Where are we

Sunday 8 October 2023

New Caledonia

We left Vanuatu in a bit of a rush quite a while ago. Our weather window moved forward a day and snatched away one of our three days of preparation.

The passage to New Caledonia is only 48 hours and not a lot of food preparation was needed. Two nights of ‘TV dinner’ style roast chicken dinner was easy and very pleasant. So pleasant in fact that, I am defrosting a bird to do the same thing for our passage to Australia. I will roast and debone the chicken, make stuffing, cook carrots to mix with frozen peas. I’ll make up two identical Antiguan ice cream tubs, which are my best and favourite 1 litre stackable go to containers - a layer of stuffing, then a layer of boned chicken topped with carrots and peas. Maybe some spiced red cabbage I made and froze before arriving in New Cal. It added a nice moistness to the meal as well as flavour. Potatoes I cook the day before we leave, keep them in the fridge and just add some to baking dish. Potatoes don’t freeze very well.

Oh heck. I’ve just had a frozen meal prep epiphany. If I do the layers in reverse - veg first, chicken then stuffing - once defrosted I can just turn it all straight out into baking dish with less fuss and bother!  It somehow goes against the grain, but I can’t really see any downside. 

New Caledonia has very strict BioSecurity requirements so no meat and no fresh fruit or veg.  

Immigration in New Cal closes at 11.00 in the morning and is closed over the weekend. If you are two late you have to stay on board until the next day. If you arrive after 11.00 on a Friday, you have to remain onboard until Monday.

We carefully planned to arrive after 11.00 on Thursday, so we could clear in Friday morning. We also expected that BioSecurity would have finished for the day and we would have the grapefruits I have prepared in advance for breakfast and use our last bits of veg in a salad for dinner.

We arrived on the dock in Port du Sud Marina, Nouméa (the capital) at around 1600 - far too late for Immigration, but BioSecurity was having a busy day and we’re still in the marina. We had barely tied up when two charming BioSecurity ladies were standing on the dock asking to come aboard. *sigh*

Into the rubbish went the salad stuffs. I showed them the peeled, deseeded, and depithed grapefruit segments hopefully, but to no avail. Into the rubbish they went.  Salad and grapefruit were joined shortly by my popping corn. 

I’d forgotten that popping corn was a problem. I blame Fiji whose online documents say you can’t bring it into the country, but on arrive their BioSecurity said you can.

Bill, on Into the Blue, said we should have put the grapefruit in the freezer, as it is perfectly acceptable to bring in frozen fruit, but I think you doing it in front of them would not be wise.

Sailing to New Caledonia definitely shared the same sailing challenges of Vanuatu as 24 hours the 48 hour passage was tough sailing.  It maked you glad you made the effort to prepare meals in advance. And it’s not like you do much in rough seas, just sit or stand for a change and brace for bigger than normal rolls.

Lots of boats left Vanuatu shortly after we did.  

All were larger and therefore faster so we were continually being overtaken. The chat on the radio showed that they weren’t enjoying the rough sea conditions much either.

New Caledonia is completely unlike Vanuatu or Fiji.  The terrain is more mountainous with a lot bushes or small trees.  Not the tropical forests we have come to expect. What they do have are pine trees. Isle de Pines is raved about for its beauty. We would have passed it (in the dark) on our way to Noumea. 

Similar to Vanuatu the prevailing winds make it easy to go west but really hard to go east. We found the short sails we did up wind were in a choppy sea but, thanks to the reefs protecting the whole south coast of the island, there was no ocean swell at all. With enough time you could explore all the islands, but we don’t have that. 

There are wonderful things to see apparently in New Caledonia, but Noumea is in the east. It is the only place you can clear into and out of so you will sailing up wind to get back.  The north coast has wonderful islands to visit we are told. We passed them on our way to clear in. If we had more time to visit New Cal we might have joined a very expensive rally that gives you the opportunity to clear in at one of the islands on the north coast.

There are things to do and see in New Cal - 15 Must See Sights - will give an idea of what one could see.

First impressions of New Caledonia were a long time coming.  We were a little shellshocked. It’s like being in France, which is great when one is in France but rather disconcerting when you are not. 

New Caledonia is really expensive.  Much of the meats, cheeses, frozen foods, and probably some fresh foods are brought in from France. (I would really like to know how this stuff is transported here.) There are cafes and patisserie, but the city of Noumea doesn’t seem to have a centre or we just haven’t found it.

It’s very like the French islands of Guadeloupe, Martinique and Tahiti, and hardly at all like its nearest neighbours - Vanuatu, Fiji and Australia. 

The architecture is Mediterranean French coast and higher end than the other French Islands. The streets of Noumea are congested with traffic during rush hour. The pedestrian crossings are excellent and frequent, which is just as well as it’s an ‘angry car’ kind of place with lots of rushing from one set of lights or pedestrian crossing to the next.

On our walk to Immigration we were astounded at the number of gendarmes/police in high tech gear.

There are very few indigenous/people of colour to be seen, except at the market either shopping or selling. They don’t appear to live in Noumea, with the exception of the odd homeless person. We have been told by ‘someone who knew someone’ who lived in a gated community that there are communities of locals living along the coast, but you need to know which ones welcome visitors. 

In our time here, we visited one bay twice and one island once. 

Larus anchored in Maa Bay.  Tim walked daily and I occasionally. He doesn’t mind the heat as much as I.

Tiny bouquets. The blossoms open yellow and turn pink as they age. Very pretty. We also saw prickly pear cactus near the beach but I did be surprised if they were native.

Looking east you can see Noumea in the distance. We really hadn’t ventured very far.

Tide’s out.

This type of rock is very similar in colour and pattern to rock we’ve walked on in the Bay of Islands, NZ. I do keep wondering why New Cal is so different from its neighbours. Perhaps there is a link.

This rock formation, however isn’t like anything we saw in NZ.

And these rock oysters look prehistoric and far from appealing compared to those we saw covering rocks along the Bay of Islands coastline.

A brisk sail from Maa Bay to Ile Ronde.

Anchorage Ile Ronde all to ourselves.

We hadn’t even got ashore before another yacht joined us and we can’t really blame them. It is a very pretty island.

Footprints in the sand.

We chased this gul and wading birds all around the island. They kept going forward and never thought to fly back.

We were surprised by screeches from above.

That explains it.

You can just make out two little white heads if you zoom in. Bill and Zoe visited the island about a week after us and found that chicks had fledged the nest.

Clear water and soft sand.

A message!  I untied and unrolled the little scroll and found a random cutting from a French newspaper. Not an article, just a random cutting. Feeling slightly let down, I rolled it back up to share my disappointment with the next person to notice it.

The furthest I could get from Larus without another boat. Or longer legs.

We made another visit to Maa Bay to clean the bottom one last time before head west to Australia.  

Noumea has a shark problem and swimming is forbidden in the bay. Noumeans don’t swim in the bay but they do sail and kite surf nearby. We went further afield. 

Bill and Zoe came too and took us on a tour of the bay. We weren’t sure of our welcome if we ventured ashore with the odd fence running down the beach and into the water so stayed in the dinghy. A faster and cooler way to explore.

Climbing into a mangrove tree was our photo opportunity. Bill takes a photo of Zoë in an offshore tree in every new country they visit.

There are a few more photos to be added (and taken) before we depart but now have a couple places to go and people to see. X Nancy