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NOUMEA  AND AREA, New Caledonia                                                                                      

October 25 - October 31

Culture Shock! We arrived at Port Moselle in Noumea amidst modern concrete buildings, streets full of new expensive cars, and the hustle of the city. What a huge change from where we had been in Vanuatu only days ago. It was like coming into a new world.

Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, has the style of a small French seaside town, a business centre with shops, restaurants and most modern conveniences, albeit expensive. There is a vast mix of races comprising a population of  76,000 and not much English is spoken. Looks like we will be clearing the cobwebs of our brains to access our high school French.


Port Moselle

There were lots of boats and a number of marinas in the bay and we were at the marina in Port Moselle. As soon as we were all checked in we made a trip to the Australian Consulate to arrange for our chest x-rays required to complete our Australian Visas that we had applied for online in Port Vila. It ended up costing us 70F each (total about $200 Canadian).

I took the opportunity to get a load of laundry done immediately. After getting the bill of $20F, I washed clothes on the dock from then on!


Daily Morning Market

Each morning from 5am to 11am there was a great Market close to the dock with all kinds of fresh produce. A very large supermarket was within walking distance and we soon got hooked on fresh Brie (300 gram slab for about $2) and baguettes (79) which we had everyday for lunch. Most food was expensive, however, if you searched there were some great bargains too!

Cultural Centre

We hopped on a bus bound for the Centre Culturel Tjibaou. The most outstanding feature is the actual design of the contemporary buildings. The center houses exhibitions giving an insight to the Kanak culture and French history of New Caledonia.

Unique architecture

Traditional Cases -
Kanak meeting houses

Interesting indoor displays

Walk through the Gardens

Water Sports and Beaches

Still waiting for word on my Visa, we spent the day visiting the beaches of Baie des Citrons and Anse Vata, the tourist areas with hotel and restaurant developments. The area was vibrant with water sport activists. We had a relaxing afternoon sitting on the beach enjoying our picnic lunch and watching the windsurfers and kite boarding.

Views of Noumea

November 1

We rented a scooter for a couple of hours and bombed around Noumea. At the statue of Notre Dame du Pacific, there were fabulous views of the city and the surrounding area.

Nickel Smelter Plant

The nickel plant is the centre of New Caledonia mining economy.

 

We also went to Anse Kuendu, a popular beach at an exclusive resort and finished the tour circumventing the town.

Around Town

It was an easy walk from the Marina to downtown Noumea. The town is centered around Places des Cocotiers which is a park surrounded by shops. There was a good variety of stores frequented by the colorful local woman. Pictured far right is a shop selling flowers in preparation for the huge Day of the Dead celebration.

Another trip to the internet still did not result in a confirmation of my Visa so we made a trip to the Australian Consulate to see if they could help. The following day I finally got word that I could enter Australia legally and that was a huge relief! That, and being able to get our knot meter repaired (replacement of the circuit board) made our day.

Large elaborate carvings in town

Ilot Maitre

Nov 5-6  Although I would miss going to the Market early each morning for vegetables and fresh French Pastries for breakfast, we were anxious to get out of the marina. We sailed about 3 miles to the popular getaway of Ilot Maitre, where there is an exclusive resort and a beautiful beach in the marine reserve. We picked up a mooring ball and enjoyed relaxing, walking around the island and snorkeling the reef. The island was perfect for kiteboarding and the sky was always colored with the kites (in fact we had to rescue one that got away from its rider).

Ilot Signal

Nov 7   We arrived at Ilot Signal and picked up a mooring buoy. The island is in the marine reserve and has a well built dock extending over the surrounding reef to accommodate daytime tourists. We walked around the island, over boardwalks marked with interesting facts about the area, to a 20 m chimney built in the 1865's to signal the entrance to the pass. Along the trail there were lots of seabirds nesting.

That evening we sat on Ascension, watching the turtles and a dugong feeding near the boat until the sun went down.

Snorkeling in the Marine Park

November 8

We went for a snorkel just before lunch and found many interesting bombies with great coral and fish just off the shore at Ilot Signal. Afterward we took the dinghy inside the lagoon and saw huge rays, shark, lots of turtles (some reddish color), snakes, and a gigantic turquoise fish. It was great to be somewhere where there was so much life in the sea!

Back at the boat we wondered what the island we could see on the horizon would be like, so we pulled up the anchor and motored the 5 miles to Ilot M'bo. But when we arrived at the pretty little isolated island, the anchorage looked very exposed and rolly.


 

Ilot M'ba

We continued on to Ilot M'ba 2 miles north. The anchorage there wasn't a lot more protected but we spent the night there, bobbing up and down a fare amount.

November 9

After breakfast we tried to go for a walk around Ilot M'ba on the beautiful white sand beach but the tide was down and there was no way we could get the dingy over the surrounding reef to shore. The water was very clear and the reef appeared to be in excellent condition. I wanted to snorkel but we decided to make a hasty departure as the wind was starting to clock to the north. We headed to the mainland where there was a more protected anchorage.

Tiare on Mainland

We anchored in a big bay called Tiare. We explored the shoreline, walking down the narrow coral beach, but found it very uninteresting and littered with plastic bottles, which joined with others over time, will probably remain there for the next hundred years. It sure has been evident in our travels the impact that discarded plastic containers have had on the environment. The water was murky so I bypassed any ideas of snorkeling.

Nov 10

OUR ANNIVERSARY!

We almost forgot it! It's hard to keep track of dates when the day of the week doesn't matter much in the scheme of things.

Ilot Amedee

After a quick stopover in Noumea to get some groceries, we had a nice 12 mile sail to Ilot Amedee, a small sand spit that boasts a lighthouse which can be seen for 23 miles. Erected in 1865, it is a main tourist attraction and the area was full of daytrippers in small power boats and brought to the island by ferries. There were no restaurants there, so we had a quiet dinner on the boat. Endless joined us in the anchorage the following morning.


Dodging Snakes

Upon going ashore we dodged snakes everywhere! These little black and brown striped snakes are very poisonous but didn't appear to be aggressive at all. We counted around 20 sightings in the few minutes we were ashore.

These signs made us realize just how far we had sailed our little boat!

The island was covered in cactus, most of which were in bloom.

Climb to the Top

Next morn, we walked around the island, which only took about 20 minutes. We climbed to the top of the 56 meter high lighthouse, 231 steps.

Fab Views!

The views were well worth the effort. Looking down you could see the lovely white beaches, the anchorage and the reefs visible through the turquoise waters.

Nov 13

The wind pickup up and the seas got quite choppy so we decided to move to a more comfortable anchorage. We headed back to Ilot Maitre and anchored, along with Endless in front of the resort. A few days later we headed back to Noumea to prepare for our passage to Australia.

Goodbye Noumea

There was a group of about 15 of us all waiting for an appropriate weather window to make the crossing, which would take about 6 or 7 days. Only Endless was part of our original group, all the others we have just met recently. We participated in the first day of the 'Nemo" Net for our group. We discussed the low that was delaying our departure and decided to wait until it was no longer a threat before we left.

We are starting to feel trapped in New Caledonia waiting for a bad low pressure zone to pass by.

It had been forming right on our track to Australia and could pack strong winds and high seas or even form a cyclone so we want to stay clear of that!  We revised our plans in favor of checking in at  Coff's Harbor because it is only about 300 miles from Sydney and that's where we wanted to end up around Christmas.


November 21

Finally...we checked out of the country and set sail for Australia.

It was with some despondency that we watched New Caledonia disappeared with the setting sun, knowing that we would be leaving the magical South Pacific, but we were excited about new adventures in the land of Oz!


Approaching Noumea


Anchorage at night

PHOTOS OF NEW CALEDONIA

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