On 13th May 2010 as Mercury the trickster planet stationed direct, we were scheduled to fly to Lord Howe Island for a five day break. I have travelled before on a Mercury station without incident, but this was to be an eventful journey in more ways than one.
We arrived at the airport early, which turned out to be a good thing because my partner realised that he had left his camera in the car and went back to the car park to retrieve it.
The flight was delayed owing to bad weather in the Lord Howe region, but we boarded about an hour later and took off for paradise.
I had a come down with a head cold the previous day and was chock full of drugs, lozenges and nasal sprays so my eardrums would survive the journey. Physically, I was feeling a tad miserable, but nonetheless looking forward to a wonderful few days holiday.
The flight was a bit less than two hours and we began our decent to Lord Howe. The weather looked a bit iffy, but through heavy clouds we caught a glimpse of the beautiful island shining below us.
We circled. We circled. And we circled some more. Then my partner said, “We are gaining altitude again, something is up, and not just the plane.” Then the pilot announced that just as we were coming in to land, an electrical storm had struck the island and we would not be landing.
Because of fuel limitations, we had to return to the mainland, but we were not flying back to Sydney. We were diverted to Port Macquarie to refuel, as this was the closest airport; we did not have enough fuel to get back to Sydney.
Some hours later we landed in Port Macquarie, but were not allowed off the plane. We refuelled and then flew back to Sydney. So here we were, on the day Mercury stationed, travelling all day to get nowhere!
Arrangements were made for us to stay at a hotel for the night. We had to wait a while for the shuttle bus. Feeling cold and tired we loaded our luggage into to the trailer cart behind the bus and found a seat with our fellow passengers. It had been a full flight, so another bus was needed to ferry us all to the hotel.
We were on the first bus and duly disembarked at the hotel. Luggage was unloaded from the trailer, but to our horror, my partner’s case was not there! Great! Just what we needed.
I stood there cursing to myself, with a runny nose, sore throat and blocked ears, feeling miserable and pissed off, knowing full well that I should have known better than to travel on a Mercury station.
We stood waiting in the cold evening air, hungry, tired and frustrated, not knowing what to do.
After a few minutes, which seemed like an eternity, the second shuttle bus arrived. Fortunately, a fellow passenger had noticed our bag was left sitting on the curb and had made sure it was loaded on the second shuttle bus. Thank the heavens.
We checked in, had dinner and discussed the day’s Mercury station events. It was then that I noticed we were staying at the MERCURE Hotel!
The next day we headed back to the airport for an early flight which arrived at Lord Howe without a problem.
Lord Howe is a stunningly beautiful island. But while we were there the weather was a bit variable to say the least.
The first day it was incredibly windy. Every day we had intermittent showers, wind, then sun, then showers again. It changed every half hour. Over the four days we were there several other flights were not able to land owing to the weather conditions. The island seems to create its own weather.
Lord Howe was uninhabited (by people) until it was unexpectedly discovered in 1788. I noted the date and time of its discovery which we found in an original document housed in Lord Howe’s small museum.
It’s a truly unique place. World Heritage listed because of its vast range of rare and unique flora and fauna; many species are found nowhere else on Earth.
How appropriate then that the island was discovered with the Sun in Aquarius and Uranus rising!
On the day we left, the morning was still and calm; not a breath of wind, but there were clouds gathering. After a morning spent kayaking in the lagoon, we had lunch and then headed for the airport.
The clouds were getting thicker. Then the wind picked up and rain started to fall. We waited for the incoming flight to land which would take us back to Sydney.
The plane approached the runway, but then just flew past, twenty feet or so over the tarmac; a fly-by.
The airstrip at Lord Howe is only one kilometre long and is sandwiched between mountains and a flat plain, which makes it prone to windshear, so we learned. It’s a difficult place to land in bad weather.
As the plane headed back into the skies, we knew that they would only have about 15 minutes of circling time.
We waited and watched as the rain started to really pelt down. The wind was light, but variable. After 15 minuted the plane had not appeared and we were beginning to think that we would be staying five nights after all.
Just after 15 minutes had elapsed, the plane approached for a second attempt at landing; this time in torrential rain. Thankfully it landed safely, to a chorus of applause from the ground staff in the booth behind us. Mercury was now direct.