SV Saraoni

01 August 2018 | Baie Majic, Baie de Prony, New Caledonia
13 July 2018 | Baie de St Vincente, Grande Terre, New Cal.
06 July 2018 | Koniene Island, Pouembout ,Western lagoon, New Cal.
02 July 2018 | Koumac, Northern Grande Terre, New Caledonia
20 June 2018 | Hienghene, NE Coast of New Cal.
31 May 2018 | Canala, New Caledonia
23 May 2018 | Port Bouquet, Eastern lagoon of New Caledonia
13 May 2018 | Baie du Prony, New Caledonia
21 April 2018 | Isle Tenia, Lagon de Sud, New Caledonia
10 April 2018 | Port Ouenghi, Nouvelle Caledonie
30 March 2018 | Goolwa, South Australia
25 March 2018 | Meningie, South Australia
13 March 2018 | Narawntapu National Park, Northern Tasmania
07 March 2018 | Burnie, Tasmania
02 March 2018 | Gowrie Park, Northern Tasmnania
18 February 2018 | Bicheno, Tasmania
10 February 2018 | Richmond, Tasmania
01 February 2018 | Snug Bay, Tasmania
25 January 2018 | Port Ouenghi, New Caledonia
19 January 2018 | Port Ouenghi, New Caledonia

Snakes Alive !

01 August 2018 | Baie Majic, Baie de Prony, New Caledonia
Alison and Geoff, sunny and warm when out of the wind!
Angry silver gulls giving a tricot raye what for as it slithers up the beach on Ilot Maitre for a nap in the sun

We are hanging off a mooring buoy in pretty Baie Majic, tucked up in the East Rade of Baie de Prony, having made use of a once a fortnight westerly to get here from the big smoke, rather than the usual bash against the trades. In fact, the trades have not been well established at all this year, in intensity anyway. An El Niño is apparently looming, which might just suit us later this year as it means an easier passage down to NZ. A La Niña is easier from Tonga, but not from here, as we discovered too late last year.

We spent a couple of weeks in Noumea, doing what you do in big smokes everywhere....spending money! But we also had time to hike up the last of the big three mountains within easy reach of Noumea - Mt Koghis. It's a dreadful track up there, so we contented ourselves with reaching the 'Gendarme's Hat', a steep sided hill, with a magnificent view across the city and the southern lagoon and out to sea beyond the barrier reef.

Noumea from Mt Koghis. Ilot Maitre can be seen as the larger cay with attached reef on the right above the city; The outer barrier is in the distance.

Mt Khogis is the nearest accessible mountain to Noumea

We also spent time at Ilot Maitre, the nearest coral cay to the city, only a couple of miles off, and the only one in New Cal with a hotel on it. The provincial government provides free mooring buoys here in the lee of the reef, so it's a comfortable place to stay, despite the busy boat and tourist traffic. Huge fish live here too, as it is a marine reserve.

Looking back to Noumea from touristy Ilot Maitre. Twin peaked Mt Koghis is in the background.

It's also inhabited by tricot rayes, pretty coral snakes, although the tourists aren't told! These little kraits have tiny mouths, but also have some of the most potent venom of all the world's snakes. The day we ambled around the cay, there were plenty of snakes out on dry land, most of them asleep in the sun, although the odd snake wandering out of the sea for a nap was definitely not appreciated by the island's resident silver gulls!

4 of about a dozen banded sea snakes / tricot rayes, dozing in the sun on Ilot Maitre. We've seen up to a hundred on land in the breeding season near the isle of Pines

We've been up the long, winding path to Cap Ndua to gaze out on the southern lagoon twice already. It's a fantastic view and normally you can see humpback whales from here. Between 150 to 200 of them make their way up from Antarctica on their annual holiday jaunt - a tenth of the numbers in Tonga, but steadily increasing each year. No luck today or yesterday. Are the whales a bit slow arriving this year? We will have to go back to Noumea soon to clear customs, then make our way up to Tanna in Vanuatu before it gets too late.

Back moored off the Isle Casy wharf in Prony

Casy Island's late, independent minded much loved dog, Moose, has just got a plaque in his memory erected where he normally hung out waiting for visitors. Probably made by crew of South African yacht Impi recently arrived back from Oz.

What's with all the turtles? We counted about a dozen close inshore as we wandered around little Redika Island on our way back from Prony today - more than we saw during the whole trip around Grande Terre!

Closing the Loop at Ilot Tenia

13 July 2018 | Baie de St Vincente, Grande Terre, New Cal.
Alison and Geoff, calm and drizzly
Photo shows Saraoni once again anchored in the Southern lagoon near Isle Konduya

We finally closed the loop at Ilot Tenia on the outer barrier near Baie de St Vincente yesterday after our 500 mile leisurely perambulation around New Caledonia's largest island. It's always satisfying to circumnavigate anything large and Grande Terre was large enough for a 2 month trip with over 30 excellent anchorages.

Lovely, remote, Ilot Tenia on the edge of the barrier where we closed the loop

We arrived back in the Southern lagoon a week ago after a 60 mile sprint down outside the western barrier reef. The tip of a front emanating from a deep low passing across the Tasman to the south of us wafted through, shifting the wind from a useful north easterly back to an annoying southeasterly, but we made it back through the pass in the dark and dropped anchor in calm conditions.

Unusually calm days since have allowed us to visit normally uncomfortable coral cays like Konduya and Tenia, as well as spot marine life. We've seen dolphins and dugongs, as well as turtles in the shallow, clear water 'flying' across the sea grass beds.

Konduya Island in the Southern lagoon

An osprey on Konduya island - each cay seems to have a resident pair of ospreys

The osprey pair on Ilot Tenia

These small sacred kingfishers are common all over New Caledonia and the same species as in Australia and New Zealand.

At lovely Ilot Tenia, in almost perfect conditions we saw a 2.5m grey shark which was a little offputting. When Alison finally got into the water, she saw what she said was the biggest moray eel she had ever seen, with a head the size of a child's. She couldn't get back into the dinghy as the water was too deep, but the moray had already retreated to somewhere it too felt safe!

Best of all was an encounter with some manta rays in the Lepredour Channel. They must have been feeding on a plankton plume in the channel, accompanied by their constant companions, a bunch of remoras. Because the sea was so calm, we just dropped Saraoni's anchor and jumped in the water with the camera!

Mantas are gentle giants that just feed on plankton and do not have the potentially dangerous barb that sting rays have. We were able to get really close to the mantas who politely ignored us as they glided effortlessly through the water.

Manta feeding - note the large mouth like that of a baleen whale

Manta in the Lepredour Channel

Remoras attached to their reluctant chum

We have had almost constant internet cover here everywhere we have been. It's rather surreal when cruising in these remote lagoons reading about the chaotic events in Britain with the disastrous arrival of President Tchump. Why was he ever allowed to visit? All power to Sadiq Khan in London, Magid Magid in Sheffield, Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland, the baby blimp and the many tens of thousands of people who gave Tchump an unwelcome.

There is a nasty trend towards bigotry and nationalism in both Europe and the U.S. - at a time when the world is dangerously hotting up, income disparities growing and biodiversity shrinking. Humanity needs more international co-operation than ever before, not less. The recent cave rescue in Thailand was a welcome sign that people from many nations can help each other for the common good.

We are now heading back to Noumea to make plans for our trip to Vanuatu.

Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow

06 July 2018 | Koniene Island, Pouembout ,Western lagoon, New Cal.
Alison and Geoff, windy and cloudy
Heart of Voh / Coeur de Voh from the air (not our pic!)

The view of the Heart of Voh from the viewpoint

We are anchored behind Koniene Island in a rather muddy part of the western lagoon near Pouembout. This stretch of the west coast doesn't have a continuous lagoon like the rest of the island, so you either have to leave via a pass into the Coral Sea and keep going, or go in and out through gaps in the reef, which are opposite rivers (the freshwater prevents coral from growing, creating a pass through the barrier.)

Outer barrier and Passe de Duroc near Voh

We are doing the latter. At this time of the year, large high pressure systems maintain a south east to easterly trade wind most of the time, making the trip south eastwards into a lumpy, swelly sea quite difficult. At night, close to the land, the wind dies but then comes back in a surge at around 10 the next morning. That means that you can use the time between 6 (dawn) and 10 to make progress before sneaking into a new anchorage.

Tomorrow, the pattern is interrupted as a low pressure system dumps gales and heavy rain on NZ to the south of us (fortunately for Wellingtonians, who were expecting to have the mid winter Matariki fireworks this weekend in the wind and rain, a lone southern right whale has turned up in the harbour, preventing the fireworks from taking place - they are now postponed to next weekend - whale permitting!). The rotten winter weather down south blocks the highs up here and we get a day of calm - just what we need to motor sail the last 60 miles down to the entrance to the southern lagoon!

The now famous photo of Wellington's visitor, a southern right whale, in front of the Beehive (NZ Parliament). This is probably a lone male searching for love, but these whales have suffered far more than the humpbacks that go up into the tropics, so he's probably going to be disappointed! Photo by Simon Woolf

All the anchorages we have had since leaving Noumea have been very good - sheltered, no swell and safe. Most of them allow us to get ashore for a walk, go shopping, or explore the hinterland. At Voh, we searched for the famous 'Coeur de Voh' - a natural heart shaped figure in the mangroves that looks just like a heart cut in them. It's apparently caused by two different mangrove patches that have differently coloured leaves, with an accidental heart shaped mangrove channel separating them. The heart can only really be seen easily from the air (photo above), but there is a viewpoint 400m up above the village that we walked to where it could be seen, although not so obviously. The outer reef was very impressive, though from that height!

By the time we get back into the southern lagoon it should have filled up with humpbacks migrating from Antarctica, so we should soon have a whale of a time ourselves!

Scenery from the Voh view point of the Kaala Gomen region

Coral snake / tricot raye spotted on a beach near Gomen. They are curious and friendly, but potentially deadly!

Always somewhere to explore - Geoff celebrates his 65th birthday between a rock and a hard place at the Notre Dame rocks near Koumac.

The yellow line shows our route outside the main barrier from the northern to the southern lagoons along the west coast of Grande Terre

Over the Top – The Big Wave

02 July 2018 | Koumac, Northern Grande Terre, New Caledonia
Alison and Geoff, ESE 10- 20, sunny days, cool nights
Poum - Grande Terre's northenmost town, population 200.

We're in Koumac marina near the top of the west coast of Grande Terre. We had an easy hop around the coast from Hienghene, but the trade wind has now piped up as it does so often at this time of the year and it may be a slow slog back down south eastwards towards Noumea.

Tao waterfall - one of a dozen or more on the north east coast

Anchorage at Poum on the west coast

Brisbane based catamaran Phase 2 passing Mouac Island north of Koumac

Koumac is the third largest town in New Cal. after Noumea and Bourail. It has a population of around 4,000, so about the same as Kaitaia. It's either sleepy or hectic depending on which side of the midday siesta you hit town. It has about 4 or 5 small supermarkets, a hardware store, the gendarmerie, a high school and primary school, the Mairie, OPT (post office) and a couple of hotels, as well as the council run marina which doubles as a port for the ferry to the Beleps.

Koumac is once again in wealthier Caldoche land, but the town's like Kaitaia in more ways than just the people count. It's multiethnic, with French, Kanaks and others (Polynesians, Vietnamese, Indonesians) all about evenly balanced in numbers. The Saturday fishing comp. saw loads of utes and SUVs with trailers and power boats with big, beefy outboards on launched into what was that day a dead calm sea. It was lads' day out on the fishing comp., but Sunday was family day. The northern lagoon right round to Hienghene has many small islands scattered around, at least as many as its southern counterpart, but apart from the area around Koumac this is an empty and little visited part of New Cal.'s coast.

Saraoni tucked up in Koumac marina

Lads Day Out - this boat crew won the prize for the largest weight of fish for the day at 440 kg - all huge yellow fin tuna

We've been doing some cycling once again around here, exploring some of the karst caves and rocky formations in better weather than we had when we passed through here In January. Everyone waves at us when they pass us, even the gendarmes!

We should be on the move again tomorrow, making use of the early mornings to hop along the coast within the lagoon before the wind gets up, which it seems to do around 10 or 11 in the morning, most mornings. At Chasseloup Bay, 35 nm South, the lagoon ends and we have to make several open sea passages outside the barrier reef down to near Baie de St Vincente where we started this circumnavigation in April.

In the Heart of Kanaky

20 June 2018 | Hienghene, NE Coast of New Cal.
Alison and Geoff, warm and sunny...for now!
The kanak flag (foreground) and the French tricolour are New Cal.'s joint national flags

We're back in Hienghene, this time anchored in its reasonably well sheltered bay. This was the end point of our 'Grand Tour de la Grande Terre' by bike in January. The weather up to today was giving a good impression of a sodden NZ summer day, with grey skies, drizzle, intermittent rain and, this morning, a lot of wind gusting down the valley of the Hienghene River, but now it's lovely again!

Hienghene Village and the Hienghene River -anchoring in which is unfortunately 'interdit!'

There is a small marina in the river, but it has got rather silted up, so is a little too shallow at low tide for us. Before the 1980s, you could anchor in complete security in the river, but that is now 'interdit.' Hienghene has for many years been one of the centres of the anti-colonial and pro-independence movements, more recently led by FLNKS (the Kanak Socialist Liberation Front). Hienghene was where Jean-Claude Tjibaou, the FLNKS's capable and charismatic leader, was mayor until he was shot dead on the island of Ouvea by someone more radical than he was. It was also where 10 Kanak villagers from up river were ambushed by Caldoche (Caledonian born French settlers) anti-independentistes and killed. The 1980s were a very turbulent period in this French colony's history as the Kanak population was gradually reasserting itself after 120 years of colonial thuggery, marginalisation and theft of their ancestral land.

Touho Market's 'Marche Mamans' pose for a photo

Pro independence symbol in the middle of a roundabout on the RP3 near the Touho Lycee

Hienghene suffered from white flight after the kidnapping of gendarmes on Ouvea, the slaughter of FLNKS militants by French troops in reprisal and the boycott of New Cal's first independence referendum by FLNKS supporters in 1988. Hienghene was, and still is, at the heart of Kanaky and few Kanaks around here were, and are still not, keen to stay under French colonial control.

There has been an attempt by France to mitigate the worst excesses of colonialism and the huge disparity in wealth and income between the French and indigenous communities over the last 30 years. There has been a lot of new infrastructure put in place, such as hospitals, schools, training centres, sports facilities and of course every Kanak is treated theoretically the same as any French citizen. As a result of progressive changes in the political process in the territory since the1980s, pro independence parties now control both the Northern Province, in which Hienghene lies, and the Islands Province, where the three Loyalty Islands lie, but the money and power lie in Noumea and the Southern Province. The last poll taken on the likely result of the independence referendum on November 5th this year had it at 80% "Non" and 20% "Oui." A result that returns the present status of New Cal. as a French territory may not be welcome in Hienghene and much of rural Kanaky.

When we came by here by bus in the late 70s, it had a thriving, albeit small, tourist industry, justified because the coast along here is by far New Cal's prettiest, with big mountains plunging straight into the sea, waterfalls cascading down through the jungle, white sand beaches amongst the coconuts and offshore many small coral islets.

Hienghene's outer bay with the iconic rocks, the Sphinx to the left and La Poule to the right

Saraoni, just a little blob in Hienghene's Bay. In the middle distance is the Tanghene /Ouaieme traverse - our nemesis from 1979!

La Poule Couveuse - the Brooding Chicken -is Hienghene's famous limestone harbour landmark

Lovely Tibarama Island,10 miles south of Touho off the Poindimie Coast

Tibarama is unusual for a cay as it has Caledonian pines and coconuts!

Hienghene, despite attempts to boost its lost tourism potential, and make the community more self sufficient financially, is almost dead commercially. There's a small hotel in the village, 2 small stores, the ex Club Med, on the coast near here, now just another overpriced rather rundown small resort, and a single dive centre / campsite. Even the cruise ships that constantly ply other scenic South Pacific sites have abandoned Hienghene after a 5 year flirtation. If this was Tasmania or NZ, the place would be heaving! If it was Croatia, or France, it would be wall to wall tourism. It's New Cal's most iconic tourist centre....with virtually no tourists!

Like many other places with recent political instability, the casual visitor is basically inoculated. Wherever we have been in New Cal., the Caldoche west or the Kanak east, we have encountered only friendliness, smiles and waves. To be honest, it's hard to know what lies beyond the friendly veneer as our level of communication just isn't quite good enough to find out. We don't mind. We're the only boat in this very scenic bay, once again. Once the rain clears, there is plenty of walking to do and the reefs near here are apparently full of life, some of them being strict marine reserves.

Since the last blog we have spent a couple of weeks in the little historic mission village and bay of Touho, 20 miles further south. We managed to squeeze into the tiny marina there after the owner of the only free berth gave us the green light. We were able to take the bus over to Noumea (a 6 hour, 300 km trip) to recover Alison's old U.K. passport and meet with the Parsun outboard reps from New Plymouth in NZ who had come up to New Cal for a week's holiday. They confirmed our outboard had a broken small end bearing, a manufacturing defect, and promised that the motor would be replaced under warranty...once it was brought back to NZ! Oh, well... at least the ancient Mercury motor we bought for a song in Noumea a month ago seems to be surprisingly reliable.

Saraoni squeezed into the 8 berth Touho 'marina'

The Saraoni ranch, nicknamed "Swamp Hill" by us after we bought it 13 years ago, 2 acres of hill, gorse, manuka, swamp and cowshit near Kaitaia, has now been sold after 2 years on sale and we are actively looking at new boats to buy. Saraoni may be on sale itself sooner than we thought. Plan A is to get it back to the Penguin Pad in Tutukaka at the end of the sailing season, but if someone has the cash, and we have another boat in mind, we might just seal the deal up here! Stay tuned!

Saraoni in Hienghene bay with La Poule in the background. All yours (Saraoni, that is) at a reasonable price....just make an offer!

Beauty and the Beast

31 May 2018 | Canala, New Caledonia
Alison and Geoff, calm, clear and cool (at night)
Beauty: The black sand beach at Port Bouquet

We are anchored at the head of Canala Bay, a magnificent fiord like bay on the east coast of New Caledonia's largest island, Grande Terre. We haven't seen another yacht since we were in Baie de Prony, on the south west coast, now more than two weeks ago. Very few yachts come up this coast so it seems like we are exploring. The feeling is a bit like when we sailed in Papua New Guinea many years ago, yet in a nominally first world country. There are no dugout canoes here, just a few Aussie made tinnies!

Canala Bay is in mining territory. There are several mines, old and new, scattered between the settlements of Thio, further south, and Poro, to the north. They are all open cast mines with related infrastructure. These mines make a nasty blot on the landscape, which otherwise is very attractive. It's a case of beauty and the beast. Nickel mining is New Caledonia's main export earner and no doubt one reason why France is so keen to retain control over the territory.

The Beast: Nickel mine at Nakety

The east coast is also Kanak land. There are few non Melanesians along this coast, except where government services are provided, or where there are mining centres. If New Cal. wasn't French and its residents French citizens, no doubt the Kanaks would be living the same way that their Melanesian neighbours in Vanuatu do. It's hard to say whether they are better off and whether the referendum in November on independence will make much difference. The opinion polls indicate a heavy vote for staying with France, but at the same time there are many Kanaks who are unhappy with the present arrangement, so it will be interesting to see what happens. Some French residents are already talking about the possibility of 'NewCalexit,' and in some ways the uncertainty over New Cal's future is a little like the mess that is Brexit in Britain. However the referendum goes, it's not going to please everybody and the community is so divided that it's hard to see any real solution. So far this year both the French Prime Minister and President Macron have paid a visit, presumably to shore up support for the No vote (No to independence) but they got a very ambivalent reception in Kanaky.

Politics apart, we are having a fine time ambling up the coast. It has been very cool at night, presumably all to do with NZ's first crack of winter directly to the south of us. It has been down to 6C in Auckland and 18C overnight here on the east coast. The next week looks like very calm conditions, which is ideal for visiting the reefs and small cays on the way up to Touho, two thirds of the way up the coast and finally out of mining territory. We will have to stop in Touho for a bit to pop over to Noumea by bus to sort out our Parsun outboard. It broke down while we were in Noumea and cannot be fixed. The Parsun agents in NZ are coincidentally coming to Noumea in a week's time for a holiday, so have said they will have a look at the outboard when they are here as it is still under warranty.

Full moon rising at Lavaissiere Bay

Nani Island in Lavaissiere Bay

Saraoni threads its way through the protection of the Bogota reefs, an inner barrier within an outer barrier. Canala Bay is shown at the left hand side.

Entering 8 mile long deserted Canala Bay. The small east coast town of Canala is reached by a 3 km long dinghy ride through the mangroves at the head of the bay. We hit a rock on our first trip in muddy water, broke the shear pin and had to row the 3 km back against the tide!

Spectacular Cruising Along the Forgotten Coast

23 May 2018 | Port Bouquet, Eastern lagoon of New Caledonia
Alison and Geoff, gentle southerlies
Photo shows Saraoni sailing up the East coast near Kouakoue Bay

We are anchored in Port Bouquet, one of the numerous well sheltered anchorages along the "Forgotten Coast / La Cote Oubliee," the Southern section of New Caledonia's East Coast. We snuck out of the shelter of Prony Bay on the west coast a few days ago when the wind eased off and headed around the southern end of the main island of Grande Terre and through the sometimes turbulent Havannah Pass, one of the main entry points into the Southern lagoon.

We timed our passage badly and had to fight the incoming tide for what seemed like ages before we could escape the current and head up the East coast to the first good anchorage, Yate.

Yate is the site of Noumea's largest hydro station. The power station is upstream of the anchorage and we were able to visit it by dinghy as well as stock up at Yate's general store. Surprisingly, we came across two large turtles swimming around in the clear water of the river.

Looking up the Yate inlet towards the hydro station

The coastline between Yate and the small town of Thio, 70 miles further north west, is called the "Forgotten Coast" We're not sure why. Perhaps because it is remote and there is no development except for the odd mining activity. Very few yachts ever venture up this coast, but it is spectacularly beautiful as the Caledonian mountains plunge straight into the sea without hardly any coastal plain like there is on the west coast.

The steep coast makes anchoring hard as the bays are deep and full of coral. The wet, cloudy trough weather we have endured for the last week has now cleared away and the skies are clear at last. With calm conditions today we were able to stop at one of the tiny cays off the coast near the massive bulk of Mount Humboldt, New Caledonia's second highest mountain.

Ouemie island anchorage

Ouemie island - a small vegetated cay complete with a pair of ospreys!

Mount Humboldt - second highest in New Cal. behind Saraoni

We will be in this area for a few days while the weather goes through a cycle from calm to windy and back to calm, then head further North West. We plan to be back in Noumea after the circumnavigation by the end of July, then clear customs for Vanuatu, returning in September.

Port Bouquet's eastern anchorage

Looking west in Port Bouquet

We're Really Off Now!

13 May 2018 | Baie du Prony, New Caledonia
Alison and Geoff, fine, warm with light NE winds
Picture shows Ouen Island near Prony. It's a rugged place. Its rocks are coloured in ochres, yellows, reds and browns above the blue of the lagoon. Saraoni is a tiny blip visible in the distance.

We've finally broken free from the confines of the twin bays of Noumea Harbour - Moselle and Orphelinat - after two boring weeks tackling bits of Saraoni that were aging and failing. We had to fix the fridge, accomplished by buying and fitting a new evaporator plate, buy a new RIB dinghy, find out why our 1 year old Parsun outboard was making a funny noise, then stopped working and numerous other things that trouble yachties with old boats.

We are now on a free mooring in Baie Majic in the south eastern arm of Baie du Prony. We will be here for a couple more days while the light north easterlies remain, improve our new Maxwell anchor winch and haul jerry cans of fresh water from the nearby creek at the end of the bay.

There is a lovely walk from here which climbs the hill to Cap Ndua lighthouse with its splendid view across the Southern lagoon and Havannah Pass, through which we will be passing in a few days time. It's used as a vantage point to monitor humpback whale numbers when they arrive later in the year to cavort, mate and give birth.

From Ouen's top, the view east looks out past Prony's Cap Ndua to the Havannah Pass.

Little coral cays like these dot the Southern Lagoon

The weather has for the last few weeks been mostly lovely, not too windy, not too calm and little rain. Of course, the orientation of New Cal.'s main island, Grande Terre, is aligned to the prevailing SE trade wind, so a circumnavigation starts with a run up either the east or west coast, then finishes with a beat or a bash!

We have chosen to start the circular route up the wetter and more spectacular east coast, head out to the Loyalties round the top end and back down the drier west coast. There are anchorages every 10 to 20 miles apart on either coast, so easy day sailing conditions. The passage to either Lifou or Ouvea is around 50 miles so can be done either over night or in a single long daytime sail.

Few people ever make this trip, partly because most arrive in New Cal. at the end of a Pacific voyage and confine themselves to the Noumea area, the Southern lagoon and the Isle of Pines,which are all very nice anyway. Our British passports allow us indefinite stay in New Caledonia, which remains for the moment a nominal French territory, until at least the Brexit disaster is sorted out in terms of deciding on freedom of movement. Or until New Cal. decides whether to NewCalexit, as some French wags are calling the possibility of independence after this November's planned referendum! Having more than a limited visa time is necessary to spend time circumnavigating this very cruiseable area of the Pacific.

We're Off!

21 April 2018 | Isle Tenia, Lagon de Sud, New Caledonia
Alison and Geoff, warm, clear and windy
Saraoni sneaks out of Ouenghi marina on the rising tide.

We're anchored at Tenia Island, a cay on the outer barrier. There doesn't seem like any nasty weather on the horizon and boats are already tentatively setting out from the Bay of Islands for Tonga and Fiji.

Tenia sits on the outer barrier, opposite the less attractive Baie de St Vincente where Saraoni has been for four months.

Big bay, Small boat. Saraoni seems tiny anchored off Isle Mathieu at the outer edge of huge Baie de St Vincente.

Saraoni has been confined to Ouenghi marina for four months now and save for a few annoying issues (dinghy has gone beyond reasonable attempts to repair it, dirty diesel in bottom tank etc.) everything is ship shape. So, it's now time to move on!

The weather seemed settled, hot and calm while tucked up at the sheltered end of Baie de St Vincent, but out here at the edge of the barrier reef, it's been blowing 20 knots plus all afternoon. That's great for the kite surfers zooming up and down off the beach, out for the weekend, but not so good for us with the dinghy threatening to sink.

It's 35 miles back down the lagoon to Noumea where we will have to stop for a week to reprovision and buy another dinghy, then we will start our anticlockwise circumnavigation of Grande Terre before making a side trip to Vanuatu.

Map shows planned route around Grande Terre with side trip to Ouvea, the northernmost of the three Loyalty Islands, then to Vanuatu before sailing back to New Cal and on to NZ later this year.

We're already looking for boat number three, anywhere between the U.S. West Coast and Mexico through to Australia, with quite a few possibles right here in New Cal. and also in French Polynesia.

All Good on Saraoni back in Nouvelle Caledonie!

10 April 2018 | Port Ouenghi, Nouvelle Caledonie
Alison and Geoff, 20 kn SE, sunny
Catherine gives us a non indigenous clapperboard welcome on arrival in Adelaide, 1800 km after leaving Hobart.

We are back on the boat in Ouenghi marina in New Caledonia after spending several days with friends in Adelaide, where we completed our Aussie cycle trip. All seemed undisturbed on Saraoni, despite the two cyclones that had passed New Cal.'s way. The inside of the boat was a little musty and the fridge needed a squirt of gas, but otherwise everything was as we left it. It seems from what Benedicte, the marina manager, told us, that we copped more wind on Maria Island in Tasmania and Yambuk in Victoria than they had felt tucked up in Baie de Ste. Vincente when TCs Fehi and Hola rolled by. Maximum wind was in the order of 40 to 45 knots and not much rain. Pffft!

Many thanks to all our friends in SA, who went out of their way to make us welcome. It was nice to catch up with Kate and Gordon first of all, in the little seaside town of Port Elliott. We had last seen Kate in Darwin in 2002, where she was a librarian in Kormilda College where Geoff worked.

Alison, Kate, Gordon and Geoff in Port Elliot. Kate and Gordon's house is powered by solar and wind energy!

The cockle train runs between Goolwa and Victor Harbour with Kate as ticket collector!

In Adelaide we stayed with old yachtie companions, Catherine and Peter, who have not just completed a circumnavigation of the planet but topped it up with a circumnavigation of Australia! Their boat, 'The Southern Cross' is berthed nearby in an Adelaide marina.

Jo and Arnold, ex 'Just Jane,' who we met up with in Tassie when they looked at a yacht at Kettering marina, were just off to actually seal the deal but we all met up for lunch at their home before they scarpered.

Alison, Catherine, Geoff, Peter, Jo and Arnie sharing old, bold sailors' tales - and lunch!

Jenny and Peter Homolya arrived back with their steel boat Tiaki a couple of weeks ago. We last saw them in Rebak marina in 2009. Like many on the 2008 Sail Indo rally they have remained in contact through the many adventures we have all had in different ways around the globe.

It was great to get a deeper feel for one of Australia's state capitals through the eyes of people who have lived there most of their lives.

We now have to get the boat shipshape and sorted out before starting our circular trip round Grande Terre. The weather is surprisingly cool here (26C) but the west coast is refreshingly green and attractive after the wetter summer season. Technically, the cyclone season doesn't finish for another couple of weeks. Last year, two cyclones actually developed in May, so we are as usual keeping an eye on the weather in the deep tropics as well as trying not to lose whatever fitness we have gained on our $50 bikes.

Paradise Lost in the Gurrungk?

30 March 2018 | Goolwa, South Australia
Alison and Geoff Williams
Sad reminder of paradise lost in the Gurrungk

The Gurrungk (Coorong) is the Ngarrindjeri name for the series of wetlands at the mouth of the Murray River in South Australia. The Ngarrindjeri are the traditional owners of this area, but today they are almost invisible. The thoughtful interpretive displays on the shores of Meningie by Lake Albert are a stark reminder of the gulf between indigenous Australian culture and its relationship with nature and that of modern, industrial society.

Caring for Country the Ngarrindjeri way. The First Australians lived in coexistence with the Coorong for an estimated 25,000 years without harming it. It took only 50 years of colonial occupation before the Murray and Coorong began to noticeably suffer!

The Coorong / Gurrungk, by all accounts was once a natural paradise and easy living for the Ngarindjerri. Since European colonization, it has become a shadow of its old self through greed and short sighted agricultural policies, but no more so than many other former natural paradises around the world.

Our small slice of the Coorong involved a trip out to Long Point, a peninsula jutting out into the long salty lagoon that separates the sand dunes from the coastal farms along this stretch of the Coorong. There were still plenty of water birds around- pelicans, ducks, black swans, waders, gull, terns and herons.

View across the main Coorong lagoon to the sand dunes from Long Point

A few New Zealand fur seals hang around in the lagoon. According to local fishermen, their numbers have swelled since they received protection last century and are more numerous than the so-called Australian fur seals, which are recent arrivals from South Africa. So, at least the seals and whales ( this part of the SA coast is a winter breeding area for southern right whales) are defying the odds.

NZ fur seal loafing around at Long Point

Grey kangaroo inspects the capture camera in the Coorong at night. Note the eyes in the distance!

Our cycle trip took us around the two large Murray lakes of Albert and Alexandrina, across the Murray at Wellington to Goolwa, near the Murray Mouth. Here a bridge connects historic Goolwa to Hindmarsh Island and the first of the 5 Murray barrages prevents the inflow of seawater when the Murray is low.

Corellas are doing just fine in SA, especially these flocking in the pine trees in the centre of Strathalbyn near the Murray.

White faced heron stalks the Goolwa barrage near the Murray Mouth

Where the Murray Meets the Sea

25 March 2018 | Meningie, South Australia
Alison and Geoff, gale force north westerlies
One of Mr Percival's Progeny Perhaps? Mr Percival was the pelican star of a South Australian Film Commission film called "Storm Boy" filmed in the early 70s in the Coorong where we are now. We first saw the film and several others made by the SAFC when living in England many years ago. Apparently, a re-make of Storm Boy has been shot in and around the Murray Mouth/Coorong and the premiere is being released in September this year.

We are in Meningie. It sounds like some sort of disease, but is in fact a little town on the edge of Lake Albert in South Australia's Coorong. The Coorong is a series of wetlands that lie behind the nearby sand dunes and surf strewn coastline. Australia's largest river system, the Murray / Murrumbidgee / Darling trickles into the Coorong near here, much reduced in flow because of large scale irrigation upstream. In times of flood, the waters of the Murray empty out into the Southern Ocean and everyone is relieved for a while. In times of drought, irrigators bicker about their allocation and South Australia, at the end of the line, together with what is left of nature upstream, suffer the most. South Australia is the driest state in the world's second driest continent (after Antarctica).

We have been moving along since the last blog and are now in striking distance of Adelaide, our cyclathon journey's end. We haven't had it that easy though. After a relatively smooth crossing of Bass Strait from Tasmania, followed by a fast train trip to Warrnambool in Western Victoria, we struggled to make headway against an increasingly strong north westerly. The wind got so strong that late one night we had to decamp and move our tent before it blew away with us in it!

It was worse for some. A grass fire started not far from where we were camped and expanded so quickly that it threatened several small Victorian towns in what locals reckoned was the worst fire since Ash Wednesday, 1983, when 75 people died. Hundreds of cattle and sheep were incinerated this time, but no one was injured. In the pretty little NSW coastal town of Tathra, through which we cycled last year, a bush fire caused the evacuation of the whole town then burnt 70 properties. The fires are worse after a prolonged period of dry weather followed by very strong winds.

We eventually made good progress across the rest of Victoria and into South Australia, sharing the narrow road with dozens of logging trucks (aargh!) and vintage cars headed to Mount Gambier for a colourful rally. Much of this route was through flat farmland and pine plantations but we did spot our first koala and a couple of emus (both absent in Tasmania), together with the usual flattened wildlife at the side of the road.

We again have nasty gale force headwinds and squally rain. Rather than hang around waiting for the wind to die down, especially as the clock is now ticking for us to reach Adelaide before flying back to the boat, we took the bus to Meningie. It took four hours to cover a stretch of narrow road that might have taken us five days!

Not so far to go if it wasn't for the wind!

The Victorian coast near Yambuk during the first gale

One of hundreds of vintage cars gathered in Mt Gambier, SA's second largest city

Hopefully, the weather will improve over the next few days and we will have time to see something of the Coorong before heading first round to Port Elliott to see an old colleague from Darwin, then pedal on to Adelaide.

Jackpot! Wild Devil Sighted at Last in Tasmania's Serengeti

13 March 2018 | Narawntapu National Park, Northern Tasmania
Alison and Geoff, sunny and warm(ish)
Photo shows an inquisitive devil caught by our capture camera last night at Narawntapu NP

Trying to spot Australian mammals can be quite frustrating, as most of them are nocturnal. In the past we have spent hours with a torch scouring the bush at night with little success, even when the tracks in the sand reveal the richness of little bush creatures.

Australia's birds, by contrast, are highly visible and often extremely noisy, with the prize for garrulous squawking going to the cockatoos!

Yellow tailed black cockatoos share the top audio ratings with sulphur crested cockatoos, corellas and kookaburras! Cockatoos just seem to yahoo their way through life!

Bottoms up! At the other end of the avian ocker scale are the superb fairy wrens. Here a male in fading breeding blue has a discussion with one of his duller hued harem.

Here at Narawntapu, touted by Parks and Widlife as 'Tasmania's Serengeti', mobs of grey kangaroos appear first in the late afternoon on the grassy paddocks left over from when the area was farmed pre 1970. Then the first wallabies appear, tentatively. Even smaller pademelons pop into the open. Brush tailed possums descend from their tree top homes just after dark. The wombats have all sadly died from tick born mange here, but what about the huge diversity of smaller mammals: dunnnarts, bettongs and potoroos, antechinus, gliders and little possums, bandicoots, quolls, devils and others?

Easy days for this mob of forester kangaroos on the Spring Lawn paddock at Narawntapu

Male forester. Narawntapu's large population of the three larger macropods - roos, wallabies and pademelons - is why the 'Serengeti' tag has been used

We bought a cheap ($150) infra red camera while in Burnie which is normally used for surveillance. It works for elusive widlife, too. Strapped to a tree near a track in the Banksia bush it was triggered 40 times last night, with pademelons, bettongs, possums, a quoll and devil caught as they wandered to and fro.

The devil actually returned three times and seemed to be very curious about the camera. We suspect it actually climbed and gave it a nudge at some point!

Brush tailed possum, roaming in the gloaming

Pademelons - if pademelons are wannabe wallabies, bettongs are miniature pademelons! There are 50 odd species of roo like macropods in Australia and 20 more in New Guinea

Eastern spotted quoll

The same devil (?) triggered this capture camera photo a day later

The real Serengeti in Northern Tanzania, sad to say, is the last place anywhere on the planet like it. Nowhere we have been that uses its name as a parallel (Yellowstone's Lamar Valley for example) can really quite compare with that huge expanse of grassland and savannah, with its massive numbers and diverse range of megafauna. We can only hope that the sometimes corrupt government of Tanzania and its impoverished people realise just how precious their Serengeti is.

We have spent three very enjoyable days in this little national park. Tomorrow we head back to Devonport and take the night ferry to Melbourne.

Meanwhile, the fourth tropical cyclone in our part of the world, TC Linda, is now heading for the Fraser Island coast and Brisbane, but looks as if it will recurve and disintegrate before doing any damage.

Autumn on the North Coast of Tasmania

07 March 2018 | Burnie, Tasmania
Alison and Geoff, fine and warm
Photo shows a young Tasmanian devil at Cradle Mountain's captive breeding programme. More about the devils later in the blog.

We are in Burnie, a small city on the North coast of Tasmania. It coyly calls itself "The City of Makers", perhaps because it is a basically an industrial port on the Bass Strait coast. It serves the huge gum plantation timber industry that sprawls across the northern part of the island, fringing the threatened Tarkine wilderness, which lies in the North West corner. It used to make paper in the big pulp and paper mill, but that's now defunct and the city seems to be making less and shippping out more raw logs and wood chip.

The best thing about Burnie is its penguin colony. These are little (blue) penguins, the same species as our Tutukaka ones, but with an Aussie twist. It was discovered a couple of years ago that the Australian subspecies forms large breeding colonies (the Burnie colony is upward of 200 birds in the breeding season), while the NZ penguins breed by themselves in scattered pairs. Oddly, the little blues that live on the central east coast of the South Island are descendants of Aussie ancestors, hence the large colony at Oamaru.

The Burnie city council has done a good job protecting the city's easily seen colony from potential dangers and allows free access to visitors behind a fence. 30 Burnie residents take turns to monitor the penguins and give free talks at dusk when they pop out of the water to return to their nests. Magic!

Little blue penguin at Burnie This little guy /girl (?) is a full grown adult, and is sill moulting. Each adult takes 2 weeks to feed up out at sea after chicks have fledged. Then they come on land to moult and stay in their burrows for 2 weeks using up their fat reserves and getting mighty hungry and itchy!

We spent a week or so on the high, cold plateau around Cradle Mountain after puffing up several steep hills. Cradle Mountain / Lake St. Clair National Park forms part of Tasmania's world heritage listed western wilderness area, together with the unprotected Tarkine, the Franklin Wild Rivers National Park and the South West National Park. We did quite a bit of walking around cradle Mountain, but temperatures plummeted to just above freezing during the nights and it was uncomfortably cold.

Cradle Mountain from Dove Lake

Cradle Mt and the Obelisk on the plateau

Tassie's hill of hills?

After staying two nights at the Cradle Mountain campground we aborted our idea of climbing the mountain of the same name. The thought of another night of almost freezing temperatures in the tent sent us scuttling back to the relative warmth of the coast!

Before heading down, as we hadn't yet seen a Tasmania devil in the wild, we visited a breeding centre for this iconic Tasmanian species. It is part of the Tasmanian Government's Insurance Population Programme to safeguard a DFTD free population of devils for the future.It seems that despite their name they are not hunters, but scavenge off the flesh of marsupials killed by the smaller quoll, which is extremely aggressive and can kill a wallaby. In the early days the blood curdling screeches of these really quite docile marsupials led early settlers to name it the Tasmanian Devil.

2 young devils at the breeding centre. Frequent biting around each other's mouth and face allows the cancer to spread quickly, unfortunately.

On the way down from the plateau we at last spotted two elusive platypuses in a pond at Waratah, right next to the town's campground. The campground even provided a couple of seats and a sign saying "Platypus viewing area." The day we saw the platypus we also saw echidnas scuttling their way across the buttongrass plains on the plateau, which meant we saw both Australia's monotreme (egg laying mammals) species in the same day!

Platypus at Waratah

Echidna on the buttongrass plains

We are wrapping up our Tassie tiki tour in the next few days before crossing over to Melbourne on the night ferry next week. We have nearly clocked up 1,000 km on the bikes, but have 700 or so still to cycle between Warrnambool in western Victoria and Adelaide. A report in the U.K. Guardian reckons all this puffing and huffing is doing us some good, but the trouble is we start going down hill again once back on the boat!

It's definitely Autumn here in Tasmania, but the tropics are still active. The third dangerous cyclone of the season, TC Hola, is barreling its cat 4 way down the slot between New Cal.'s Loyalty Islands and Vanuatu. The last two cyclones have actually caused more damage in NZ than the islands to the North apart from Tonga's Tongatapu. We have booked flights back to Noumea and the boat on 10th April.

Autumn mist at the Waratah council campground

All A-Gog in Tiger Country

02 March 2018 | Gowrie Park, Northern Tasmnania
Alison and Geoff, cool and cloudy
After puffing up over the Gog Range and whizzing down the other side we thought we had landed in Paradise, but we hadn't... the little settlement of the same name was over another bloody uncycleable hill!

We are in Northern Tasmania, 35 km short of Cradle Mountain in Tiger country, or that's what some of the tourist blurbs have been saying. Of course the chance of seeing one of the long extinct Tasmanian tigers is about as likely as coming across a moa in Fiordland!

No, not the extinct Tasmanian tiger, but a model of a Tasmanian devil outside a wildlife enclosure on the way to Mole Creek.

We've been pedalling for days since we were on the East Coast. We haven't seen any cyclists for a long time, except for the Warm Showers hosts in Launceston and Westbury we stayed with (Warm Thanks to our Warm Showers hosts, Vicky in Launceston and Jen and Pete in Westbury!). Maybe it's the hills, some of which have been quite serious. In fact, we have actually had to push the bikes twice now, once across Launceston, Tasmania's second largest city, more a navigational mistake than anything else, but today while crossing the Gog range from the Meander Valley we had to push the bikes twice.

The landscape from St Helens West has been very similar to East Gippsland in Victoria, rolling hills with gum forest in between farmland. The rivers are all platypus habitat, but we have only glimpsed one shy platypus in a river pond at Scottsdale, but we have seen quite a few echidnas. We've tried to encourage them to waddle into the bush as there is already too much road kill on Tassie roads.

One of many echidnas on the A3. Get away from the road, you silly bugger!

We've now rejoined the tourist circuit, as Cradle Mountain is on the tick list of places for tourists to visit, but between St Helens and here there has just been a smattering of little Aussie towns and villages and very few tourists. Many of these small rural Aussie towns have very good accommodation options, as the rural councils attempt to lure grey nomads to linger and spend their money, to keep the towns from dying. Council run campgrounds are green, free, donation only, or cheap with toilets, water, rubbish bins and space to pitch a tent.

We met up with Tim and Nanette, out on the nomad run from Pt Sorell near Devonport, by a platypus pool at the council run campsite at Scottsdale. Tim and Nanette sailed at the same time as us in the Sail Indonesia rally in 2008 from Darwin to Malaysia. They dropped in to see us in Tutukaka in 2016.

We've been using Warm Showers a bit more, too. For anyone who is depressed and distressed at the way America appears to have slipped into an abyss of late, Warm Showers, an American invention, should warm the cockles of your heart. It's like couchsurfing for those determined not to be couch potatoes, or basic AirBnB for free. It's free accommodation, a space for a tent or a bed, for touring cyclists, provided by touring cyclists. We are theoretically hosts in Tutukaka, courtesy of Saraoni, although Saraoni is now in New Cal. Warm Showers is now all over the world, having expanded from its U.S. base. WarmShowers hosts are all avid cyclists, love to yak about adventures and often share meals and a bottle of booze.

Avid touring cyclist Vicki's backyard vege plot in Launceston was our warm Showers campsite for the night.

We are heading up to Cradle Mountain/Lake St Clair National Park tomorrow, then to the west coast at Strahan on Macquarie Harbour before backtracking to Devonport, mid March.

Wombles and Wombats on the East Tassie Coast

18 February 2018 | Bicheno, Tasmania
Alison and Geoff, cold and cloudy!
Gotcha! Caught a big, fat possum in the act red-handed, attempting a break and enter with his mate, a less well endowed accomplice, at Freycinet National Park.

We've now topped 400 km and numerous evocatively named hills since leaving Hobart and our $50 bikes and us are still in good condition. We are in Bicheno, a small coastal town on the East Tasmanian Coast. We have spent several days in Freycinet National Park, beneath the boulder strewn Hazzards, and Maria Island NP, half way between the Freycinet and Tasman peninsulas.

One of Tassie's evocatively named hills

In both parks we have had lovely campsites, courtesy of Tasmanian National Parks. At Freycinet, it cost $13 a night, right on the beach, with the view across to the Hazzards and plenty of space between us and the next site. Ditto on Maria Island. These government run sites are far better than any of the commercial campgrounds we have had to endure, mainly because we are dependent on charging up our camping computers while we tap for our tucker on this Tassie tiki tour. It's common to pay $30 to $35 for a smidgeon of space per night stuck between the campervans and caravans in a privately run site, but there aren't enough of the government ones.

Wombats are outnumbered hundreds to one in Tasmania by wombles* and other humans, but can be found in abundance on lovely Maria Island, just off the Triabunna coast. Maria has had a chequered history. It was for eons a peaceful place, with the indigenous NueNue people sharing the island with plentiful wildlife. Then the Brits turned up, shared their germs with the locals, slaughtered whales, seals and any NueNue left, then used the island for storing convicts.

Wombats thrive on Maria Island

Echidna on the Bishop & Clerk trail. Echidnas are one of two species of egg laying mammals. Hope to see the other (the platypus) later this week around Derby or Scottsdale.

Later it became farmed, but once it was realized that it wasn't economically sustainable it became a national park and a refuge for wildlife threatened elsewhere in Tasmania. Flinders Island wombats, Forester kangaroos and Cape Barren geese were released to join the possums, bandicoots, pademelons and wallabies already on the island. Because of the grazing land available, all these grass eaters did very well. Every late afternoon the paddocks overflow with hordes of wombats, like cute, furry lawnmowers, with little legs and koala like faces. A little later, wallabies, pademelons (even smaller wallabies) and the rest of the nocturnal marsupial menagerie emerge from the scrub for a feed.

Cape Barren goose on Maria Island

In 2012, the Tasmanian devil population was in such bad shape because of DFTD that a very select group of captive born devils was brought to the island, in what was a first in marsupial predator release. No-one knew whether the devils, without any knowledge of living in the wild, would prosper, but they did. So much so that the surplus are now captured and released in parts of the country where devils have been lost to the cancer.

A newly released devil encounters kangaroos for the first time - pic taken from the NP info video on Maria Island.We heard but didn't see any devils while on the island.

We stayed for two nights on Maria in the expansive campground, saw lots of animals, including echidnas and a big tiger snake, and climbed the rocky heights of Bishop and Clerk on a lovely, calm, warm day. The weather changed drastically on the day we took the ferry back. It blew 50 knots and more across from the mainland and it was a bit touch and go whether the ferry would make it out of the little Maria Island wharf without dragging onto the beach.

Meanwhile in the tropics, TC Gita roared across Tongatapu, destroying the Met. Service building, the hospital and many houses, skirted the bottom of the Lau Group, then rolled past the bottom of Vanuatu and headed to New Cal. The authorities put the ports on first cyclone alert, Saraoni was reportedly tied down with hawsers to cyclone chains, but in the end only Ile des Pins got a whopping. Gita is now headed for Cook Strait.

We are headed further north towards St Helens, then turn westwards through Scottsdale and Launceston towards the huge bulk of wilderness in the west of Tasmania - the Tarkine, Cradle Mountain and Franklin Wild Rivers National Parks. We expect to be crossing Bass Strait on the ferry on or around 20th March and then head west from Warrnambool towards Adelaide, bikes permitting.

The wind is blowing straight from Antarctica at the moment and it's bloody freezing. Roll on the last of summer!

On the ferry approaching Maria Island

View towards Triabunna from Bishop & Clerk

Wineglass Bay in Freycinet NP

• Wombles: the affectionate (?) term given to pensioners when we worked on the big, red London double deckers, inspired by an inane kids' TV programme. Active wombles on the move are called grey nomads in Oz and a little rudely old farts in caravan parks!

Old Mates Abound Along the Two-Wheeler Tassie Tiki Tour

10 February 2018 | Richmond, Tasmania
Alison and Geoff, cool after rain
Photo shows a galah, one of several species of cockatoos in Tasmania, this one in a southern suburb of Hobart with his (or her) mates.

We are camped in the village of Richmond, an oldy-worldy, arty-farty place, 25 km from Hobart where the middle class of Tasmania's capital like to spend the weekend, buying trinkets and jew jaws and eat and drink. Given a few more hundred years of history it could almost be an English village, although the screaming Aussie slang coming from the flocks of sulphur crested cockatoos flying overhead would give the game away.

We came back through Hobart after a diversion south east to Bruny Island, the long extended island that protects the D'Entrecasteaux Channel and have met up with, or are yet to meet up with, some old mates, both human and non-human.

Bruny Island is reached by a short ferry ride from Kettering, where there is a large marina. The island is almost cut in half, but just connected by the "Neck," a 5 km long isthmus between white sandy beaches. Along the way and in amongst the gum forests and coast we have seen and heard kookaburras, cockatoos, parrots, lorikeets, wallabies, pademelons and a few echidnas. Unfortunately, many of our old friends were squashed flat on the roads, a fate that falls to far too much Australian wildlife.

Bennett's wallabies at Adventure Bay, Bruny, many of which end up as road kill

Not so squashed flat were the human buddies. Most extraordinary was the sudden appearance of two people we haven't seen since Rebak marina in Malaysia, circa 2009. Gus and Gaby of SV Pampero hailed us as we were pedalling back to the ferry on Bruny. How they recognized us 2 old puffing fogeys on our overloaded $50 bikes in the middle of nowhere is a mystery!

We first met these two on the Arnhem Land Coast when Gus came over with a bottle of red wine after hearing us bleat on the radio that we couldn't find any alcohol in any of the remote Aboriginal settlements for Geoff's birthday.

"Hey, Saraoni": Gus and Gaby, SV Pampero: a surprising encounter at Great Bay, Bruny

We had already stayed a night at circumnavigator Kerry and her two kids' place in Mt Nelson, Hobart where they have swallowed the anchor, at least for a while.

We also met up with Jo and Arnold from Adelaide on a mission to replace their old boat "Just Jane", last seen with them in Finike, Turkey, in April 2011. Not coincidentally, Just Jane was also the name we gave to a charismatic two toed sloth that lived near the La Playita marina on the Balboa side of the Panama Canal. Jo and Arnie completed their circumnavigation quite quickly and are now looking for a smaller, more modern yacht, perhaps to sail into the Pacific again.

And then there are others in and around the Apple Isle: Tim and Nanette near Devonport, who sailed on two separate boats to SE Asia at the same time we did, Paddy and Carolyn on their way to Tasmania from Sydney on Kristianne, who completed their circumnavigation at the end of 2016.

From here we continue our hilly, windy route to the East Coast. Maria Island National Park, on the island of the same name, just off the town of Triabunna, apparently has hoards of wombats and a healthy population of Tasmanian Devils who are dying elsewhere from devil facial tumour disease, a nasty cancerous growth, which is passed from devil to devil when they bite each other.

Tasmanian drivers are pretty thick on the island's narrow roads, but have been very courteous, with only the odd bad tempered hoot. There are quite a few touring cyclists here and cycling generally is quite popular. Hobart has an excellent intra city cycling track and there are frequent signs to motorists to keep at least 1 metre away from cyclists on the highway when passing, not an easy task on these roads.

We're keeping an eye on cyclone development in the SW Pacific. The first cyclone of the season, TC Fehi, was born not far from Koumac on Grande Terre the very day we flew out of New Cal.(!), but stayed relatively tame until it hit NZ's South Island. TC Gita has just swept through the Samoas and no-one knows quite what it is going to do next apart from intensify. Here in Tasmania, the weather makes its cyclical temperate gyrations, from warm to hot northerlies before a cooling front. The East of Tasmania is surprisingly dry, but we have just had a thunderstorm roll through to deliver rain and cooler temperatures, good for cycling up all those steep Tassie hills.

Bruny Island beach near the Neck

Bruny's east coast

Fluted Cape, South Bruny National Park

Tassie's answer to the pohutukawa: a bloodwood tree in flower

The Neck and Mt Wellington on the Tasmanian mainland in the distance from Fluted Cape

The Light of the Slivery Moon

01 February 2018 | Snug Bay, Tasmania
Alison and Geoff, cold SW airstream
Photo sequence of the total lunar eclipse last night from Hobart. The moon was particularly large because it was at perigee (a super moon), a blue moon because it was the second full moon of the month and the blood reddish colour only appeared as it went into eclipse.

Ẃe're in SE Tasmania, about 30 km south of Hobart at a place called Snug Bay at the top end of the D'Entrecasteaux Channel opposite Bruny Island, where we are heading soon.

We've bought 2 new bikes for $50 each ☺ and a new tent, so are as overloaded as ever. We left Saraoni coincidentally just as cat 1 cyclone Fehi was born just off shore from the NW end of Grande Terre, the first cyclone in the SW Pacific this season. Tassie had been sweltering in the mid 30s before we arrived, but by the next day the temp.had dropped dramatically. It even snowed in the CBD briefly! The remains of Fehi have just landed on the South Island.

The new bikes in Hobart's Elizabeth St Mall between wintry showers

The sky cleared on the night of the super blue blood red moon and we were treated to a fantastic view of the lunar eclipse as it went from a 'sliver' of shadow to a full reddish eclipse from Mt Nelson where we were staying with a yachtie friend.

Kerry and kids, circumnavigators now living on Mt Nelson in Hobart.

The Derwent at Hobart

R.I.P. Moose

25 January 2018 | Port Ouenghi, New Caledonia
Alison and Geoff, hot and humid
The once abandoned Casy Island dog, Moose, died not long after we saw him in bad condition just before Christmas (see end of older blog post). South African yachties on catamaran Impi have produced a very nice tribute to a remarkable dog, worth watching. The YouTube is a bit gooey in places but otherwise very well done.

Meanwhile we are getting ready to fly to Hobart next Monday, coincidentally just as the first really nasty tropical depression of the cyclone season slides down the west coast of Grande Terre. The forecast is for 60-100 mm of rain and up to 45 knots just as we head to the airport. Great! Hobart is showing 39C max. on Sunday, then 16 on Monday! Topsy turvy land.

Le Grand Tour de la Grande Terre

19 January 2018 | Port Ouenghi, New Caledonia
Alison and Geoff, calm, cloudy and wet
Photo shows the two bikes loaded to the gunwales, baguettes, computers, solar panel and all, by a village store in Voh.

We are back on the boat in Ouenghi after a 600km 11 day trip around Grande Terre (Big Land / Vanua Levu). It got cut short a little early as the South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ) has at last decided to shift southwards towards its more usual summer position. This has brought intermittent thunderstorms, heavy rain and humid weather, not perfect for cycling and camping, let alone keeping up with work on our 2 little camping computers!

Our tour took in the west coast highway up to Koumac, then over the mountainous end of Grande Terre and then down the east coast to the village of Hienghene, where we caught the bus back to Boulouparis, the nearest village to Ouenghi. ($US 14 for a 300 km / 5 hr journey with the bikes and all the bike / camping clobber included!).

The west and east coasts are like chalk and cheese. The west is dominated by the Caldoches, Caledonian born French and their beef ranches with nickel mining in the north. The lifestyle is more rural Aussie than French (Fraussie?), with akubra hats, rodeos, utes and small functional towns every 50 km or so. There's little in between, apart from the background of New Caledonia's central mountain range and patches of niaouli, the same (Melaleuca) paperbark tree that Aussies call 'tea tree'. Each town is more a village than a town, with a Mairie (town hall), a church, a shop or two, a gendarmerie (cop shop), school and a garage.

West Coast: the church in Poya

West Coast scenery

West Coast: Please slow down, there are kids around!

West Coast: the Koniambo mine (nickel) conveyor belt near Kone

West Coast: Chasseloup Bay, near Voh

West Coast: signs to Kanak clan land

For the first week we were getting up at the crack of dawn while it was still cool. By 8, it was already hot. By 10 it was bloody hot and by 12 sweltering. The highway was fine, if narrow, and as we got steadily further north, people got friendlier, with almost every passing vehicle giving us a wave, a hoot, thumbs up and a grin. They probably only rarely saw touring cyclists and we didn't even see anyone on a bike at all, anywhere!

After Koumac, near the top end of Grande Terre, the weather showed signs of changing, 6 weeks late, with daily afternoon downpours. We made it over the very hilly top to the east coast where it was even wetter, but not all the time.

The east coast is Kanak land and much more like Vanuatu or anywhere else in the Pacific. The little coast road wound its way between steep mountains which plunged straight into the sea and the sea itself, with scattered hamlets, some with Kanak style round thatched huts. New Cal's most beautiful and luxuriant scenery is along the north east coast between Poindimie and Pouebo, especially the Mt Panie area, with dozens of cascading waterfalls and lovely, clear streams racing down to white sand coral beaches and the calm eastern lagoon.

East Coast: campsite on Diaoue clan land

East Coast: Diaoue hut with satellite dish!

East Coast: cascade on the slopes of Mt Panie

East Coast: typical coastal scenery

East Coast: the mouth of the Ouaieme river. It was this river mouth (see end of blog) we walked out of in late 1979 after 3 days lost in the hinterland. Funnily enough even though we remember most of the trip well, we couldn't recall the ferry or the mouth itself. Maybe we were too hungry to notice!

East Coast: ferry (bac) across the Ouaieme

East Coast: Alison cooling off

East Coast: the 'Chicken' (La Poule) and rocks at Hienghene

We now have just over a week before flying to Hobart on our Tassie trip, which may be extended through to Adelaide if time permits. We have almost too much work to do before leaving, but never mind, the money always seems to flow out as fast as it comes in! The boat now has to be cleared and readied for the 2 most dangerous months of the cyclone season while we are away.
Vessel Name: Saraoni
Vessel Make/Model: South Coast 36
Hailing Port: Tutukaka, New Zealand
Crew: Alison and Geoff Williams
Saraoni is named after an island in Milne Bay which guards and protects one of our favourite anchorages - Kana Kopi Bay - frequently occupied by us while we were teaching in Alotau, PNG. We have lived, cruised and worked for the last 30 years on two very different boats. [...]
Extra: CONTACT DETAILS Telephone /SMS number +64 (0) 21 072 5262 +687 94 55 17 (New Caledonia number) Email (main email address) Note sat phone and iridium email suspended while no moanas to cross!
Saraoni's Photos - Main
The ABCs - Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao are mostly low lying dry, scrubby islands in the Western Caribbean near the Venezuelan coastline
15 Photos
Created 21 May 2014
12 Photos
Created 20 March 2014
4 Photos
Created 9 March 2014
Images taken in and around Suriname's capital
40 Photos
Created 9 February 2014
River Images
8 Photos
Created 28 January 2014
Images of the 2 islands in the Cape Verde island group we visited on our way across the Atlantic in 2013 - Sao Vicente and Santo Antaao.
37 Photos
Created 26 December 2013
3 Photos
Created 16 December 2013
1 Photo
Created 16 December 2013
21 Photos
Created 23 August 2013
What we saw in the USA
14 Photos
Created 21 August 2013
9 Photos
Created 19 August 2013
Unexpected meeting with old friends "in the woods".
6 Photos
Created 24 June 2013
A brother found amongst the gorges of the Cevennes
5 Photos
Created 10 June 2013
Photographic images of our long walk along the Appalachian mountains in the USA
26 Photos
Created 10 June 2013
17 Photos
Created 19 December 2012
15 Photos
Created 25 November 2012
9 Photos
Created 16 November 2012
25 Photos
Created 15 November 2012
16 Photos
Created 20 October 2012
2 Photos
Created 4 June 2012
Greece is in the throes of a recession, but they still have the last laugh - never far from the sun, the sea, colour, culture and bags of history. The photos document our Aegean odyssey from May to September 2011
31 Photos
Created 17 December 2011
O.K. We're mad, but we somehow prefer a home on the sea to one on dry land.
12 Photos
Created 17 December 2011
Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur - the three ancient city states of the Kathmandu valley have mediaeval architectural wonders in their Durbars and old town areas - a meshing and merging of Hinduism, Buddhism and materialism
9 Photos
Created 17 December 2011
Some of the shots taken of us while on one of our 30 odd days on the three main mountain trails we walked in the Anapurnas and Helambu region of Nepal's side of the Himalayas
10 Photos
Created 15 December 2011
People make the Himalayas a unique place to walk through. From Hindu rice and buffalo farmers in the foothills to the Buddhist villages in the highlands so influenced by Tibetan ancestry and trade over the passes
16 Photos
Created 15 December 2011
Nepal has ten of the world's highest mountains within its boundaries or shared with India and Tibet - these are truly giant peaks!
22 Photos
Created 15 December 2011
These were all photographed in the wilds of Chitwan and Bardia National Parks - which are two of the last havens of biodiversity in Nepal's low lying Terai district.
18 Photos
Created 14 December 2011
Saraoni hauled out on Finike's hardstand for biennial maintenance and painting
3 Photos
Created 26 April 2011
8 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 6 March 2011
4 Photos
Created 6 March 2011
Ruined city
4 Photos
Created 10 January 2011
3 Photos
Created 10 January 2011
12 Photos
Created 10 January 2011
7 Photos
Created 30 December 2010
5 Photos
Created 28 December 2010
6 Photos
Created 11 December 2010
The small rocky island of Kastellorizou is Greece's most remote island
7 Photos
Created 11 December 2010
Cruising and walking Turkey's Lycian coast September and October 2010
19 Photos
Created 11 December 2010
8 Photos
Created 6 December 2010
Images taken while walking sections of the 500 km Lycian Way or Lykia Yolu on the South West Mediterranean Coast of Turkey
11 Photos
Created 9 November 2010

Post Circumnavigation

Who: Alison and Geoff Williams
Port: Tutukaka, New Zealand