Andrew Murfett joins other fans devoted to the cult television series.
IN THE next 24 hours, a tour group will genially amble through the sumptuous English castle that provides the visual backdrop to Downton Abbey. Diehard comedy fans and celebrity sycophants will huddle impatiently in the frigid cold outside the Ed Sullivan Theatre on Broadway. A busload of visor-wearing, bumbag-toting middle Americans will trudge around Hollywood in grey minivans.
Closer to home, in suburban Melbourne, a bus packed with British tourists will drop in on Pin Oak Court, or, as it is better known, Ramsay Street. And lest we forget those Sex and the City tours.
Don't scoff - overseas pilgrimages are as common to television fans as they are to sporting nuts and literary buffs. And for many television fans (OK, maybe just me), the series Lost and the Oahu island of Hawaii is the holy grail.
Locally, Lost began airing in 2005 with a plane crashing on a mysterious island somewhere in the Pacific between Sydney and Los Angeles. Over six enthralling seasons, it told the story of the survivors and the island. The chief storytelling device was flashbacks, which were cannily used to etch out the castaways' backgrounds and, most controversially, the flashforwards where viewers learnt the fate of characters after they had escaped and returned ''home''.
In the final season, time travel was prominent. The series told two stories, one focusing on the destinies of the characters on the island, the other via a scenario where the plane didn't crash and what became of those characters once they landed unharmed in LA.
As a diehard Lost fan, I've often been forced to defend how the show ended (both moving and fulfilling, which we have neither the time nor energy to explain here), whether it became too convoluted (no) and why a polar bear was there (not telling). Regardless of where the show's trademark flashbacks (or forwards) were set, be it Africa, Australia, Korea or Thailand, all were shot in Hawaii, the great majority on Oahu, the tourist-friendly island where you'll also find Honolulu.
After booking a flight last year, I began searching out Lost tours. The most prominent online was a group specialising in Hummer tours. It offered five-hour trips, or a more substantial $220-a-person eight-hour jaunt. You know which one I went for.
The price (and length of time) eliminates casual fans. As we pulled out of downtown Honolulu, our group, comprising Hummer driver Scott, a Californian lawyer, an academic from New Mexico and me, began to get to know each other through our TV watching.
Every few minutes we would arrive at a building used in Lost - here was an apartment building from season three, there was Hurley's house in LA after he won the lottery, that's a cliff Jack jumped off - all the while discussing characters and plotlines. At each location, our guide would pull out a folder containing an image from the show depicting it.
The blockbuster sequel to The Hunger Games and CBS's Hawaii Five-0 reboot were shooting in the Aloha state that day and the tour, basically a loop of the entire island, demonstrated the significant part its spectacular landscape has played onscreen. We were shown everything from the beach where that kiss happened on From Here to Eternity to the locales for 50 First Dates to Magnum, P.I.'s HQ and Russell Brand's hotel from Forgetting Sarah Marshall. But what we really wanted was the survivors' beach, Hurley's golf course, the Dharma Initiative's settlement barracks, and where the plane crashed.
The main claim to fame of our tour guide, Scott, was that he once appeared as an extra in a funeral scene in Lost. (He dutifully drove us to the church where they shot it.) He was enthusiastic and encyclopaedic in his knowledge of Lost. As we were shown the Hawaiian road that stood in for the Aussie outback, he told us the crew were unable to source right-side-drive cars for the show's Australian scenes. They shot with a camera that reversed the angle. All number plates and signs featured in the scenes had to be written backwards to counter the cameras.
Did the producers get Australia right? Their only real mistake was the sign at a fish market that said ''Shrimp'' (we, of course, call the shellfish ''prawns'').
Most of the action from Lost took place on the island's North Shore. Here we visited the key beaches and jungle locations. The survivors' beach camp is at the end of a tiny footpath that veers from an unsigned road full of million-dollar homes. The undeveloped scrub behind the beach belongs to a mysterious landowner who leased the area to the production.
The beach itself is instantly evocative for fans. The grave Benjamin Linus dug late in the last season remains. Our group sits half buried in it and poses for pictures. The tree in which Sawyer would while away his days reading is obvious, too. And aesthetically, the beach itself is something close to spectacular.
Instantly notable is the amount of CGI the show used. Most locations provided the visual tech crew with something to digitally erase. The beach, with its posh houses to the right side, was no exception.
The beach used as the site of the plane crash was clearly similarly tricky. Some surrounding mountains were erased, as was an inconvenient car park.
Most intriguing, though, were the eerie Dharma barracks, which, according to Lost folklore, was a secure residential compound on the island. Today, it is a YMCA children's camp. As we gazed in the windows of what was the home of Benjamin Linus, we saw not secret compartments and/or weapons, but rather children's sporting equipment and bunk beds. The camp is adjacent to the beach and would have required a lot of sound and picture editing.
The barracks are now painted orange (they were brown on the show). Our group stood, slack-jawed, staring inside the windows like the weirdos that we are. The camp, like most of the island, has moved on from Lost.
On the way back to town in the Hummer, we told ourselves we had, too.
Who were we kidding?