New Caledonia is between Australia and Vanuatu so it was a good stop on the way to Vanuatu. New Cal was about 800 miles from Brisbane. When leaving this last year we left Southport, just south of Brisbane and headed to New Cal for our first stop of the cruising season.
One of the benefits of New Cal is, of course, the French baguette. Every morning people head to the bakeries and pick up a fresh baguette. They are not too good stale - but we never had one last that long.
Noumea, the capital of New Cal, was a large city and when you checked in through customs and immigrations, you pulled up to the marina right downtown. The marina gave you a free night on the dock, which allowed you to wash down the boat - get rid of the salt - take long, hot showers in their facilities and they gave you a free drink at the local bar. It worked out that most people timed their arrival for early in the morning so they got the full day/night because regardless of when you arrived you had to leave the next day by noon.
After cleaning up the boat and getting a good night sleep we made a trip to the market for veggies and then headed out to the anchorage. There were a few locations around the area we wanted to explore before heading to Vanuatu.
Our first trip was going out to Baie de Prony. This area has a mountainous terrain and lots of red clay. By the way, New Caledonia is fourth in the world for nickel production.
We headed into the bay and anchored off an old deserted jail. During the early years New Caledonia was used as was a penal colony for France. As we entered the anchorage three whales swam by and gave us a spectacular show.
While anchored here and went gavaloging up one of the many fresh water streams we met a local French couple, Patrick and Aurelie. We invited them for drinks and dinner and enjoyed their visit. They then took us fishing and brought us squid for lunch. They headed back home and we continued in our tour of the outer islands but were able to visit with our new friends again when we returned to Noumea before leaving New Caledonia.
While in the New Cal area we experience some torrential rain and spent two days totally washed out. Below are a few pics. They include the stream flow prior to the rain, our dinghy after the rain ended and the stream flow after we bailed out the dinghy and went for a ride. Fresh water was definitely plentiful.
When the rains finally ceased, we had a beautiful day to sail to Iles de Pines. This was a lovely island about 40 miles southeast. The sail took us through reef area so we needed to stay alert. But the trip was well worth it. We had a wonderful time while on this island. We rented a car, did an island tour and had lunch out on a few occasions. Below are a few pictures of our time in this magical place.
We had been told about this place to stop for lunch. You needed to contact them the day before to reserve and chose what you wanted to each - chicken or fish. We made the reservations and when we headed out for our island tour stopped for lunch. We read in the Lonely Planet Guide you had to walk across a creek to get to the spit of land for lunch. As you can see Rick is walking across the "creek". The water came up to our knees before we made it across.
It was a lovely lunch and quite an island experience.
Most of the anchorages we stayed has were very remote and groceries were nonexistent or limited. We did have fresh bread though even while in Iles de Pines - a foreign yacht made bread. There were several choices and you ordered a day in advance.
But now we needed to head back to Noumea to reprovision - we needed fresh veggies and a few other odds and ends.
While in Noumea we made some side trips including one to the local Kanak Muesuem. The Kanaks were the original inhabitants of the island and there is still tension between the locals (44% of the population) and the French. The museum was quite interesting for the most part, however, it was the only museum I have every been in where they chose to use one language - French - not the native language or translated into any other language. So as long as you had a French dictionary or you spoke French you could understood most of what was there. Luckily they did have a library where you could read or look at videos that gave you some additional information.
As a note they do plan a vote sometime between 2013 and 2019 to decide whether the country becomes independent. One of the rules to vote will be proof that you have lived in New Caledonia for the past 20 years. It will be interesting to see the outcome.
On another tour around the area we found a memorial to America for the assistance in World World II. The United States had a large presence in the South Pacific area, including a large contingent in New Caledonia - does anyone remember the show McHale's Navy?
As we were shopping to prepare to leave New Caledonia and head to Vanuatu, Rick met a local gentleman who builds very complex airplanes. He invited Rick to his house to take a look. Below are the pictures and Rick's description of them.
The models were very technical in detail. The f-16 a little over two meters in length was constructed of carbon fiber and had a real jet engine, burning the French equivalent of JP-4. It developed 32 pounds of thrust at full throttle and achieved a real speed of 430 mph. When being flown they closed the local small airport and restricted the air space. In the head of the pilot was a television camera showing the view from the cockpit in real time when the plane was in flight. If my conversion is correct on the French Pacific Franc to the U.S. Dollar it costs approximately $150,000 U.S. Some of the funds to build it came from sponsors like the national bank. It was flown for the sponsors at annual meetings and company functions.
We are ready to say goodbye to New Caledonia - one final stop for groceries and baguettes and we head off to Vanuatu. The trip should take us three days - do join us on our trip to Vanuatu.