This is a Cagou, a flightless bird that is endemic to New Caledonia and which is the unofficial national bird. Steve pointed his finger close to this one and it puffed up, showing off its top feathers.
October 12, 2011
On Wednesday, we visited the Musee de la Ville de Noumea where we learned that New Caledonia began as a penal colony for prisoners from France. These prisoners were used as laborers in the nickle mines but when it became too costly to ship prisoners here from France, New Caledonia imported workers from New Hebrides, followed by Javanese laborers, and then Japanese workers who were deported 20 years later after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. With World War II came the US soldiers who provided the infrastructure for New Caledonia by building the sewer and water systems. Over 1 million U.S. solders came through New Caledonia during the war and are credited with modernizing New Caledonia. We then enjoyed a large and leisurely French lunch at a restaurant in the Centre Ville. The French have their largest meal of the day at lunch rather than at dinner. Although we felt like taking a nap, we hiked up the hill to the lovely Noumea Zoo where we saw the Cagou, a flightless bird, endemic to New Caledonia. The Cagou is a protected species now raised in captivity because of the predators, such as dogs, that have been introduced to the island and threaten their existence. The zoo was filled with colorful and exotic birds. They even have 10 Japanese Cranes, a highly endangered specie. We hiked back in time to buy a nice baguette and chocolate eclair at our favorite patisserie, thereby negating all of the calories we burned today.
Although we took this photo of a large lionfish in the Noumea Aquarium, we saw one almost exactly like it 17 miles offshore on the outer reef when we went scuba diving.
October 11, 2011
On Tuesday morning at 7:15, the Abyss Plongee dive shop picked us up for a 2-tank dive. There were 12 divers and 2 bilingual (French/English) divemasters on board the red inflatable diveboat powered by two 200 horsepower engines. All the other divers were French. We donned 7 mil (thick) full length wetsuits which kept us very warm and then zipped 17 miles to the outer reef where we saw lots of colorful hard coral and Napoleon fish (Giant Wrasse). After an interval wait of 1 hour and after hot tea and cookies, we zoomed to the entrance to the north pass where we dove with lots of very large groupers which come here at this time of year to reproduce. Our divemaster said that in a few weeks there will be hundreds of them. We saw over 20 large grey sharks in one group and a large lion fish. Visibility was 80-100'. We enjoyed both these dives very much.
This horned cowfish which was just 3" long was stunning to see at the Noumea Aquarium.
October 10, 2011
On Monday, we moved to a side tie at the marina right in front of the restaurant. We happily filled our fresh water tanks and washed off the boat. In early evening, our friends Michael and Penny (British) from SV Yvonne who we met in Ecuador came over for drinks and munchies. They are putting their boat on the hard tomorrow and returning to London for 5 months.
We were very happy to see this nautilus in the aquarium. They are seldom seen in the ocean because they live at great depths. The nautilus emits a special gas in the shell which causes it to float and movement forward is powered by the water it forces through jets near its mouth.
October 9, 2011
On Sunday, there still was no space for us at the marina. We dinghied to Le Marche, the produce and fish market next to the marina and bought fresh vegetables and fish for dinner. We then took the bus to the aquarium to see the Nautilus swimming and other beautiful fish displays. The aquarium is very well done and it was a joy to visit. We walked along the beaches on the way back to the marina. This place looks and feels like a French town on the Mediterranean. Clean and beautiful. We enjoyed Chocolate Noir (dark chocolate) ice cream at a luscious ice cream/desserts cafe.
This photo of our friends on SV Wetnose was taken in Baie de Jokin, Lifou Island while we were snorkeling. L to R, Chuck, Sandi, Pat and Jim.
October 8, 2011
On Saturday, we quietly left Ile des Pins Island at 5:15 am. It gets light at 5:00 am. We motored in flat seas and light winds, and under bright sunny skies. On the way, Humpback Whales entertained us by spouting and then jumping half way out of the water, twice. We arrived at Noumea on the main island of Grande Terre, the capital of New Caledonia, 9 hours later, at 3:00 pm. We hailed the Port Moselle marina but they did not have space available for us at their visitors' dock so we anchored across the bay. This place is filled with boats! It is hard to believe that a population of 95,000 people in Noumea would have so many pleasure boats. We dinghied to the Port Moselle marina and walked into the nearby "Latin Quarter" to look around. We stumbled into La Vielle France patisserie (pastry store) and were totally stunned to find ourselves in an air conditioned French pastry heaven filled with sumptuous eclairs, tarts, cakes, cookies, meringues, and breads. After 3 months in the primitive countries of Vanuatu and Tonga, we went into culture shock when we saw the perfect French pastries displayed before us. When we managed to gather our wits about us, we picked out an eclair, a few profiterols (ice cream in puff pastry), and a baguette, all of which were perfectly delicious.
Portia in front of the War Horse Saloon Bar & Restaurant outside Port Vila, Vanuatu.
September 24-25, 2011
On Friday, we awoke to bright blue skies. At 10:00 am, we went to the Anchor Inn Restaurant to officially check out of Vanuatu. One of the advantages of being part of an organized rally is the immigration and port officials will come to one place where we can all check out at once rather than making individual trips to their offices. The rally has arranged for the officials in New Caledonia to meet us on Ouvea Island so that we can each check in to their country there rather than having to go to Noumea first. We spent the rest of the day buying a few "tam tams" which are hardwood statues, playing tennis and buying a few provisions for the crossing. Since the crossing will only be 35 hours and we are not allowed to bring any fresh produce into Caledonia, we only bought what we can consume during the next few days. At 4:00 pm, we met again at the Anchor Inn for a free kegger and wine get together with the rally boats. From there we along with the folks on SV Wetnose took a taxi to the War Horse Saloon Bar and Grill and enjoyed an excellent dinner of beef and pork barbecued ribs in this very interesting brewery/restaurant owned by American cruisers who settled here 14 years ago.
On Saturday, we chatted with Gerald, who is cruising with his wife Anse on SV Spirit. They are from the Netherlands. We had briefly met them in Ecuador and later in the Marquesas. Their engine caught on fire 10 miles out of Tonga and they had to be towed in to port. Luckily, he was able to repair the engine in Tonga and they will be continuing on to Australia. We withdrew cash from the ATM to pay our final bill at the marina and filled our gas jerry jug at the service station. When we checked out of the country, we received a duty free certificate for diesel. Since we needed about 52 gallons, that saved us about $70 USD. Lemara who works at the marina and who had purchased our bicycles, bought our sewing machine today. We were very happy to get this heavy weight item off the boat. In the afternoon, Christine, the French woman who bought our kayak and scuba gear met us at the marina dinghy dock. Portia peddled the kayak there. We have enjoyed this kayak immensely and it was sad giving her up. We had a drink with Christine and her husband Paul after which she jumped into the kayak and happily peddled her way to their home around the point. We went out to dinner and watched another beautiful sunset looking out at Port Vila Bay while the mostly New Zealander clientele watched a World Cup Rugby match on TV. In this part of the world, everyone is crazy about rugby. During the US Open Tennis tournament, we were lucky that the bar owner put tennis on one of their 6 TV screens. The other 5 were rugby. We have enjoyed the town of Port Vila. It is surprisingly modern, well kept and full of friendly people. Back at the boat, we took the motor off of the dinghy and stored it in the lazarrette in front of the mast for the crossing to New Caledonia. Over half of the rally boats left today, those who wanted to take advantage of the stronger winds forecasted for today. We leave at 6:00 am tomorrow.
We have posted a few photos taken while in Vanuatu. Click on Photo Gallery.