Sunday, June 16, 2013

Nouvelle Caledonie Part 3 and Farewell to Noumea (17th June)

We arrived back into Port Moselle (Noumea) on Wednesday 5th June as planned.  As the weather was calm we dropped into the fuel wharf on the way in to fill up the tanks!

First stop in Noumea was the laundry which was closely followed by a trip up to the Casino Super Marche and the Thrifty Hire depot to arrange a car for the following week for our "inland tour".

We had a lovely 'traditional New Cal' dinner over at Baie de Citrons with the Zenitudians on the Saturday night.  We also did the trip over to the Tjibaou Cultural Centre which was a very impressive building however, the so called history of the Kanak's was a bit lacking.  Things never seem to change in Port Moselle and most days you seem to have 2-3 new arrivals turning up from all over the place so you are never short of someone new to speak to.

We picked up the car early on Monday morning and headed north on the only freeway in New Cal via the international airport to our first stop which is a little township called Boulouparis- we were hoping to get a cup of coffee and a croissant but no such luck so we headed off again to La Foa which again is a small township but much more set up for tourists with plenty of eating places.  By this stage it was now 1pm so rather than coffee we went to the Hotel of many hats for some lunch. 
Fort Teremba
Our resting place for Monday night is Bourail which is the second largest township in New Caledonia which sounds a lot bigger than what it really is.  Before we arrived in Bourail we dropped into have a look at Fort Teremba which is a serious fort including a guillotine!!  Next on the list of stops was Poe which is a lovely beach just down the road from Bourail and seems to be a great hang out for kite surfers.
We arrived at our digs in Bourail late in the arvo and as the owner advised the accommodation is pretty basic but the hotel is better known for its food than the rooms and we were not disappointed!

Tuesday morning and our route takes us across the island to the East coast.  We thought the villages on the West coast were small but they have nothing on the East coast townships.  The road across the Grande Terre is very hilly and windy so it takes a lot longer to get around than perhaps you would normally expect.  We dropped by a few places on the eastern side but to be honest the townships are pretty basic and mainly set up around supporting the nickel mines in the area.  We even ended up driving through a working nickel mine which is exactly what you can imagine Mars would look like!

Our trip today then takes us back to Farino which is back over on the western side of the island.  Hard to believe but it took us around 5hours to travel 200kms today which will give you an idea of the condition of the roads!.  Luckily the tourist information recommended this for our second night as we don't imagine there would be many places to stop over in the east!  The district around Farino is very picturesque and reminds us a bit of the Dandenong's but tropical.  The accommodation for the night is in a bungalow that is tucked away in the forest and we  both agree that we would have been more than happy to spend some more time around this pretty township. 
Wednesday morning and we are off to 'Le Parc des Grandes Fougeres' - which is basically a national park in the rain forest but it is very well set up and we had a great walk for a couple of hours which was great and very pretty - we even managed to get up to one of the peaks in the park at around 520mts.
Les Parc des Grandes Fougeres

After our walk it is back to Noumea and Mustang Sally!.  Thursday is provisioning day which in total takes us 3 trips to the supermarket but the boat is pretty much full again and ready to get on our way to Vanuatu.

We headed back to the Baie de Citrons on Sunday for a spot of lunch for Di's birthday again Oscar and Graciela from Zenitude.  We had a lovely meal and good company so a pretty neat way to spend your birthday in Noumea!

We are now looking at weather windows to get on our way.  At this stage it looks like we will be clearing out of Noumea on Wednesday and sailing overnight to Mare (Loyalty Islands) for the night and will then do another overnighter to Anatom which is the most southern island in Vanuatu.  We have been advised that the customs officials come out in a dug out canoe to do your customs clearance - will have to get a photo of that. 

Next stop after Anatom will be Tanna were we get to go and see the active volcano Yasur and then onto Port Vila with an ETA of the start of July.  We better make sure we get there in time as we have to meet up with Peter (Ex Sally crew from RMYS) who is holidaying in Vanuatu and we also have to pick up Miss Amanda who will be joining us for a couple of weeks of cruising around Efate.

Will write more once we arrive at Vila!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Nouvelle Caledonie Part 2 (6th June)

The Little Red Dolphin in New Cal

                                                                                                                                                                               Well we are back in Noumea after a wonderful few weeks down a the Ils de Pin and the Southern Province. We ended up spending a very lovely 8 days in and around the Isle of Pines.  Some of the highlights included the hike up to Pic N’Ga which is 262mts tall and a great vantage point to see the rest of the island. 

P&O Carnival Spirit
On Wednesday the 22nd as forecast the P&O cruise ship Carnival Spirit pulled into the bay with approximately 2000 guests on board and as this was their first stop since leaving Sydney we estimate that all 2000 of them hit the tiny resort town of Kuto Bay.  Kuto went through a bit of a metamorphosis overnight going from a bit of a sleepy hollow with not much going on to a full on action holiday resort.  In the morning we went ashore to check out the stalls and get amongst the action and also to see if we could get a lobster!  We didn’t  quite manage to get a fresh lobster but did have lobster for lunch which was pretty nice and while we were enjoying our lobster lunch we happened to sit next to a couple from the ship who happen to live in downtown Dromana – how far do you have to go!!!

Ilot Brosse
As we were not quite up to keeping this pace for a whole day and with the weather still calm and sunny we thought it was a good opportunity to duck over to Ilot Brosse for the night.  This little island is only about 8NM from Kuto Bay and is a lovely little anchorage although the snorkeling was not quite up to the recently set standard of Ilot Mato. 
Port Vao

We stayed on at Kuto Bay until Monday 27th May.  Before we left we did manage to fit in a couple of excellent evenings with Retour (Bevan and Jan) and Miami (George and Ute).  How bizarre is this – we finally worked out where we knew Miami from – they were in at Misima Harbour (Louisiades, PNG)when we were there in 2011!   We also ended up hiring a car for the day and did a bit of a run around the island including the Vao market where we purchased some rather yummy pawpaw jam and the largest avocado we have ever seen.  One thing that is really starting to stand out is the general lack of tourists in the resorts.

Vao Market
Baie de Prony Light
 From Kuto Bay we headed back up to Bonne Anse as there are some strong trade winds forecast so figure it would be best to go a nice comfy anchorage for a few nights.  We did the walk up to the lighthouse which has some great views of the southern lagoon - you might be able to tell from the photos that it just a bit windy.  From our anchorage in Bonne Anse we can see, what we now commonly term as, Mordor which is the nickel mine over the back- we thought this was quite funny as it really does have the red loom just like Mordor however, what is even funnier is that as Mark was delving further and further in to our Rocket Cruising Guide it looks like we are not the only ones who call it Mordor!!

Hot Springs
Moose from Ilot Casy

After a couple of pleasant nights at Bonne Anse (especially when we knew how windy it is outside) we moved further up into Baie de Prony and to Baie de Carnage which is again a great little anchorage and very calm but all the soil around these parts is really red and slippery clay so not much for walking on however, there is a great little hot spring just a short dinghy ride away which provided some great entertainment in the afternoons.  We did manage to slip our way up to the waterfall which is really pretty and well worth the effort.

Saturday (the first day of winter) and it looks like the weather is starting to settle a bit so we figure it is worth sticking our heads out again and head over to Ilot Casy which is a lovely little tropical island in the middle of Baie de Prony and we get an even better view of Mordor from here.  We ended up in the north bay on a mooring which seems far too close to the beach but that also makes it kind of nice as well as we can sit on the back deck looking over the tropical foreshore.  We headed into the beach in the arvo for a wander around and managed to do all the walks on the island and also got to meet up with Moose, the local dog, that was left behind when the resort keeper left the island.  Yes there was a resort / hotel here but like many of the others is now shut.  Anyhow Moose gave us a fully guided tour of the island so we saw it all and he was rewarded with a very nice tin of Tuna for his efforts.
Both Sally's at Ilot Casy
Next stop is the Baie de Somme which is only just across the way (approx. 2NM) but a great anchorage for westerlies plus their are some really nice walks including the pretty little village of Prony!. 
We have kind of being hanging out to see how long our LPG gas bottle lasts as we are only able to get Butane here in the land of the French. We normally hold  2 x 3.8kg bottles and have a third on board as we have to survive with what we have until we arrive at Port Villa which is about 10weeks in total since our last fill at Lord Howe.  Normally a bottle lasts us 3-4weeks so even with the extra bottle it is pushing it just a bit tight and nobody likes getting up in the morning to a cold cup of coffee.  To our great surprise the bottle lasted us until the 4th June which is almost 5 weeks so we are not quite sure what they do in LHI but we are very impressed with their LPG and are now more than happy that we are going to make it through to Port Villa without having to endure cold coffee.  We are so comfortable we have even started with a few luxuries like fresh baked bread etc.
The plan now is to spend around 2weeks here in Noumea and during that time hire a car and go inland for a few days to see a bit more of the Grand Terre.  We are also putting together our next provisioning list for our last shop before we leave Noumea (mid June) as our last places to stock up are here and also in Port Villa and then after that it is going to be about 10weeks before we get to see a shop again - quite a daunting thought actually when you think we have to cater for approximately 70breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks and drinkies!
Will report in again before we leave Noumea and head back out in to the big blue on our way to Vanuatu.

Sunset - Baie de Somme

Ilot Casy