Runch!

Trip Start Dec 22, 2011
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Trip End Apr 18, 2012


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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lady Elliott Island is right at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. As such, it is classified as a green zone which ensures that the whole island is totally protected. 

Fishing is not permitted and nothing at all is allowed to be removed.. 
no shells, coral, vegetation, nothing."Remember, take only photos and memories; leave nothing but your footprints!"

The island has an interesting history. In 1805, a gent named James Atickin began the first commercial venture here, the collecting of sea cucumbers. 

These were collected from shallow waters, dried and smoked and sent off to Asian and 
Malay communities. It seems to me that that is a venture which could well be re-started. 
There are zillions of the black lurkers around.

In 1863 a man with obviously no sense of smell won a tender from the Government to mine the island for guano (bird droppings). This continued for many years until 1874. 
The miners were Chinese and Malay and the guano was sent to Tasmania and New Zealand.
We won't ask why.
 
During this time nearly all the trees were removed, as well as three foot of the top soil and 
guano.
Since 1874 the birds have gone into overdrive, making it yet another commercial enterprise which would do amazingly well today.

In 1866 they put up a lighthouse here which toppled in a severe storm 5 years later and a new one was not erected until 1873. This was a major enterprise, construction carried out by J & J Rooney for 749
It is a timber frame construction with metal cladding and was made in England and shipped out here in pieces. The lighthouse keepers here had a difficult time, one lost a child and another a wife who committed suicide through depression.

In 1939 the weather station was established, which is still in use today.
It was not until 1953 that electricity came to the island, replacing the kerosene which had been running the lighthouse up til then. 

In 1966 a revegetation programme was started by the lighthouse keepers, but it proved difficult as the goats which had been introduced earlier for milk and meat ate everything as fast as it grew. There were about 100 goats on the island by this time but they were shot by the lighthouse staff to enable the vegetation to regrow.
Yes, Lady Elliott Island has a shady environmental history.
 
Tourism started in 1969, probably to replace the goats. It became a low key resort, being leased to various people until in 2005 it was leased to Peter Gash, who undertook to redevelop the island as an eco tourism holiday destination
This man of vision, this entrepreneur, conveniently owns an airline, Seair. 
Surprisingly, these days, the only means of getting to Lady Elliott is by plane. 
Seair, as it happens.
Well done Mr Gash! 
        
The brochures are glossy, the staff friendly and helpful and all muck in on a rota system.
Jason, who welcomed us when we arrived and gave us our introductory briefing, was on breakfast duty this morning, went out with the divers yesterday, was playing Ludo with a handful of kids this afternoon and is probably giving one of the talks today.

There is an education centre, where there are daily talks on different aspects of marine or bird life and most evenings there is a presentation or film show as well.
There are masses of kids here. 
The marketing we have seen does not indicate that at all, but they are well set up here for 
kids; there are lots of activities for them, including art classes as well as the usual table footie, ping pong, shelves of DVDs, books, and outdoor activities too.

Oh, and Milllllllllllllllkshakes on offer of all the most disgusting combos imaginable.

When filling in one of those "have you had a most wonderful stay" forms, what I should have written was something along the lines of : 'eco is not an excuse for shabby' as there is a slight tendency towards the shabby here in some areas which is a shame.

We seem to have been a little unlucky with the weather, as the visibility for snorkelling or diving has been awful and the winds high which has meant that one or two of the areas have been closed for snorkelling anyway. 

The rain has just been one of those added extras.

It was interesting listening to a new load of punters being briefed when they first arrived. First through (this was while we were having breakfast) was a family group of Aussies. Like us, they were shown where the dining room was, the bar, the education centre, the list of the available activities of the day, and then given a piece of paper to sign their lives away insurance wise.

Then a small group of Japanese came through with a Japanese guy from the resort.
They were given a button by button explanation of how to work the coffee machine (which was probably made in Japan anyway), told when and where and how to get "runch", and then pointed in the direction of the smokers area. No signing of bits of paper, nothing else.
I guess it is all about national differences.
Or something.

The day was bright but incredibly windy so Plan A which was to do a spot of "snorrklin" before we had to go, was replaced with sitting bravely on the beach in the gale and having a wander round the island.

Our plane arrived at 3.45 and we left in it again at about 4.
Nick and I were first on board, so sat right behind the pilot.
Great views!
We flew to Bundaberg first to drop someone off, and then on to Hervey Bay, so we had an extra leg to enjoy. I do enjoy flying and in something as small as this, it is even more fun.

These two shortish hops were even more enjoyable because of where we were sitting.
At one point, a red light came on and there were a few beeping noises.
"Oh, bother. Are we about to run out of fuel? Will we have to get out and push??"
The left fuel tank was almost empty so he was switching it to the right one...  all of which was enough to give the youngsters behind us the jitters.
When we cruised to s stop in Bundaberg, we stopped next to the Shell aviation fuel pump to refuel.
"Sorry, mate, the pump isn't working. Used it for the Flying Doctor."

"OK, guys" said our pilot jumping back in, "Good to go?"
We nodded, and within a minute we were zipping off up the runway draining the dregs from the left tank before going on to the right.
"Got about an hour and a half flyin' time" smiled the pilot once we were back up.

Disconcerting how little he actually had to do.
For most of the time he was filling in forms.
Once he turned round and was counting the number of passengers.
A bus driver has to be far more on the ball.

We were met at Hervey Bay by a limo.
Actually, a rather grubby Lexus driven by a man with the sort of rear that suggested he had been a taxi driver for many years.
He dropped us at the hotel and then asked us for $21.
Not a huge sum, but all of this was pre-paid, so our immediate thought was, "Ah. So will the rest of this package have come to pieces too?"

Hopefully not. 
We will find out tomorrow when we are due to be picked up at the Big Whale and taken to Fraser Island.

The Hotel in Hervey Bay is a little strange. It is like a load of apartments. 
It has no restaurant, and directed us towards a cafe next door, where we had a pretty uninspiring meal and left before it shut at about 8.30pm.

Our room overlooks the marina which has an assortment of large and small boats in it.
This is supposed to be THE place for whale watching...  but only in season, of course...

 
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