Okay so to say this is overdue is a gross understatement. So yes it’s going to be a long blog people. In my defence, it has been a very hectic first month of the trip and I have been doing fairly well in keeping my tracking map (Via Polar Steps) up to date even with minimal signal the first few weeks so at least you could follow and generally what has been going on.
I hadn’t realised Lord Howe Island had no mobile signal and that we wouldn’t have wifi in our rooms, so that was a slight disaster. Then there was too much fun being had at the QRA Muster combined with only a daytime hotspot location available so the second week was also a bit of hit and miss. This meant I pretty much had to stick to Instagram & Facebook Stories and occasionally uploading some images and a few quick words on Polar Steps. Hence, I will be doing some ‘flashback’ posts on Insta and Facebook to catchup over the next few weeks. Apologies then for the lack of blogging up until now and the lack of proper Insta posts, I will try to do better!
Anyway, what an amazing start to the trip it was! July was a whirlwind month of recovering from a not-covid-not-flu-cold-thing which flattened me for several weeks, madly packing up what things I do still own and getting them into my storage unit. Plus I was busy with online shopping to try and grab the last (or so I thought) tech and trip items I had been putting off buying in the hopes of more sponsors. Then there were meetings and emails with local staff at Royal National Park, the Thin Green Line Foundation, International Ranger Federation and NSW National Parks and Wildlife permits team to organise the launch, filming permits and general logistics for the first few weeks of the trip. Yep, and that’s after the craziness that was sorting out work handover notes, packing up my work desk and home life and still dealing with a few post-flood issues.
Having to suddenly do two last minute commercial filming applications (after being told 6 months prior I didn't need one) did add to the fun somewhat and made for an interesting drive to Gibraltar Range NP in the week leading up to the launch as I had to quickly throw together the applications in the only convenient place whilst on the road - a Macca's carpark!
That said, I had a wonderful time visiting Gibraltar Range NP and Mt Kaputar NP during my shake down trip on the lead up to the launch. I was lucky enough to pop in and meet Ranger Louisa at Narrabri who does an incredible job looking after Mt Kaputar. Trust me, the newly refurbished campgrounds are fantastic with hot showers (and I mean reeeeaaalllly good Japanese-onsen level hot showers), new signage and freshly appointed campsites. A must see for those looking to plan future camping trips…just don’t tell anyone so it remains our little secret!
Both Mt Kaputar and Gibraltar Range NPs were rather frosty temperature wise (below zero is exceptionally fresh in my book) but thankfully my parents gave me my birthday present early (an oodie! Yes, feel free to Google it) so I could enjoy it when it was most useful. I think I may have freaked out a couple at Mulligans Hut campground who were walking past my site to get to the toilet block as I was kneeling on the seat of the picnic table next to my tent cooking dinner on my little hiking stove whilst wearing my Oodie (which is ‘one-size-fits-all so literally a dress on me!)...so all they saw was the bottom of my ugg boots and some midget/child size being in a light blue-koala patterned something. Well, I was toasty warm and that’s all that mattered. Oh and the down hood (like the hood of a down jacket without the jacket) my sister got me last Christmas was a game changer for staying warm in my sleeping bag (I’m a very cold sleeper). It kept my head (and importantly my ears) wonderfully warm but still allowed me freedom of movement inside my sleeping bag…as opposed to cinching up the hood mummy style and being trapped in the bag (it’s true!). Trust me, a separate hood is awesome!
The launch was amazing (you can read more about it on my Polar Steps & Instagram posts) and it was wonderful to be able to share it with my unbelievably supportive family and of course my Ranger family. I hardly knew what was going on half the time as there was a cameraman filming for Atomos who needed to film me using my Atomos equipment (an Atomos Ninja V+ for those interested) and general action shots such as hiking, interviewing people, talking with the those attending the launch and of course the formal launch and World Ranger Day proceedings themselves. Then there were a billion photos to pose for between the official NPWS photographer, my Dad and the various people taking photos for the National Parks Association, Thin Green Line Foundation and Ranger associations. Thank gosh I am now mostly on the other side of the camera, just saying!
It was hard to get my head around the fact that the trip was actually starting and that I had truly made it to the start line given all the challenges over the past 12 months. Believe me, I was always going to make it happen come hell or high water (…yeah so tick and tick, heavy sigh), but it was still crazy to think that I was really doing it. It hardly seemed real that I had actually taken 12 months Leave Without Pay, sunk everything I own into the trip (gulp) and taken the leap with barely a month of the trip properly planned. Though partly planned, the rest has had to remain flexible as Covid, weather and increased demands on parks staff have made it important to delay locking in plans until just a few months or even a few weeks out from a visit. For this little half German whose star sign is Virgo….well, that is very difficult to accept! Particularly as my emotional tolerance is still recovering from the battering of the floods and being essentially homeless for the past 4 months.
Meeting my mate Ranger Emma at the airport the next morning and jumping on a plane to Lord Howe Island was when it actually felt like I’d started. I was already having to do the spiel and explain why I was travelling right from the off as there were some lovely older (by about 30-40 years) travellers on our little plane who were fascinated by the two ‘young ones’ on board. It was certainly noticeable that Emma (still in her 20s) and I were a good two generations younger than everyone else on the island who was not a resident. Hence everyone asked why we were there…every time, and poor Emma had to explain that she was actually on holiday and not just my lackey helping with camera equipment when I was fumbling away working things out.
Needless to say, we both enjoyed the week away from the mainland and hiking (and riding bikes) around the island to get fitter…or so we told ourselves because evidently we were only ‘fit enough’ to get up Mt Gower according to our guide Jack as he so diplomatically put it at the top of the climb. Don’t worry, we made it back down too (just) and didn’t collapse onto the grass next to our bikes (in preparation for riding home) until Jack had ridden his own bike around the corner. We were therefore suitably appalled to discover that the bowls club had run out of desert when we went there for dinner hours later. We had bravely fought sleep after each having re-humanising hot showers and unwisely sitting down on a comfy couch at our accommodation until the bus was due. We had carefully booked the bowls club BECAUSE they had desert, and we knew we would have earned it. Thankfully Anchorage restaurant had sticky date pudding on the menu for my last night on the island so we both partook to make up for the lack of desert two nights before.
Jump on Polar Steps to read more about the walks and filming on Lord Howe including Seb the biosecurity dog (true professional) and the living legends Sue and Hank Bower who are incredibly inspiring (and award winning) conservationists that have put their heart and souls into transforming the environment of Lord Howe over the past 15 years.
Well, that will have to do for now before you all need a loo break just to finish reading. I will endeavour to catch you up on all the happening over the last few weeks so keep an eye on Instagram, Facebook, Polar Steps and the blog. I will work out how to do a ‘reel on Instagram soon so I can post a few weekly summaries as well, though I’m not promising they will be amazing…just more entertaining than a blog!
Anyway, hope you are all well and have survived winter. Thank gosh we are now in September and it's the first weekend of spring with the promise of warmer weather! Feel free to remind me of this when I’m complaining about the oppressive heat in the top end by the end of the month lol.