18 October 2010 | Noumea
Vanuatu to Noumea
We left Port Vila Vanuatu for Noumea New Caledonia half a day behind eight other boats heading the same direction. Although not an ideal weather window, my morning perusal of the available info showed an intense high coming off Ozzie that promised gale force winds across our portion of the South Pacific within 96 hours. If we didn't go now, we'd be waiting in Vanuatu at least two more weeks. Personally, I prefer a door, but I'll jump out a window if I have to.
The first day was lumpy, confused seas as expected from the 'Island Effect'. The last night out of Havannah Pass we were plagued by squalls bearing gifts of torrential rain and we fired up the radar for the first time in nearly a year. At least the boat got a fresh water bath! Lightning struck so close to the boat I thought sure we'd taken a direct hit. All the electronics blinked, then resumed function. Believe me, I blinked too... and yelled.
The climate seems perfect here. Neither too humid or too dry... 80's by day, lower 70's at night, a seeming lack of bugs, skinny, chic Frenchies busily bustling about, working and accumulating like regular folks elsewhere in the First World. Nickel mining provides the wealth and a significant share of the ecological and social problems that go with it. The population is split nearly 50/50 between the French and the Kanaks, with the larger burden of unemployment and disenfranchisement falling on the indigenous people. Typical everywhere you find people and money, I fear.
New Caledonia also boasts one of the most extensive barrier reef systems on the planet with a number of unique species of plant and animal life. So far we've been to the Cultural Center, Botanical Gardens and the Aquarium. It's interesting to see the same tropical fish we snorkel with in an aquarium setting. It's not better. Just different. The little reef sharks are endemic to the tropical ocean as are the sea snakes. You just learn to live with them. Now, that big Trevally swimming by is a fish of a different color! He'd look great on the BBQ.
Sunday: Noumea Museum day. The Museum has a good collection of indigenous crafts including architectural details from the unique New Caledonian houses. Carved lintels, ancestor posts and roof posts. Decorative art seems to be sparse - most being of the utilitarian variety. We went to the CIty Museum on Monday. It covered the early through Colonial period including the two wWorl Wars. Very informative, especially since US world history doesn't cover the Pacific in much depth other than the important battles.