A Travellerspoint blog

Exploring Norfolk Island


View 2014/2015 Norfolk Island via the Gateway to the Heart of Borneo on alexchan's travel map.

large_5550_14210543706635.jpgNorfolk Island is very tranquil and scenic. Lots of Norfolk Pines.
This morning, I got a rental car for AUD20 today from my hotel and drove to various points of interest on the island.

There isn’t a ring road due to the topography so there was a little bit of backtracking. I soon noticed that everyone waves when you’re driving around! The scenery and buildings seemed more New Zealand than Australia (but Australia is so big and varied anyway).

First up was the northwest area with some scenic lookouts. Next I found the Cyclorama which tells the story of the Mutiny on the Bounty (which was all new to me since I didn’t read the book or see the movie). It gave a clear (but perhaps one-sided) account with good illustrations too.

Finally, I got to the south where the historic area of Kingston was located. As I was running low on time I skipped the various small museums.large_5550_14210543701743.jpgNorfolk Island is very tranquil and scenic. Lots of Norfolk Pines.Near the historic area were two bays. Emily Bay was particularly nice and sheltered despite the windy weather.

In the afternoon, I joined a free half-day tour provided by the tour agency that did my free transfer from the airport to the hotel. They don’t take you into any of the sights but instead drive you around the island telling you interesting snippets like how the island is government, taxation or lack thereof, history etc. Eg.:

1. There is no income tax but there are various levies (eg. on fuel and imported goods to go towards roads and garbage disposal).
2. There is considerable assistance from the Australian tax payer.
3. Fresh milk is flown in each Sunday from Auckland and sells for $8.75 per litre.
4. Some services, eg. doctors, police and teachers are brought in from Australia for fixed terms.
5. The British brought in many plant and some animal species. Rabbits completely denuded a nearby island. In heavy rain, a mud slick could be seen in the water. With rabbits having been exterminated, the regrowth is establishing itself.

I ended the day with a cool dip and a long swim at Emily Bay.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Norfolk Island Comments (0)

Where newlyweds and nearly-deads come to play?


View 2014/2015 Norfolk Island via the Gateway to the Heart of Borneo on alexchan's travel map.

large_5550_14210535466601.jpgFirst thing I noticed when I stepped out of the airport were the short double digit number plates on some cars. I also saw a single digit one. Most were four digit though.
Gabriel dropped me off at the airport around 0730 for my 0935 departure to Norfolk Island [Norfolk-Island-travel-guide-1308378] from Sydney Airport's international terminal. The check-in queues appeared unruly with some kiosks not working properly. Despite that, I got to the gate with plenty of time to kill before boarding the 2h35 flight. While waiting, a Qantas A380 taxied past bearing the name “Sir Reginald Ansett”; one wouldn’t have expected this some 15 years ago when Qantas and Ansett were competitors!

Norfolk Island looked gorgeous as we flew in ahead of schedule. The rolling emerald hills dotted with Norfolk pines and small white beaches contrasted well with the turquoise Pacific. I cleared the arrival formalities relatively quickly but had to wait for the others that were sharing the complimentary shuttle to various accommodations.

This destination is quite the opposite to New Zealand in terms of its tourism target market. While NZ is popular with thrill-seekers, NI is popular with “newlyweds and nearly-deads” (that’s the way I heard it being described many years ago). In fact, we learnt on the flight that there were two couples (unrelated) that were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary today.

The oldie appeal didn’t put me off as this stopover is essentially free (cost-neutral in term of airfare and taxes compared to a non-stop SYD-AKL flight) apart from the accommodation.

After checking into the Pine Valley Apartments, I explored Burnt Pine township. Finding the supermarket, I decided to self-cater my dinners and stocked up on a few items.

Further ideas to explore the island today didn’t materialise.The east-bound flying, early morning wakeup and time change too its toll. I was rather drowsy most of the afternoon. I felt like an early night but I started feeling wide awake after a short lie-down. I hate east-bound travel with a vengeance. In the opposite direction, I’d be waking up bright and early every day and dropping dead in bed every evening.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Norfolk Island Comments (0)

Back down under


View 2014/2015 Norfolk Island via the Gateway to the Heart of Borneo on alexchan's travel map.

I landed in Sydney [Sydney-travel-guide-157961] feeling refreshed after an overnight flight because I managed to get decent sleep onboard.

I had departed Kuching last night with a sobering start to the flight; we observed a 30 second silence before the safety demo in memory of those who perished in QZ8501. We arrived on a happier note some 20 minutes ahead of schedule and had to wait to cross the active runway. So the crew organised for the whole plane to sing Happy Birthday to a young birthday girl.

I had a good comfortable connecting time for the second sector to Sydney. I had scored two extra seats at USD12 each through AirAsia X's Optiontown partner, even though the flight was nearly chocka. As I knew about this a few hours in advance, I brought along a big pillow to fully enjoy my horizontal rest.

An old school friend Gabriel hosted me for the two night stay even though he already had a full house with visiting family members. While his train station is only one stop from the airport, the fare was a hefty $17 because the airport is a surchargeable or kinda premium station. That is just such bollocks; in many other countries it would be just a normal station!

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

World's largest flower


View 2014/2015 Norfolk Island via the Gateway to the Heart of Borneo on alexchan's travel map.

large_5550_142061540124.jpgRiver ferries like these were common in Borneo when many rivers weren't traversed with bridges. This one crosses Batang Rambungan on the way from Kuching to Lundu. Fare was RM1 (NZD0.40).
I had called the state forestry office yesterday to enquire whether any rafflesias (world's largest flower) were in bloom. Rather unexpectedly, they said “Yes, there is one on its last day” and encouraged me to go.

So, it was a disappointment for me to wake up to a wet day. While the rain wasn’t torrential, it was bad enough to drench anyone quickly. My brother pulled out and I had resigned myself to a day at home I saw a break in the weather. Boo and I decided to chance it and go.

The two hour drive to Lundu [Lundu-travel-guide-1097174] was largely dry but cloudy. Google Maps didn’t indicate that there was a river ferry at Batang Rambungan. It was a pleasant surprise to be on one of these river ferries again.large_5550_14206154012988.jpgThis is the bulb of a Rafflesia. Mark your diary and come back in three months when it should be in bloom.They used to be relatively common but bridges have replaced many of them.

As we were having lunch in Lundu, the heavens opened. We waited and waited for it to stop but it didn’t. We gave up and wrote off the long drive and decided to go back to Kuching [Kuching-travel-guide-1096915] via the Gunung Gading National Park office for a peek.

The rain eased as we got there and we found out from Wahada (the forestry student and guide) that there were two rafflesias only about 60m away. One was on its last legs (last day) and another was about to bloom.

We paid her RM30 for guiding us and she promptly took us to the first (dying) flower. While the light rain didn’t get to us because of the forest canopy, the ground was sodden and we had to cross a couple of running mini-streams.large_5550_14206154025574.jpgKulat mata kambing, a pearly jelly-like mushroom. Delicious apparently.We saw a few round bowling ball-sized buds that would be open in 3 months. When we reached the spot marked with a red ribbon, we were disappointed to learn that a falling tree had crushed the dying rafflesia.

We tried our luck next with the one that’s about to open. It was one day from full bloom. As the Rafflesia is famous for its foul smell, I was surprised this one smelt of nothing. It wasn’t quite ready yet. There was a very disappointed looking fly on a petal waiting patiently!

Wahada reached her hand inside the hole of the flower and felt behind the inside-plate. She commented that it was a male flower as it had sticky male pollen. Also, we were told never to touch rafflesia buds as it kills them within 5-7 days.

As for an open flower, it doesn’t really matter as it dies within that timeframe anyway. She was very knowledgeable and we learnt enough from her.

I felt happier that our day wasn’t in vain and drove back to Kuching via a meal break at Telaga Air. I had heard of the place and wanted to check it out. It is a riverside town (near the estuary) with a popular food court. The food was a little bit artier than usual and they also had lots of crabs and lobsters (at RM30-60 depending on size). Something to note for future!

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Back to Kuching


View 2014/2015 Norfolk Island via the Gateway to the Heart of Borneo on alexchan's travel map.

I woke early to go out to the riverbank areas as the light was terrible yesterday for photos. The sun was in the wrong direction! I captured the scenes I wanted, got a breakfast of timingu (or tiamiso, or rice-flour batter cooked in a pan then pushed into soup, making it resemble freshly made noodles).

The hotel offered me a late checkout till 3pm which meant that I was able to relax, review/edit photos till going to the airport for my 5pm flight back to Kuching [Kuching-travel-guide-1096915]. My friend Boo collected me from the airport and just by sheer coincidence I was able to meet two friends Paul and Richard whom I hadn't seen for about 30 years!

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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