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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

New Caledonia: Serendipitous Canala

View from totem turnout lookout trail, West of Canala, New Caledonia.
This fellow looks pensive.
Your thoughts -- what's on his mind?
Canala New Caledonia was another "Plan B" we're happy happened.  

Originally, I'd planned our West to East mountain crossing less far North from Noumea, from Boulouparis to Thio.  For touring, we believe mountain roads are best enjoyed at a more leisurely pace.  New Caledonia's width is not great, but very windy and mountainous, and given the prior day's late start, we opted to stay on the West Coast a bit longer.  

Thus, as the afternoon waned on the second of our multi-day road trip, Canala offered the most camping options.  Besides, it was on our way to the coast -- or so I thought at the time!

Even as misty clouds rolled in, we found the countryside and its vistas magnificent!

At one point, just beyond a tulip tree a-flower with large, flame-colored blossoms, we noticed a pair of carved wooden poles joined with a wooden arch, reminiscent of the Kanak village doorposts we'd seen earlier in a Noumea museum.  Behind the arch was a knoll with steps leading up.   We pulled in.  Spectacular as the short trail vistas were, the trail's carved totems were the highlight for us both.  I'm a hopeless sucker for native woodcarvings, and these were particularly well-done.
More happy totems at the lookout West of Canala, New Caledonia.

"What I love about the Kanak totems," Wayne opined, "Is unlike the ones we see in the Pacific Northwest, these are really happy guys!"  

Indeed, even without the oft seen long -- errr "manhood sheaths" (for those that have them; let's just say Kanak carvings are the antithesis of Ken and Barbie doll de-sexualization) -- these guys have great expressions.  They're usually happy or at least mischievous-looking. Determining whether their physical prowess and expressions are related I leave up to you.  Rain or shine, they lift our spirits.  We just can't help but smile back.

Interestingly, there were no notes about this stop in any of our resources.  Nor were there any placards anywhere on the trail.  If you're traveling between La Foa and Canala, watch for it on the valley side.

Despite all Canala's camping options, we were having trouble matching Visitor's Center accommodation descriptions with roadsigns for camping. At that stage, given it had started raining, we were seeking the one non-tribal campsite that also advertised a bungalow.  

Given my limited French skills, I was reticent to use the phone for help, knowing the odds of finding an English-speaker on the other end of the line were slim.  After passing through the town of Canala once, we circled back.

Canala campground sign (not on main road).
First we stopped at Canala's marie (town hall), a beautifully crafted and apparently relatively newly constructed building.  Across the street was a cultural center.  Alas, as we were in a French territory and it was after 4 pm, they were all closed.  Again, like the highway totem vista trail, these spots were not mentioned in any of our research.

Next we stopped at the larger of two general stores in town to ask for help.  The gal at the register sent me off in search of her somewhat-English-speaking colleague through the maze in the back.  I found her directing a couple local delivery guys wearing Rasta shirts other Rasta accoutrements and smoking something suspiciously herbal campfire-scented.  I explained what we were looking for, showing her in the guide book, and that I wasn't sure how to find it and was really looking for someplace with a roof over our head, given the rain.
What constituted rain shelter at our campsite.  It worked.  Campground East of Canala, New Caledonia.
Walking back to the store's front, she offered to call the place I was seeking for me, but in the process, chatting with another local, he offered to show us by having us follow him.  Gratefully, we did.

It's not surprising we were puzzled; there was no sign matching the guidebook description on the main road, but the sign we were led to matched the book.
What a difference a day makes!  Our campsite what a whole different place in the morning.  East of Canala, New Caledonia.
Wandering in the rain, we found the campsites (which matched the accommodation book description and image), but no office, no bungalow and no body but us.  We found a largely decommissioned communal kitchen -- dusty with an unplugged refrigerator, rusted out stove/oven and waterless sink) and a phone number to call and an honor box for payment.   Again, given my limited French I was reluctant to call.   

Then we found the bungalow, but it was locked.  I called.  I eventually was able to gather the bungalow I was looking at was the only one, and that it was locked because it was unavailable.  The fellow I called magically appeared a few minutes later.  We agreed given the rain and the bungalow's unavailability, the best solution was to set our tent up under the dining area awning, over the hard-packed dirt.  At this point, it was nearly dark, and the less than joyous choice between a softer but wet campsite versus a very hard but dry spot with flat air mattresses was akin to choosing between a rock and a hard (soft, wet) place.  At least with the awning, we had the convenience of pitching the tent right next to our car.  
Dawn, another portion of the stream alongside camp.  East of Canala, New Caledonia.
To sweeten the deal a bit, the owner returned with a light bulb.  He also showed us the electrical outlets we could use, which was a nice perk for someone whose plugs weren't from the US.

Wayne was more pleased with our choice when two hours later, out of the darkness, two attractive young gals showed up, one French, her friend, New Caledonian, trying to decide where to pitch their tent.  We showed them the options, the honor box and offered them dry space next to us under the awning if they preferred.  They did.

The morning shone dry, bright and sunny.  Truly, it was a beautiful spot.

Sophie and Caroline, our camping neighbors,  generously heated some extra hot water for us for morning coffee on their camp stove.  They then set off for the stream crossing and viewpoint hike - an hour each way, and we hit the road.

The way we  went...
Wayne realized Canala was actually a slight diversion on our way Northbound along the East Coast.  Nonetheless, quite likely it would've been dark by the time we arrived at the next place where there were campsites, two widely spaced towns (Houailou, past Kouaoua -- boy these New Cal towns have a overabundance of vowels!) away.

Besides, the campsite, Chez Miguel, was a beautiful spot along a river, with lots of covered picnic tables, good space between the campsites with enough landscaping to feel somewhat private, running water, flush toilets, (cold water) showers, a large communal eating area and electricity.  The price:  $15.  By the way, the couple who rented the bungalow did eventually show up, though we never met.  They left even earlier than we did.  We recommend showing up with a working camp stove, air mattresses that stay inflated, and arriving in daylight hours when it's not raining.



The way we were supposed to go... to Kououa.
Accidental stop or not, if we had it to do over, we'd spend more time in and around Canala.  The people we met were friendly and helpful.  There was an interesting turn-of-the-century building we noticed but didn't check out.  Canala looked like a good place to get a better sense of Kanak culture (driving by, there were a few other places in town that appeared cultural besides the building across from the town hall )without having to sleep in a village.

We returned to Canala on our way back to our missed turnoff to complete our crossing to the East Coast, once again feeling particularly satisfied with our mistakes.  It's all part of the adventure!

For those interested in numbers -- and the car rental cost ~$350 USD for a week, with unlimited miles -- or following our tracks....
Kouaoua turnoff -- we almost missed it again!  At least this time it was sunny, which made this easier to read the in the rain.
Road-Tripping By the Numbers

If you see this arch West of Canala, stop and
enjoy a very short viewpoint hike
with cool totems.
Location Location
Our boat remained anchored in Noumea (S22.16.722 E166.25.662), whilst we traveled by car, nearly end-to-end across New Caledonia's big island of Grand Terre, October 16-22, 2016.

Cruising By the Numbers
  • Our September 2016 sail from Vanuatu to New Caledonia was 305 miles.
  • Our August 2016 sail from Fiji to Vanuatu was 525 miles.
  • We cruised just under 440 miles in Fiji, between late May and early August.  
  • Our May 2016 sail from New Zealand to Fiji was 1090 miles.
  • December 2015 - May 2016 if we weren't cruising New Zealand or hunkering, we were making massive road trips from New Zealand's tip to its tail.
  • From December 2014 - November 2015 we sailed from Northern Florida's Atlantic side to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles, with more than a few stops in between.
  • December 2013 - May 2014 we sailed 1792  miles from Jacksonville Florida to the Bahamas. and back.
  • March 2012 we bought Journey in St. Lucia.  September 2012 we moved aboard, did some boat work, then sailed her to Jacksonville Florida by June 2013, 3762 miles.
Up Next
We plan to catch a safe sailing weather window - likely later thus week to Australia, about a 1 1/2- 2-week ~760 mile passage.  Meanwhile, there's some prep and we plan to make a few more cruising stops in New Cal before we give our final goodbye to this lovely country.  We'll  be out of wifi range for posting about them, until we're set-up for wifi again in Australia.  There will be some pre-posted catch up posts on New Cal while we're underway.  Once in Oz, we'll check in at Bundaberg, then travel South down the East Coast to Pittwater, near Sydney where we'll park Journey.  We'll travel over land there for a bit and figure out where to go back to work somewhere in the world.  Job tips are appreciated!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

New Caledonia: Exploring North of Noumea, West Coast

Territorial view from public observation deck of Farino's town hall.  New Caledonia.
Road Trip Day 2(+):  Farino, La Foa, Sarramea, West Coast, just North of Noumea

New Caledonia's primary island, Grand Terre, is the second biggest island in the South Pacific (not counting New Zealand), 220 miles long, 40 miles wide, and mountainous -- far more than we could see by sailboat. We rented a car.  In my typical not-quite-linear style, our land exploration of New Caledonia will mostly follow a counter-clockwise geographical flow, rather than day-by day.  


Farino Refuge, our first night's stop.  We got there too late to do the waterfall hike and decided to skip it and move on the next morn.
However, for those interested in numbers -- and the car rental cost ~$350 USD for a week, with unlimited miles -- or following our tracks....

Planning
Planning for this road trip entailed a lot of on-line research, supplemented by a visit to the friendly folks at the Visitor Center in Noumea in Coconut Square.  My South Pacific Lonely Planet Guidebook, which includes New Caledonia, was also periodically helpful.  My goal was to come up with a good mix of excellent short walks (mostly between 10 minutes and 2 hours), vistas, potentially some swimming, snorkeling, beaches and cultural points of interest.  Given the terrain and the distance, I wanted to break the trip into several days, and wanted to offer flexibility with lots of camping options to support a loose agenda.  After all the time already spent among villages in Fiji and and Vanuatu and with many miles to cover, I opted out of tribal accommodations for New Caledonia.  Mostly, I figured after full days of driving and outdoor activities, we'd just want to crash rather than socialize.  Trip Advisor and Googling "New Caledonia" "road trip" "hiking" and "camping" netted my most useful info.  New Caledonia offers some great websites as well, but unfortunately they behave poorly when wifi's flaky - typically the case when we're anchored off Noumea, where I did my research.  
Giant Fern Park was easy to find hanks to
great signage.  Farino, New Caledonia
Packing
After all the lessons learned on our New Zealand road trips, I figured this time we'd leave better prepared.  Plus, my research "Aha!" was that unlike New Zealand, where it was pretty easy to pick up anything we forgot as well as lots of fresh food along the way, our options in New Caledonia were few and far between, especially when it comes to gluten-free food.  Wayne tested and packed up our trust New Zealand butane camp stove,  and I packed up a great combination of easy to cook foods, all the condiments and utensils needed to prepare them and store leftovers, several not-that-perishable hearty meal-salad options, and of course plenty of snack and beverage options.  If you want my list of food or "gear" options, feel free to ask.  Eventually there will be a post or two on it.








Lookout tower was gated but wired, not locked closed.
No "don't enter" signs, so we did....
Parc Des Grandes Fougeres, Farino, New Caledonia.
Slow Start
After the prior day's action-packed road trip South, we didn't plan to hit the road early.  Instead, I figured we'd do relatively few miles our first day.  In fact,between packing, ferrying and loading our stuff into the car, and getting some last-minute groceries, we didn't leave Noumea until near 2 o'clock.  Given that, I picked the area of interest closest to Noumea for our stop, Farino.

Stop #1:  Farino -- Town Hall with a View
Maries - town halls for those of us less steeped in French territorial planning - serve a multitude of functions.  As tourists, we find they usually are 

  • fine examples of local architecture 
  • friendly places to ask directions
  • great places to find a clean public restroom.
Farino is a bit unusual in that the majority of New Caledonia's towns are coastal.  Instead, Farino's marie sits proudly on a crest in the the hills, offering a large deck with a lovely territorial view.  Thanks to the maps we already had, ones posted by the marie's deck and excellent street signs, there was no need to ask directions.


Ferns as tall as tall palms Farnino's Giant Fern Park.
New Caledonia.
Refuge de Farino - Camping
I picked the Refuge de Farino campsite because a waterfall in easy walking distace, and the Refuge's close proximity to the Giant Fern Park, and to Sarramea, where there was a niffy natural waterfall slide.  Initially, Wayne was less than thrilled with paying $16 to pitch our tent in a big grassy field partitioned off with a hedge separating it from the road and parking lot.  While there was only one other tent pitched there, it was a family with a very vocal toddler, albeit a happy one that slept well.  The campsite was situated alongside a wide, shallow stream, but there were no picnic tables - major Wayne preference.  There were a few stumps for seating arranged around some fire rings by the stream, but we didn't use them.  And I opted not to load our folding chairs into our already overloaded dinghy and car.

Still, the grounds, set up more to enhance the bungalows there, were beautifully landscaped with lush tropical plants and trees loaded with sweetly scented flowers.  There was also a pleasant outdoor bar / restaurant, complete with a ping-pong table, another nice amenity we opted not to use.  The clean flush toilet, refrigerator-freezer (freezing water bottles for ice the next day - major bonus!), won Wayne over.   Of course, anyplace with unlimited hot showers wins a special spot in my hygiene preferences - so check that box with a smiley face for me! 

When we discovered after leaving our one and only remaining butane camp stove canister gave its last breath in Wayne's testing, we were incredibly grateful for the gas stove.  The canisters are not available in New Caledonia.  That threw a large monkey wrench into many of my meal plans for the trip!

We also discovered that even $100 top-of-the-line backpacking air mattresses don't last forever.  Nor, cruelly, does the previously unused glue in their patch kits.  The grass offered far better cushioning than our aged mattresses, even with three in-the-middle-of-the-night re-inflations.  Borrowing someone else's glue a few nights later for patching also proved futile.
Ferns weren't the only attention-worthy flora at the Giant Fern Park.  This looked like jojoba to me.....  Farino, New Caledonia.
Parc Des Grandes Fougeres (Giant Fern Park)
While there's easily enough trails to spend a day or more ambling Parc Des Grandes Fougeres, we were interested in about a two hour hike.  The nice fellow at the welcome gate collected $4 from us (senior rate?  technically, we're not yet eligible) and marked our trail map for a lookout point and return via the banyan trail.  We missed the lookout until we'd walked a ways past it, then backtracked and found it as a narrow unmarked path by a picnic table.  We're guessing the lookout tower was what the guide meant to direct us to.  

While we've walked many nicer free parks, Parc Des Grandes Fougeres is certainly pleasant enough.  The banyan trail back was a gently windy, intimate forest, with some of the tallest fern trees we've seen.  There were also plenty of great picnic spots, with picnic tables.
Sarramea - definitely a different flavor than New Caledonia's big capital city of Noumea.
Trou Feulliet sign; not so readable!
Sarramea -- Trou Feulliet Waterfall Slide
Sarramea is a land of rolling hills, sweeping trees, jacaranda and tulip trees festooned with showy springtime blossoms, angular bowed pines, fenced ranch-land, rural homes and agriculture.  Much as we enjoyed the drive through, we're grateful both the visitor's center and the town marie were open when we stopped, as we had some trouble finding the entrance to the waterfall.  The place to park is at a more substantial hike's trailhead.  The walk is through a gated off private farm road.




























Public trail entry? Didn't much look like it, but that part on the right opens for walkers to Trou Feulliet waterfall.  New Caledonia.
While one road-tripped described the walk as "through buggy cow paddocks," our timing must've been better.  We found the scenery lovely and wandered bug-free through.  Even with our sight-seeing, the walk was only 10 minutes or less each way.
Walking to Trou Feullliet... a leisurely look at yet another intriguingly unique part of New Caledonia's unique floral ecosystem.
Locals definitely know the place!  It was hopping with them, the Kanaks hanging out in the dive-off spots and shady pools, upstream past the waterfall slide.New Caledonians sprawled across the sunnier spots downstream from the waterfall.  We hung out between the two spots.
Trou Feulliet waterfall... a natural slide.  Sarramea, New Caledonia.  And it's free, too!
I enjoyed several rounds down the waterfall slide.  The afternoon was warm, the water cool but not cold.  Wayne enjoyed people-watching.

It was early afternoon.  We were feeling mellow.  But time to get serious about finding another place to camp towards the east coast before too long.  More on that in the next post.
Waiting for one of the local Kanak kids to complete his splashy cannonball jump into Trou Feulliet's emerald pool
before following with my slide in.  Sarramea, New Caledonia.
Location Location
Our boat remained anchored in Noumea (S22.16.722 E166.25.662), whilst we traveled by car, nearly end-to-end across New Caledonia's big island of Grand Terre, October 16-22, 2016.

Cruising By the Numbers
  • Our September 2016 sail from Vanuatu to New Caledonia was 305 miles.
  • Our August 2016 sail from Fiji to Vanuatu was 525 miles.
  • We cruised just under 440 miles in Fiji, between late May and early August.  
  • Our May 2016 sail from New Zealand to Fiji was 1090 miles.
  • December 2015 - May 2016 if we weren't cruising New Zealand or hunkering, we were making massive road trips from New Zealand's tip to its tail.
  • From December 2014 - November 2015 we sailed from Northern Florida's Atlantic side to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles, with more than a few stops in between.
  • December 2013 - May 2014 we sailed 1792  miles from Jacksonville Florida to the Bahamas. and back.
  • March 2012 we bought Journey in St. Lucia.  September 2012 we moved aboard, did some boat work, then sailed her to Jacksonville Florida by June 2013, 3762 miles.

Next?  Going from A, New Caledonia -- too small to see next to Australia -- to
Bundaburg, Australia to clear in.  Our last long passage on s/v Journey.
Up Next
We plan to catch a safe sailing weather window - likely later thus week to Australia, about a 1 1/2- 2-week ~760 mile passage.  Meanwhile, there's some prep and we plan to make a few more cruising stops in New Cal before we give our final goodbye to this lovely country.  We'll  be out of wifi range for posting about them, until we're set-up for wifi again in Australia.  There will be some pre-posted catch up posts on New Cal while we're underway.  Once in Oz, we'll check in at Bundaberg, then travel South down the East Coast to Pittwater, near Sydney where we'll park Journey.  We'll travel over land there for a bit and figure out where to go back to work somewhere in the world.  Job tips are appreciated!

Monday, October 24, 2016

New Caledonia: Glorious Grand Sud

Our peppy Dancia rental car, parked at an overlook to the town of Yate, New Caledonia, in the Grand Sud.
Theoretically, our day trip to New Caledonia's Great South (Grand Sud) was a complete failure.  Fortunately, we found it to be a delightfully, fabulously serendipitous failure.

"Why is hardly anyone hiking these awesome trails?" we asked Fred and Rick, who we met on a portion of the GR1 trail in Prony Bay*.  They write "The Cruising Guide to New Caledonia." "They go to Rivere Bleue," we were told.  

*watch for a post on Prony and its excellent trail system coming up soon.
View from Yate overlook, Grand Sud, New Calendonia.  Where was Yate Dam?!?  How could we miss it?
Well, we figured, if Rivere Blue is more popular than these trails, they must really be worth checking out.  Given we also planned to rent a car for several days to explore New Caledonia's North Eastern Coast, we decided to rent a car for a week and start with a day trip to South to Parc Provincial de la Rivere Bleue.  One of the travel references I read mentioned reservations to the park were required.  Finding that odd, I checked with the Visitor Center in Noumea, who assured me reservations were not needed.

Our car rental was on the heels of a holiday weekend, so we got a bit of late start waiting for a car to be returned and readied for rental.  We rented from ADA as we learned from Chris and Chris of Scintilla ADA offers international travelers unlimited miles at their regular rate.  Matthew of ADA spared me my shaky rudimentary French thanks to his 6-year stint in Australia.

Steve and Patty of Armagh joined us for the ride.  it was a bright and sunny day - perfect for a road trip.

The gray day made this gaily-colored Yate church "pop."  New Caledonia.
We expected the drive there would take about 1 1/2 hours.   Once we navigated the maze of exits branching away from Noumea (kudo as usual to Patty, an exceptional navigator), we relaxed. The road choices simplified and we practically had the road to ourselves, and an hour still to drive.  

Eventually, we found ourselves at the entrance sign to Parc Provincial de la Rivere Bleue.   Then I noticed the sign said "Overt Mardi au Dimanche"  (Open Tuesday to Sunday). We were there... Monday!  What kind of park is closed any day of the week, we wondered.  So we drove a bit further... until we reached the park's tall locked gates.  

Steve checks out the map outlining the Yate hiking trail.  We still hadn't found the dam.  Grand Sud, New Caledonia.
Also on our agenda was checking out Yate Dam.  The park was located adjacent Yate Lake, so we decided to follow the road and see if we could find the dam.

Meanwhile, the skies clouded up, and a fine mist began to fall.

Yate hike details, in case you're in the neighborhood.
Grand Sud, New Caledonia.
After following the lake, we found ourselves heading up into the hills, taking in a few overlooks as they came up. We discovered Prony's dramatic red-orange landscape was prevalent through much of the rest of the Grand Sud.  Eventually, we found ourselves in the blink-and-you'll-miss-it town of Yate.  

We spotted a road that looked like it led to a beach.  It passed a church, with parking near a few buildings by the shore.  A delicious smoky food scent wafted out of a long communal building.  I was hoping to try out the Caledonian version of earth-baked food, baugna, having tried similar versions in other South Pacific countries.  To my disappointment, the food was not for sale or general public consumption.  

Waterfall sign?  Nope!  Rockfall warning!
We retraced our steps in search of Yate Dam.  

Meanwhile, Wayne found the dam's power house.  He followed the road beyond the power house until the road was gated off.  At this point, it was pretty misty-wet outside, so we broke out our picnic lunches and ate in the car near the road block.

Again, Wayne's curiosity prevailed.  With the rain lightening, he wandered past the gate bit further down the road, and discovered a great viewpoint.  After we finished lunch, at Wayne's urging we too wandered up the road to see the viewpoint.  






Breath-taking view from the Yate trail pullout above the Yate dam power house.  New Caledonia.
In fact, in a fairly short span there were multiple lookouts.  The first showed a broad river snaking past the powerhouse.  A bit further, there was a deep ravine opening out into a narrow canyon valley.  There, while the water slowed to a trickle, comparatively, there were small cascades and a lovely emerald green pool.
Ravine overlook from road past Yate Dam powerhouse.  
We thought we'd see a waterfall from the viewpoint, and while there probably was one or more, we'd thought it because of the artfully rendered sign at the road close.  We surmised what we thought was a waterfall sign was more likely a rock fall warning sign!  Did I mention that limited as my French vocabulary is, Wayne, Steve and Patty's was even more so?

Thanks to a 60x zoom on my camera, this lovely emerald green pool down the ravine was revealed.  Grand Sud, New Caledonia.
We checked out the hiking trail sign we're guessing dovetailed with the road.  If we had a do-over, and a sunnier day, we'd love to spend the half-day hiking the trail, La Route a Horaires De Yate.

Again, we retraced our steps, pausing to ogle a pair of metal water pipes so large it likely would've taken all 4 of our arms fully outstretched, touching fingertip-to-fingertip to embrace one of the water pipes.   

Wayne resumed his determined search for the dam.  This time, when Wayne saw the little brown sign stating "Barrage," he correctly guess that meant the dam.  Wayne's persistence paid off- he found it!  And we were happy to be along for the ride.
Yate Dam spillway, New Caledonia.
It appeared prior public dam observation areas suffered enough erosion, the access to view the dam was moved further back, behind a tall chain link fence.  The water flowed thinly, over only one of the dam's 3 chutes.  

Next we sought out Chutes de la Madeleine, a waterfall attraction in the area.  We found it, even walked up to the entry booth, but again the rain put a damper on our hiking interest.  Given our sunny start, none of us brought our rain gear or even our umbrellas.  Besides, Chutes de la Madeleine was a paid attraction, and we kind of wanted to be back in Noumea before dark and we were well into the afternoon.

We pushed on. Wayne continued out on an alternate return path through the hilly countryside, over the curvaceous roads to Noumea.
Wayne on the terra-cotta colored saddle of a territorial lookout  in the Grand Sud, New Caledonia.
Eventually, we reached a crest with tell-tale Prony-red dirt steps leading to a lookout.  It even had a little tower.  In the distance, Prony Bay glimmered white in the late afternoon sun.  It was that magic hour, when the light suffused the surrounding hillsides with a golden glow.  Droplets of mist teasingly dappled the air briefly with a soft rainbow.
As if the scenery wasn't gorgeous enough, out popped a rainbow!  Grand Sud, New Caledonia.
We knew the time was short to make it back before dark, but still couldn't resist one final stop at a bridge crossing the Pirogues River, its calm surface reflecting the faint early blush of the upcoming close of the day.

Half hour later, without too many missed turns, we were relieved to find ourselves at Moselle Marina's dinghy dock before dark.  
Periwinkle clouds, reflected on the glassy Pirouges River surface, Grand Sud, New Caledonia.
If Blue River Park had been open, who knows what we might have missed?  Far from feeling like a failure, we were pleased with our full day exploring New Caledonia's Grand South, and even more excited about our multi-day trip starting the next day.  Success - sometimes it's simply a matter of perspective!

Yate trail.  The path note taken - yet!
Location Location
Our boat remained anchored in Noumea (S22.16.722 E166.25.662), whilst we traveled by car, nearly end-to-end across New Caledonia's big island of Grand Terre, October 16-22, 2016.  

Cruising By the Numbers
  • Our September 2016 sail from Vanuatu to New Caledonia was 305 miles.
  • Our August 2016 sail from Fiji to Vanuatu was 525 miles.
  • We cruised just under 440 miles in Fiji, between late May and early August.  
  • Our May 2016 sail from New Zealand to Fiji was 1090 miles.
  • December 2015 - May 2016 if we weren't cruising New Zealand or hunkering, we were making massive road trips from New Zealand's tip to its tail.
  • From December 2014 - November 2015 we sailed from Northern Florida's Atlantic side to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles, with more than a few stops in between.
  • December 2013 - May 2014 we sailed 1792  miles from Jacksonville Florida to the Bahamas. and back.
  • March 2012 we bought Journey in St. Lucia.  September 2012 we moved aboard, did some boat work, then sailed her to Jacksonville Florida by June 2013, 3762 miles.

Up Next
We plan to catch a weather window - likely in this next week to Australia, about a 1 1/2 -2-week 750+ mile passage.  Meanwhile, there's some prep and we plan to make a few more cruising stops in New Cal before we give our final goodbye to this lovely country.  Then we'll cruise in Oz, travel and figure out where to go back to work somewhere in the world.




Saturday, October 22, 2016

New Caledonia: Road Trip Blitz

Not normally where we'd choose to pitch our tent, but it was raining.  Outside Canala, New Caledonia.
New Caledonia's primary island, Grand Terre, is the second biggest island in the South Pacific (not counting New Zealand), 220 miles long, 40 miles wide, and mountainous.  We just returned from a 5-day blitz of the island.  We mostly camped, hiked, took oodles of awesome vistas, and unplugged the whole time.  Lots more to come... both about the road trip and the cruising stops made prior.  

Location Location
Our boat remained anchored in Noumea (S22.16.722 E166.25.662), whilst we traveled by car, nearly end-to-end across New Caledonia's big island of Grand Terre, October 16-22, 2016.

Cruising By the Numbers
  • Our September 2016 sail from Vanuatu to New Caledonia was 305 miles.
  • Our August 2016 sail from Fiji to Vanuatu was 525 miles.
  • We cruised just under 440 miles in Fiji, between late May and early August.  
  • Our May 2016 sail from New Zealand to Fiji was 1090 miles.
  • December 2015 - May 2016 if we weren't cruising New Zealand or hunkering, we were making massive road trips from New Zealand's tip to its tail.
  • From December 2014 - November 2015 we sailed from Northern Florida's Atlantic side to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles, with more than a few stops in between.
  • December 2013 - May 2014 we sailed 1792  miles from Jacksonville Florida to the Bahamas. and back.
  • March 2012 we bought Journey in St. Lucia.  September 2012 we moved aboard, did some boat work, then sailed her to Jacksonville Florida by June 2013, 3762 miles.

Up Next
We plan to catch a weather window - likely in this next week to Australia, about a 2-week 1,000+ mile passage.  Meanwhile, there's some prep and we plan to make a few more cruising stops in New Cal before we give our final goodbye to this lovely country.  Then we'll cruise in Oz, travel and figure out where to go back to work somewhere in the world.




Saturday, October 15, 2016

New Caledonia: Oompa Loompa-ville & Bio-diveristy Paradise

Red sand of Anse de la Somme, which we walked to from Prony Village, Anse Sebert.  New Caledonia.
Exotic flower seen on the GR1 ("Grand Randomee")
trail which runs through the Prony area.  New Caledonia.
New Caledonia:  This splinter off the ancient and once great supercontinent Gondwanaland a hidden gem, an amazing lagoon surrounded ecosystem, the land, in the South known terre rouge (red earth) is rife with unique and beautiful native plants.  It's a biodiversity wonder and deserves its own spot right up there with Galapagos, only it doesn't offer Galapagos' bizarre fauna.  In fact, there's not much in the way of mammals, reptiles or amphibians, and their bird population pales in comparison to New Zealand's, though we do hope to spot New Caledonia's unofficial flightless aviary symbol, the cagou (aka kagu).

Much as we love New Caledonia, there's one niggling concern... becoming an Oompa Loompa.   What is an Oompa Loompa?

Orange Oompa Loompas doing a song and dance number in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Did they visit New Caledonia's Prony Bay for makeup?

Ok, I digress....

The point here is the much of Southern New Caledonia is very, very orange, in a dramatically striking way that rubs off on you - literally - whether you like it or not.

Our first inkling of this came about when our friends from Cyndi and Rich from Legacy and Bob and Linda from Bright Angel greeted us when we pulled into Ouen.  "Prony pedicure!" I exclaimed, giggling, pointing to their beautiful barefoot but quite orange toes.  Regrettably, I did not have my camera ready - my now orange toes make a far less attractive picture.

Note the orange Prony Bay mud on the tip of
our anchor?  That's after we dragged it
through the water for a while.  New Caledonia.
Frank, of Another Adventure did warn us before we left Vanuatu... "When you pull up your anchor in New Caledonia, make sure you wash it down right away.  That red-orange dirt stains!"  

Our little boat doesn't have a an anchor wash hose like Another Adventure, but we made sure to drag our anchor in the water before its final lift onto our bow anchor platform.  As well, followed immediately with a vigorous repeated raw water bucket wash while underway.

While we still have some Prony Bay deck stains to remove, fortunately for us the color of the mud is darned close to the Cetol ("varnish") on our rails and the color Wayne chose for our anchor platform.

We also placed one of our wash tubs on deck where we board, filled with water, prior to leaving for our hikes.  We added soap and a scrub brush, and a microfiber wipe towel, but now a week past our time in Prony, our toenails and cuticles are still tinged with orange.


Pale Kiwis (the humanoid variety) looking for more sunshine might consider a roll along Prony's shores if they prefer the fake-bake look better than their winter pallor.

Southern New Caledonia impregnated couture clothing could look like this.
Image pilfered from Red Dirt Shirts.
New Caledonia is missing out on another marketing bonanza -- capitalizing on its red and terra-cotta colored earth with walking human billboards.... New Caledonia needs its own Dirt Shirt!  It's every bit as or more worthy than Kauai and Maui Hawaii, Galveston Texas, Sedona and Tombstone Arizona and Moab Utah.

Wayne might've started the trend with his shorts, but tossed them (they were pretty worn and torn, too) before I was able to exploit their Prony-sploshed blotchy hue.  "I don't want you airing our dirty laundry," he objected.

Better still, maybe the first step in a red dirt shirt's creation could be a swish through the waters silted with erosion caused by New Caledonia's aggressive nickel-mining.  Then maybe Prony's supposedly awesome underwater life -- or at least the great white sharks -- could be more visible!

Location Location
We're currently hunkered in Noumea (S22.16.722 E166.25.662), relatively protected while the winds are howling.  This post was written about our time in the Prony area, from late September to early October 2016 at the following red-mud locations (mostly in sequential order of our stops)
  • Boise Baie near Havanna Pass (S22.21.113 E166.57.268)
  • Ouen, Koube Bay (S22.26.279 E166.48.179)
  • Prony, Ilot Casy's North side (S22.21.075 E166.50.647) - Ilot Casy's more popular West side is white sand (S22.21.075 E166.50.647)
  • Prony, Anse Sebert, Prony Village (S22.19.264 E166.50.647)*  
  • Prony, Baie du Carenage B (S22.18.267 E166.50.622)*
  • Prony, Baie du Carenage A (S22.18.149 E166.51.365)*
  • Prony, Abse Majic -aka Rade De L'Est G (S22.22.903 E166.54.816)*
  • Baie Ue (S22.20.666 E166.42.228) - short stay- too rolly when we were there! interesting high-tide mangrove dinghy ride
  • Baie Ngo (S22.18.898 E166.44.912) - now very industrial! also a bit rolly
*watch for more about this spot in upcoming posts

Cruising By the Numbers
  • Our September 2016 sail from Vanuatu to New Caledonia was 305 miles.
  • Our August 2016 sail from Fiji to Vanuatu was 525 miles.
  • We cruised just under 440 miles in Fiji, between late May and early August.  
  • Our May 2016 sail from New Zealand to Fiji was 1090 miles.
  • December 2015 - May 2016 if we weren't cruising New Zealand or hunkering, we were making massive road trips from New Zealand's tip to its tail.
  • From December 2014 - November 2015 we sailed from Northern Florida's Atlantic side to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles, with more than a few stops in between.
  • December 2013 - May 2014 we sailed 1792  miles from Jacksonville Florida to the Bahamas. and back.
  • March 2012 we bought Journey in St. Lucia.  September 2012 we moved aboard, did some boat work, then sailed her to Jacksonville Florida by June 2013, 3762 miles.
These cascades near Prony's Carenage A anchorage only made a slight dent
removing in the Oompa Loompa tinge on my shoes.  Will that "glow"
be gone by Australia?  New Caledonia.
Up Next
Our current plans are to cruise some more in New Caledonia and take some road trips before we set sail from to Australia.  We plan to catch a weather window around the beginning of November to Australia, about a 2-week 1,000+ mile passage.  There we'll cruise in Oz, travel and figure out where to go back to work somewhere in the world.