Norfolk Island & NLK ~ South Pacific, Oceania | Air New Zealand A320 International & Virgin Australia ATR72-600
Part 2: NLK-SYD-CBR
Welcome to Part 2 of my second trip report.
Part 1 can be found here: Norfolk Island, NZ A320 International | Part 1 (by VapourTrails May 13 2015 in Trip Reports)
If you want to fly and return to your same destination from NLK you have to choose your days. Mondays and Fridays is SYD. We chose Friday to do some plane spotting purely because the flight arrival time fitted in with our plans for that day.
I checked Flightradar24 and saw that ZK-OJA had just left SYD ..and an NZ silver fern livery!
These are the reasons why I think this livery is one of the best around:
It is simple, is bold, can be easily identified from a distance, is not loud or too busy in colour, and is fairly easy to identify as the country of origin.
In short, it makes a simple, yet bold statement. IMHO a winner NZ!
Photo © Victor J Pody
We had already seen the airport from quite a few vantage points, and been around the road below the runway, on our tour. From the road on the eastern end, this also showed how elevated the runway is, compared to the natural landfall. It was quite a cliff.
Norfolk Island Airport (NLK/YSNF): A few facts cited from the Wikipedia page: The airstrip was built by the United States Army Air Forces during World War II as a defensive measure to counter feared Japanese operations in the South Pacific.
It was initially used for bomber patrols and for a transport service to Bougainville Island, but was never used as a major base and became a stopover for aircraft travelling between Australia, New Caledonia, New Zealand and the Solomon Islands.
The airport is at an elevation of 371 ft (113 m) above sea level. It has two asphalt paved runways: 11/29 measuring 1,950 m × 45 m (6,398 ft × 148 ft) and 04/22 measuring 1,435 m × 30 m (4,708 ft × 98 ft).
The airport and the island has also featured in the (aviation) news since 2009 for the Pel-Air Westwind ditching.
There was one main spotting area on this side, which seemed to be an empty field just for that purpose! I am sure that wasn’t the reason, but that was its main use.
The thing that amazed me was how many people turned up! Tourists and locals, I am not sure how many of each, but what a drawcard; the one flight of the day, one airline, one aircraft type, one of three destinations: SYD, BNE, AKL.
Another amateur video. As you can tell, it was quite windy and the ground was quite uneven. I can’t zoom in effectively on the iPad to get a good shot, so the video is pretty naked eye original version.
**VIDEO** Arrival of ZK-OJA to NLK from SYD – April 2015
Also, I never intend to get members of the public in my video - if I can help it. It’s all touch and go when you are doing this film-making as a one person operation. I have some way to go for improvements.
The next day, we visited the Pitcairn Settlers Village. I knew little to nothing of the Pitcairners (pronounced ‘pitkern’) history, and the more I learnt about it, the more I really liked it. This is of course helped by the fact that you can become easily immersed in it when hearing first-hand accounts from direct descendants and seeing the living history before your eyes.
The tour was given by a very enthusiastic presenter and family descendent, who took a group of us around the property, some of which was via a mode of transport - the first tour coach, a model A Ford, a relic of a vehicle but in very good nick!
The detail of the tour was amazing (I love detail) and also included an original homestead, blacksmith’s forge, traditional crops, and a World War 2 Army hut.
At one point in the journey, out of nowhere, we came across some tall growing bamboo, and I loved the way it sounded - clacking in the wind.
We also heard an A320 taking off.. No getting away from that anywhere on the island.
The same weekend, we viewed the cyclorama just adjacent to the village. This is a circular hand-painted indoor mural around the wall, of the Mutiny on the Bounty story and the Pitcairners journey to Norfolk Island. This painting really bought the story together for me.
I love history and it is so pleasant for me, to learn about a relatively calm and peaceful settlement and resettlement indigenous history IMHO onto this island, compared to some of my own country’s and state of origin’s (Tasmania) past. Here, no-one gets annihilated. Captain Cook found the island uninhabited, at the time, on his voyage and first discovery as well.
History of Norfolk Island, for those that might be interested (Wikipedia).
For my recollection and observations, the Pitcairn descendant people of Norfolk Island are very proud of their history and settlement, IMHO why wouldn’t they be.
We also spent some time wandering and photographing in the Queen Victoria Gardens. Norfolk Island’s National Day is Anniversary (Bounty) Day on the 8th June, which celebrates the arrival of the Pitcairn Islanders to the island on that day in 1856.
In the gardens there is a rotunda to Queen Victoria. Prior to 8 June 1856, Norfolk Island had been a penal colony, but was granted by Queen Victoria to the Pitcairners as a home in 1856. …did you know that aspect (the convict penal settlement) of the island’s history was coming in the visit travel…
We dined that weekend at the Governor’s Lodge Bailey restaurant and also at the Hilli Restaurant & Café adjacent to the Settlers Village - some more formal dining options, to add to our list and variety of places to eat out during the stay.
We also celebrated Easter holistically in just a classic and formal tradition, and would be one of the least commercialised non-religious Easter festivals I’ve ever spent. No chocolate bunnies or eggs and cards and wishes, except those virtual via social media ever present within the Wi-Fi scope.
To continue the new week, we visited the National Park, on the northern side of the island.
The things I noticed, is that this was the windiest and most exposed part of the island. Also, I immediately noticed the $ spent as we drove into the National Park. There was Commonwealth funding in here. The roads were good solid intact bitumen, and there was also kerbing and channelling, something that I had really taken for granted before but now see the importance of, and was quite noticeable compared to the rest of the island.
The roads around Norfolk Island are all sealed, but are so full of potholes and corrugated and there is no more of anything left to maintain them. I didn’t mind driving around on them so much. If I had been using my own car I would have been somewhat grumpier. It is actually getting as renowned as the Norfolk wave (waving to each other).
Any area, like the National Park or the World Heritage Listed Kingston area that has had money contributed to it is not as bad, but some spots, I recount, around the eastern end of the airport runway, are really bad.
In the comments in Part 1 of this trip report, I added a video from 2013, that was part of a documentary series called Australia’s Remote Islands, an Australian Broadcasting Corporation documentary on YouTube, that talks about the economy being in dire straits.
Since then the crunch time has come and Norfolk Island has asked to be financially bailed out by the Australian Government.
From July 2016 residents will start paying Australian income tax, to keep it brief, as there is a lot more to it than just that. Nine out of ten locals we spoke to were opposed to it; for reasons of change, national identity, and loss of what they hold dear, understandably; but the business people are more for it, understandably too, as things will get moving.
We looked at the spectacular scenery and the Captain Cook monument and information boards. As we struggled on our feet with the wind, I also managed to get some photos. This is the reason why some of my photographs are not in shot or straight!
We then visited the Cascade Pier. This is where the majority of the freight arrives, and the cruise ships dock out at sea and is also the subject of one of the much needed upgrades. This link provides more information if you are interested at Norfolk Island reforms (Australian Government, Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development).
Standing here, I feel it would be hard to imagine how it would look one day after the development is completed. It is such a small, narrow area, with a sheer cliff on one side, and the raging sea on the other, and narrow winding roads up to higher ground. Even constructing the development would be a sight to see.
We didn’t see the supply ship come in, but I know other tourists that have, and it is definitely something to witness. The literage boys, men – maybe women too! – row out in boats and the cargo is lowered down, and then they row back in again, and it is hauled up to the jetty.
Of course, the weather has to be right. Cars, trucks, all come in this way, on two or more boats tied together. There is a waste management and landfill on the island, but obviously anything else not air freighted out needs to leave the island by the same method – quite amazing!
With cruise ships, if the weather is calm enough and the Captain allows, I assume it must be the lifeboats, are lowered and tourists go ashore to Norfolk Island for the day. Of course, this is rarely that safe and often the cruise ships pass on, or wait a while to just look or see what the weather has to offer that day.
The formality of the way forward is, they need a port; for ships to dock - for containerisation of freight, and to boost tourism numbers via regular cruise ship visits.
On the way home, where noted, in that area, where the liqueur distillery was, as we wanted to go for a tasting and to purchase some duty free local liqueurs to take home. Later that week when it was open, we went in, and had a few samples.
I ended up buying a small pack of flavours like banana, guava, coconut, melon, and curacao blue, the fruity ones! Macadamia was also another interesting one. Any one of these, very delicious on top of vanilla ice-cream.
This week was also a golf day. The very active golf club is on the edge of the Kingston area and the golf clubhouse itself is a restored historic building.
We dined out at a Chinese restaurant that week, very good! While there, we met some travellers who told us about the Norfolk Blue Café and also, a Norfolk Blue Restaurant, one situated in town and the other on a farm, respectively.
The Café in town has a pet (I assure you!), a steer that lives out the back, and can be fed with grain, and patted, and is quite a feature of the dining and tourist experience! He is aptly named Blue Boy.
So of course, we had to go and check him out. He was quite large, and hungry! I behaved so much like a city slicker, even though I grew up on a farm, and he freaked me out a little.
Love this breed of cattle though, and seemed quite unique. The hair and coat is really quite blue! The heritage breed evolves from mainstream breeds on the island including Angus, Friesian, Red Devon and Murray Grey.
We made two brief trips to Kingston to look around. ..one of us wasn’t all that keen on the penal convict history of the island.. and I could take it or leave it on this trip.
Personally, we do get enough of that in Tasmania.
Some tourists love it and is quite a drawcard, and do the sets of tours, Tasmania being another one of these.
Needless to say, ghost tours or dressing up as a convict nights were not on the itinerary for us as tourists. Oppressive.
The thing I did like of the early English history was the story of the Mutiny of the Bounty, and I want to read the book, and see one of the many movie adaptations again. The wreck of a First Fleet ship is also off the coast at Kingston, the Sirius and this really intrigued me to learn more about this too.
I love exploring and looking at historical architecture so I managed to do some of that at Kingston. We also drove through the area a number of times. I did learn later on that Norfolk Island was a worse place to be imprisoned and had the worst of the worse, more than Port Arthur in Tasmania, if that is to be believed. I’ve never been to Port Arthur, but this place certainly didn’t have an atmosphere of times past at all, in the daytime anyhow!
Cattle and all livestock have right of way on Norfolk Island. The tip we were told is that calves have yet to fully develop their road sense so they are the ones to be more careful of when driving! Hence too, the cattle grids around the island.
We also visited Kingston Pier, and some of the buildings in this area.
Norfolk Island’s two small companion island’s to the south, Nepean Island and Phillip Island.
Our holiday was nearly at an end..
Back to Emily Bay..
Here are some other photos taken near the town.
Also worth mentioning, the electricity on the island is run by diesel engine generators. When we were in a restaurant there was a sign about turning off the light, because the price of electricity is seven times that of the mainland!
Needless to say, there is no air conditioning (cooling) available; it is just fans, and the wind (unless you are in a car or bus that has its own a/c).
A wind farm / wind energy would be quite beneficial in the years to come? There is also solar energy. We certainly didn’t have any problems with electricity supply, it was just like home.
Good one showing the state of the roads..
During the week, we booked into a progressive dinner. This involves catching a bus to three venues, where the residents open up their home to tourists and host entrée, dinner, or dessert, a number of nights a week and make quite a living out of this.
It is a really good way to meet the locals and see their homes. Of course, most of the construction of homes and buildings is of local pine, everything else for building is imported.
The first home was owned by a chef I believe, and the entrée was pretty fancy. We also had a small glass of sherry! We sat out on the back deck which was very expansively impressive.
The owners gave the visitors some time to ask them any questions they wanted. We had quite a few more recently arrived tourists in our group, we had been here more than a week – ages!
The questions seemed to revolve mostly around the health care system, Australia’s and theirs, and the future of the system/s! Maybe that says something of the age group majority of the gathering.
I also met the first person who was travelling by themselves. The tourists are always couples or small groups I found, on this trip.
Then we went to main course, at a home that was all about cats! I love cat memorabilia but this was everywhere! I quite liked it though. We had a roast meal, and the owner just played the pianola for us. I should have got a close up look at one as I had never seen one played before.
We made sure we met and sat next to new people again at the next venue, which was at the most modern and renovated house, and quite impressive – could imagine myself residing here! They also baked the best caramel dessert I have ever tasted.
This talk was the most interesting, and mentioned how they need to get away for a holiday every 12 months, aka the goldfish bowl existence of the island. On the mainland they can drive on a straight road at 80 km/h and go to places in Sydney where nobody knows them! They also talked about how they came to live there, as expat Australians.
One of the questions that was asked, and that we didn’t get an answer too, was why the television advertisements on the island are all from outback Queensland and central Australia?
They have no bearing on the life or the climate of a subtropical island. That is just bizarre.
By the way I have a new appreciation for Western Australia being in a different time zone than the eastern seaboard when it comes to television scheduling.
We had the opposite, we went from half an hour ahead in AEDST to one and a half hours ahead in AEST when daylight saving finished. It all revolves around Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane doesn’t it! Actually I prefer to be ahead than behind in time WA! It seemed to work better on holiday anyway!
Then it was time to go back out into the pitch black warm air evening (making the most of the warm night air!) back home.
Funny, the Queenslanders said they came here to cool down, we came here to warm up!
No-one locks their cars or their houses, as a routine – very 1980’s!! It took some getting used to, not locking the car part mainly, but sometimes we did!
There is no graffiti and very little litter on the streets – the social conditions are pretty good, and their way of life and social conduct, IMHO from spending twelve days there, is very much to be admired (children and adults) – and to my experience and what I’ve read and seen, is a community of trust and social cohesion.
We were going back to a cooler, mid-autumn now, than the autumn we had left. Can’t say I missed my climate at home, even the bright orange and red deciduous trees’ stunning colours that would be starting to happen at this time.
We also went back to town in these last days, and did some souvenir and gifts shopping. All the shops close up at 12:30pm on one day of the week, I actually quite liked this custom. We looked around the town more and went up some of the side streets, just for a last look and to discover more that we might not have seen.
For our last evening, we went on a walk to a cliff lookout called Rocky Point, and then went across the road to a more upmarket dining experience, the Norfolk Blue Restaurant. Nice meal, premium service.
We sat outside, and it was pleasant to sit in the warm night air on the veranda, and not be ‘eaten alive’ by mosquitoes!
Norfolk Blue, as a meat, for those non-vegetarians or vegans, I likened to Angus beef, if you’ve ever had that. Angus beef is becoming quite regular to buy in Australia now. I think it is nice to try new food on a holiday, particularly something like this beef (the Norfolk Blue), that I don’t think is available anywhere else (as an export).
The walk and the dinner was a really nice way to end our stay. The walk prior to the dinner, was in a wood, and had stunning views at the half-way point.
Moreton Bay Fig tree.
The day had arrived to go home. Luckily the flight was an afternoon one, not early morning this time!
It was hotter inside the airport than out, not helped by the fact that we were dressed for our destination and not the current climate. I also make sure I wear sensible clothes and footwear when I fly.
Check in was moderate time-wise, about half an hour with two main queues. Of course there was only one arriving and departing flight, so no confusion there! The flight was quite full this time, over 90% I would guess.
Bought some lunch to eat and some snacks for later, in the flight. Going outside in that fenced area was a reprieve from the heat and better for the waiting time that seemed to be quite a while, or was I just keen..
After a while, we went through security, and then waited a while longer, before we were allowed to board.
It was hotter in this area, and luckily I found a water cooler there, as I was getting pretty dehydrated.
I have a video below, but isn’t it just great to see aircraft arrive this way. There was a high double fence but I realised after I started filming, by watching and learning from a more experienced spotter, maybe common sense too.. hold the camera above your head for a better shot! Helps when you are taller too.
Photo © Mehdi Photos
Photo © Mehdi Photos
Marvelling at what is modern aviation..
Back stairs, again.. Row 27 again.. yay! On the other side though. We had someone next to us this time, but again, no one in the last row behind us.
No nervousness at all, just excitement, and yeah, I did take a herbal sedative this time..
Flight time was 2 hours and 45 minutes. Weather was very good.
The spotter’s field!
Lord Howe Island. I looked up from my book right about that moment to see the island from this vantage point. I know that definitely means I have to go there.
I used the IFE for about 5 minutes, but I wasn’t really interested in any of it, as I had my book to relax with and my music on my iPod mini. I couldn’t get the remote stowed away properly for at least another 5 minutes after that! Don’t think I will be a user of those much, unless I am on a long haul flight.
Went to the bathroom once. I don’t think the seat belt sign was on this time, and I tried not to get caught like last time anyway.
Welcome to Sydney.
Some light rain was about at SYD we discovered, when our suitcases arrived on the carousel a bit wet. A pax said they were disappointed that their new suitcase got water on it. A bit extreme!
The flight was smooth all the way – awesome. This could be the weather, pilot flying, aircraft, or whichever, all of the above, but the flights were two of the most stable air journeys I have ever been on, from memory - particularly so too, as we were seated down the back.
My second attempt at video editing. **VIDEO** ~ Arrival of ZK-OJN at the terminal at NLK, boarding the aircraft, some of the flight crew announcement, safety video, take-off from NLK, and approaching into SYD along the coast.
Airbus comment ...after 13 years away (purely through circumstance, and my home base airport not having any Airbus these last few years)… I have rediscovered the love LOL.
…so that is why I raved so much about Airbus and A320 on here back in the 00’s.
Saw one of the flight crew for the first time when leaving the aircraft. He didn’t greet pax or make eye contact so to speak, and seemed to be in a hurry to leave the aircraft for some reason, maybe a bio break. I am sure they never left the flight deck at all during the two trips.
Maybe it was a factor of the current state of things, with pax and flight crew confidence and trust being in the spotlight, or NZ flight crew don’t do this, just the usual cabin crew greeting pax. I said ‘Thank You’ but he wasn’t available for any acknowledgement, but as mentioned, the whole flight experience was superb.
I think QF have spoilt me, or us as pax, with their disembarkation greetings from flight crew at the door of the flight deck (mainline, on domestic routes), so I almost expect it these days!
When we left the aircraft we found a bathroom (bio break, before a queue and who knows how long), but it was very quiet at the airport, at around 5pm on Friday afternoon.
So quiet in fact, that when we went from the jet bridge to the airport we set some alarms off. A lady comes running over, and says ‘which flight is this, where have you come from?”. We tell her, and she seems to be happy with that. Not sure why they were not expecting us? Gate change?
The whole area was empty, just our flight! We got to the SmartGate, which I was really looking forward to using, only I couldn’t get it to work – disappointing! My travel companion, who didn’t have a brand new document like mine, that didn’t work either. Tried another machine - no, damn!
So I had to get it processed the old-fashioned way. The cause apparently, was the staples, I didn’t press down on the spine. No, I couldn’t go back and do it now of course, have to wait till next time.
There was a sign that they were filming the border security documentary/reality program for television that day - count me out! I think you have to be interesting anyway.
We collected our bags and then very quickly again, went through to the quarantine, where our shoes were checked, and then we were in the arrivals hall. You know that feeling always makes one smile, even if there is no-one waiting! It is a nice feeling.
I could live and work overseas, under the right circumstances, but it is always nice to have that particular moment of welcome home.
After getting to our hotel and resuming our phone calls and checking our phone for messages, or lack of! - we got settled in and went and had dinner at the international terminal once again.
Our room, this time, overlooking the runway.
I have to say, I do really like the SYD curfew that happens at 10:30pm. There is that certainty about it, especially during the summer months with some states in daylight saving and others not or delayed flights coming in quite late at night, at non-curfew airports.
The next morning, we got the bus back to the domestic terminal. The VA check-in took about half an hour, but the JetStar took nearly twice as long!
Then we had a snack and coffee and looked around, before parting ways, for a few months. I headed to the VA gate for my flight.
VH-VPI – ‘bronte beach’ arrived. The flight was full, as far as I could tell from my seat. Was pretty uneventful - weather was fine, this is one of the shortest flights you can do, but that doesn’t guarantee uneventfulness, particularly in terms of weather and turbulence!
I enjoyed the snack and beverage and as mentioned in Part 1 I think VA do this really well at present. I think at the time of this flight, this route was one of the selected ones to offer this service, but has since become standard on all routes.
The flight arrived, and when I got off the aircraft at CBR, I was ‘blinded’ by the glare of the sunlight of this place as I was crossing the tarmac. Welcome to Canberra.
I found the whole experience to be a lot more personable than I would have imagined. It was a genuine, down to earth experience, which could be described as quite humbling (NZ and the Norfolk Island experience).
The two histories’ (penal colony and Pitcairn settlement) run in parallel to each other, and don’t dominate the experience. We chose to learn about one, but if history is not your thing, then there is still enough to do for a week’s holiday.
Thank You to the people of Norfolk Island and to the fellow travellers me met for a wonderful holiday and memory to keep. The enthusiasm of the local people, and genuine helpfulness, friendly character, and willingness to share their island ways and their indigenous history was just something money can’t always buy.
The Air New Zealand of 2015 was one of the best airline experiences I have had up to now. The product of what I experienced was superb; I mentioned in the Part 1 comments of this Trip Report ...I couldn’t fault them in any way. I look forward to a trip to New Zealand in the years ahead, and will choose to fly NZ.
Any advice to come from the Norfolk Island stay?
Expect to pay double for the cost of living while there, compared to the mainland. Take it as it is, e.g. the roads, and the general lack of infrastructure and regulation (quite lovely), rather than have an expectation, or compare it to other island holiday destinations.
Obviously, pack for the climate and do not even attempt to style your hair, with that humidity and the wind!
IMHO if you go for less than a week it is hardly worth the $ and the effort. A week is good if you like being busy every day and on the move, seeing and doing. If you want a more leisurely holiday, ten days to two weeks is ideal.
Best time to go? Depending on which climate you are travelling from I guess, but any time of year is good as the temperatures are nearly always in the 20C’s. I would recommend March/April or September/October.
Will I go back to Norfolk Island?
As mentioned in Part 1, there are so many places, nationally, I still have yet to see. I/we would love to go back to Norfolk in say, ten years’ time and see how it has changed, particularly with ‘the takeover’ happening in 2016.
I am glad we got to go now, and see the island for what it currently is and see this time capsule kind of infrastructure for one, and I really hope that not a lot will change with the way of life, as it is really quite unique.
There are also things we didn’t get to do, museums, botanic gardens, more tours, and a live theatre production of the Mutiny on the Bounty that we missed due to a rescheduling of the show.
Of course, it is just a nice place to relax, enjoy the local cuisine, and drive or lounge around, in a beautiful subtropical climate.
Sorlun. Hattay. Come yorlye look orn.
Thanks for reading.
Part 1 of this Trip Report: Norfolk Island, NZ A320 International | Part 1 (by VapourTrails May 13 2015 in Trip Reports)
My first Trip Report can be found here: 717 Trip Report, QantasLink CBR✈MEL (by VapourTrails Feb 22 2015 in Trip Reports)