Stories & poems from past participants
by M Hallett (Vic)
In December, I was lucky enough to visit Gabo Island on Jenny’s tour with Wayne as guide.
There is something very special about seeing the sunrise and sunset from the veranda of the old lighthouse assistants cottage and to watch, binoculars to the eyes, gannets, gulls and terns, sea eagles and on a special occasion, an albatross from a first rate front seat. It is truly a wonderful thing to do.
While we were there we also experienced Mother Nature’s best sound and light show as the storms passed across the sea. We were snug and safe so we could only wonder at it’s great might and beauty.
Thanks you Jenny and our guide Wayne for a great experience.
So many images…the windswept dunes of Croajingolong as we glide past in the boat, the protected little sandy bay alongside the Gabo Island jetty, the statuesque tower of the pink granite lighthouse, the rich blue of the Southern Ocean, the dinner suit vision of fairy penguins hopping from rock to rock in the dark, picnic lunch in the shady dells under spreading banksia trees, the swarms of New Holland honeyeaters perched on shrubs at dusk.
There was a sense of stepping back in time at the sight of the cluster of stone cottages huddled behind high granite walls…and the delight that one of these will be our home for the five days of our adventure on Gabo Island And what a delight! A cosy lounge surrounded by the artwork and photography of previous visitors, endless reference books to check our finds against. Then discovering two modern bathrooms for only 8 guests, comfy beds already made up, and a homey kitchen. And we were certainly well fed! Beyond was the bonus of three sheltered verandahs with seating overlooking the lighthouse and the granite cliffs. I felt I wanted to be there for weeks, not days!
It was a dream I had for many years…to go to Gabo Is. What could be more exciting but the mystery and isolation of a lighthouse island! Imagine my delight when Jenny offered the opportunity with her 5 day trip in January. But I had many questions running through my brain. Would I cook in the summer heat? Would I have to leap from a heaving boat and clamber up a towering cliff? What would I do there anyway…just sit and eat while the wind howled and shook our digs? Thankfully, none of my apprehensions was the reality.
It was an adventure! This was the first trip for Gippsland High Country Tours and our leader, Maria. So we had the joy of exploring, sometimes in our group of five, other times free range. Right from when we arrived we chose to abandon the kind ranger’s plan to drive us to the accommodation, and walked the one and a half kilometres, so we could explore our new surroundings. It was a glorious sunny day, milder than Melbourne, and with no wind. A swim was in the offing but we chose to continue our wandering.
I had visualised a wind swept landscape, and some of it is, reminiscent of the moors of England, but much of it is thick woodland, tweeting with birds. Walking tracks were few and we meandered in and out, up and down the rises, seeing what plants, birds, and new vistas we could find. Imagine my delight when I did in fact discover a new species not listed on Gabo Is. It was an insignificant spindly tree, which drew my attention as it reminded me of species I had seen in my Outback wanderings. It had thin leaves and fruit like small olives. My amateur botanist companion, Ros identified it as Australian sandalwood, which was later verified by the ranger.
We indulged in the history of the island in the small museum, with its seafaring objects and stories of the lives of lighthouse keepers and their families since 1850. The ranger briefed us on his daily weather observations. Imagine our surprise when in the midst of this, two strange people appeared. They were from one of the numerous yachts we had seen sailing past and had anchored on the other side of the island. The ranger then took us all up the lighthouse. What a view!
My joy on Gabo was to sit on a verandah out of the 75km/hr wind of that day, sipping my hot chocolate, watching the endless waves crashing on the rocky cliffs at our front door. The spray would erupt like a volcano, spread over the cliffs and ooze down to the sea like a torrent of spilt milk. Different sea birds flew in to their favourite cliff perches, and just beyond, a colony of seals kept us entertained on their small rocky island.
Jenny is offering this trip again in various different season. As the climate on Gabo Is. is much milder than Melbourne I could recommend any season and each would be a quite different experience. Be sure to pack some long pants and long sleeved shirts for your woodland wanderings. Enjoy!
Nancy (Melbourne, Vic)