and he lifts it high. It’s a great view to get some aerial photos of the cattle. After that, we head on over to see a new mother cow with her newborn calf. With the umbilical chord still attached, the calf stumbles on its new legs. The new mother isn’t too happy about our presence, as she wants some private time to take care of her newborn, so we only stay a few minutes before leaving.
Cow with baby
Vernon then heats up a bottle for me and I head over to feed Terri, the week-old sheep whose mother has rejected her. Vernon and Jeanette don’t slaughter the sheep that have been rejected by their Carole and Sheepmothers. Those sheep are destined to live a long, happy life, mating and eating grass. So far, the farm has Steve, Bindi, Bob and now, Terri. Yup, the whole Irwin (Crocodile Hunter) family is here. (Vernon and Jeanette tell me that Bindi is a a bit of a loose woman.)
We spend more time on the farm feeding the horses and trying to get a bird to talk. (Apparently Vernon has taught him a nasty phrase or two.) We head out where Vernon shows me a volcanic hill, as well as a lookout to the local coal mine. In between, we stop for some tea and chat about life. Any doubts about the worthiness of the long drive here have vanished as, finally, I can breathe.
Tomorrow – Christmas in September and a day at the races.

Farmer Jane and Kongy

It’s always strange seeing someone you’ve known in one set of surroundings, in a completely different scenario. As I mentioned I know Kira from my time onboard Disney Cruise Line, when we both wore white adjustable pants and gold stripes on our shoulders. This week I’m getting to see her in jeans, Uggs and an apron while feeding the chickens, harvesting herbs and mowing the lawn. It’s fun to see and, as we all know my fondness for nicknames, Kira will now be referred to “Farmer Jane.” As her boyfriend Brenden is known on the island as Kongy, adapted from his last name, “Kong,” we’ll just use that.
Tonight, Kongy and Farmer Jane are hosting a barbecue. And, as the island has approximately 350 residents, around ten-percent of the island has been invited. While Farmer Jane mows the lawn and sets up the outdoor space, I head to the museum to grab some of their very expensive WiFi. When I walk in, there’s no one in sight, so I take a seat at a table and begin working. After about ten-minutes, an elderly man approaches and informs me that the museum is closed today. This is a simple mistake as, well, the door wasn’t locked. His name is George and, as he’s doing a bit of work, he says I can stay as long as he’s inside. George really wants to chat but, as I’m trying to finish working and get off this wallet-breaking internet. I finally explain that I just need to finish a bit more work and I’ll be all good to chat.
Coral CafeAs I continued working, more people have joined George inside to get ready for tomorrow’s big grand-opening of the Coral Café, a new café which will be housed in the museum. I complete my work and chat for a while with George, his wife Robin and Stevie and Janet, the owners of the Coral Café. George shows me the fancy sign which he’s made for the Coral Café and describes how he’ll embed coral in it. Lord Howe Island (LHI)- life is slow, and people have time for creative pursuits which they may come up with on a whim. Due to this, there seems to be a lot of creativity here.

Chickens
Farmer Jane

I head back to Thornleigh, and Farmer Jane and I head out to pick up various supplies for tonight’s barbecue. We return with ingredients for our recipes, ice, wine and beer. We return to cook some food and feed the ladies. The ladies are 29-hens and they hang around with two roosters. It’s a bit like a chicken-version of The Bachelor. We toss old food-scraps out to the cackling brood who pounce on it like teenage girls meeting One Direction on the street. The feed includes some discarded eggshells which, Farmer Jane tells me, helps the chickens produce quality eggs. To me, it seems a tiny bit cannibalistic.
Finally, food prepped, salads prepared and, thanks to Kongy, bonfire burning, the first guests arrive. We spend the next eight-hours enjoying all of the pot-luck food, great company, and adult beverages. There’s some ukulele playing, some drumming, and roasted marshmallows. Tonight is my chance to meet many of the colorful locals as well as find out how everybody ended up on this tiny island. While many were born here on
Ukelele
Kongy and his ukelele

LHI – which has definite advantages including being able to own land, have a dog and other rights without dealing with a waiting period – others were working on the mainland and, through someone who knew someone who knew someone, got them a job here. There are also those who had a relative who moved here and told them about their paradise. The one thing they all have in common is their love and appreciation for living here. Most tell me of their love of the slow and peaceful lifestyle here as well as it being the best place to raise children who aren’t glued to computers but instead, go snorkeling, play in tree-houses and learn ukulele in school.
BonfireI’m entertained by Yvette, a bawdy Australian whose boisterous, devil-may-care attitude entertains a crowd. Her husband, Bert, is friendly, bearded guy who says things like, “What a jolly little blaze,” when commenting on the bonfire brightly burning. We decide that I’m probably the first person in history whose first stop in Australia was tiny Lord Howe Island, a place many Australians haven’t even heard of. I ask if I’ll be receiving a key to the island though, as nobody locks their doors here, what would be the point? The last guests leave just around midnight and Farmer Jane, Kongy and I sit around the fire enjoying the view of the thousands of stars overhead.
I awake in the morning feeling much better than some (I’m pleased with myself for switching from wine to water early on) and, after a couple of cups of coffee, I leave Farmer Jane to find some relief from her hangover (Kongy’s off at work) while I go for a hike. A tourist couple I met the other day told me about the hike to Kim’s Lookout saying it led to the incredible view shown in all of the photos of LHI. I walk up Lagoon Road, the road off of which Thornleigh is located and which travels, nearly tip-to-tip from the north to the south of the island. Thornleigh is in the north end of the island, I head further north and Lagoon Road to the end and continue onto the path along Old Settlement FieldsBeach which puts the beautiful Tasman Sea on one side the striking, green fields which lead up to even more striking, green mountains. The path soon curves inward as I merge onto Memorial Track. Memorial Track might also be called Stairclimber Track as it begins with well-maintained planks which gently lead to higher levels before reaching steps formed from logs and pressed dirt. I climb and climb, and climb, and climb, and, well, climb. This is a test for my injured hips to see if the famous island-hike of Mt. Gower is in my future this week. Due to the injury and constant travel, hiking and the gym have been very limited and, well, I’m not exactly in fighting-form. I’ve taken a prescription pain-killer and am hiking on an unstable hip along sheer drop-offs from the cliffs I’m hiking along the edge of. What could go wrong?
I finally reach the top of Memorial Track where it intersects with Kim’s Lookout. I take a seat on the round platform resting area and spend the next half-hour chatting with a mother and daughter from mainland Australia. Mom has surprised the daughter with a last-minute trip to LHI for her thirtieth-birthday. They’ve brought vacuum-packed food with them from the mainland as they’d heard about how expensive food is here. They figure they’ll only need to eat out one night during the week they’re here.
View pointI continue on to Kim’s Lookout which has me doing more stair-climbing as well as some ups and downs along a dirt trail. The trail follows the ridge-line of the cliff and provides stunning views or the sea-currents far below, as well as some tiny, uninhabited islands. When I reach the intersection of Kim’s Viewpoint and Malabar Hill I take a break to enjoy the spectacular view from 208 meters (682 feet). It reminds me of the Cliffs of Moher which we saw in Ireland (read about it here). I take a seat on the rocks and, eventually, find myself lying down on the ground, listening to music and enjoying the magical view while basking in the sunshine (I’m finally warm!).
Beach ViewAfter twenty-minutes of lying on the ground, as well as stretching my hips and hamstrings, I reluctantly stand up and head on down Malabar Ridge. Traveling straight down through the dense forest, this is the opposite of the stair-climber. Finally, the forest parts and the only way forward seems to be through three gates spread out down a grass-covered hill which seems to be someone’s farm. I search around the immediate vicinity and find no other obvious trail so I reluctantly proceed down the hill which I’m sure is private property, as well as being somewhat manure covered. I go through the last gate and find myself within one of the island’s many lodges. Apparently I took a wrong turn, as I was supposed to end up at Ned’s Beach. As it’s a small island and you’re never too far from where you want to be, well, this is not a problem. I walk down the road to the jetty, where the supply ship arrives at the island every two-weeks in the summer, and every four-weeks during a couple of the winter months. I sit and listen to music while watching the waves crash over the off-shore reef. Lord Howe Island is a place to just stop and enjoy the moment, and I take advantage of it today.
Farmer JaneI make my way back, stopping at the Anchorage Restaurant for a coffee and well-deserved piece of cake before arriving at Thornleigh to see Farmer Jane sitting on the porch feeding the chickens.
Tomorrow – a bus tour around the island and an evening at the golf club.
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