Thursday, March 28, 2013

YOLO in Noumea, New Caledonia Nov 2012

Noumea, New Caledonia was great for baguettes of French bread and Brie cheese, but the scenery left much to be desired.  New Caledonia has been mined for decades and the soil is so full of minerals that it will hardly support plant life.  Once cleared, the land stays pretty barren for a long time.  The main harbor at Port Moselle still has a mineral plant right at the water that spews different colored smoke, depending on what they are crushing and processing that day.  Nickel is one of the main minerals mined here and the greenish leftover crushed rock is evident.  The nickel dust is dangerous to the lungs and the plant is not allowed to process when the wind blows the dust towards the city of Noumea.
The locals still get out and paddle and sail.

Local yachts raced in the harbor all around us.

We rented a brand new van (only 35 km on it so far) with a couple of other cruiser couples and hiked around in the Blue River Park area for a day. We got stuck in the gooey red clay and the wheels were just coated in the slippery stuff.  We almost slid the van off into the creek.  No wonder the rental company told the driver he wasn't allowed to take the vehicle here....  With 5 of us pushing sideways so the van didn't slip over the edge into the gully, we got it back up on fairly flat ground and turned around.  The driver then gunned it and slip-slided his way back across the new bridge (no rails yet) and onto fairly firm ground. 
Blue River Park waters
Jason in the creek after slipping and getting wet.
Drowned forest in the park.

Karen in a hole on the side of the road.

View from hike in Blue River Park.

Dirt chasms on the hillside

The old bridge structure at creek.  You can see the log ends facing you in the clay.

The slippery goo we got stuck in.

We went back to a hiking and picnic spot and had lunch and then hiked around a few trails and up a few hills to some scenic outlooks.  We looked out over the Drowned Forest--a bunch of dead trees standing in water.  Whoohooo, this is exciting!  I did see some cool pitcher plants on one walk uphill; I had never seen them in the wild before.  We got lost in town on the way back and ended up on a street that ended in a ramp into a bay of water.  The street was barely wide enought to turn around in.  It was just temporary, though, and we made it back to Noumea and our boats after a long, tiring day.
A cool fern that felt like plastic.

Pitcher plants on the hike

The other couples were staying in the marina, so they got the tasks of cleaning all the red clay and dirt off the inside and outside of the van so we didn't get in trouble and get charged for a cleaning fee.  Glad we missed that chore!  Those couples left a few days later for Australia and we headed back towards the southeast to the Isle of Pines to see some of the pretty island scenery of New Caledonia.

We passed some reportedly great islands on the way in here, but we're not allowed to stop anywhere until we clear into the country.  And then it's too hard to head back to go see those islands unless you want to head into wind and waves or go all the way around the island and come past them again.  We didn't have the time or inclination to do either.  I think the island takes on a whole different character once you leave Noumea and there are lots of places to enjoy along the coasts, but you really need a lot of time to spend to get to them all.  We just couldn't do it all justice, so had to just pick a spot to explore.

We took 2 days to sail back towards the channel and stopped at a couple of scenic spots on the way just for the nights.  We didn't dare go swimming in the greenish water as we were told the bull sharks like the murky waters and you can't see them coming.  Our first night was by a rockface that had a tiny trickle of water plummeting over the edge to make loud dripping noises from afar.  I had to get the binoculars out to find the source of the sound as the water slid down a flat face of a rock until it fell off the edge.  My camera couldn't even show the water.

This is a barge of recycled metal we passed as we headed to the Isle of Pines.
 A view of the chart marking the entrance to Isle of Pines through the reefs.

Our first night's anchorage spot as we sailed to Isle of Pines from Noumea.

I took this pic from an online cruising guide to New Caledonia.  It shows the red dirt and an anchorage that we didn't stop in, but I thought the picture was good and the upper right hand corner of the shot shows where it is on the island, so we weren't far from this one.

Clouds as we motored through Woodin Canal in the morning.

Another anchorage.  The rockface is where the invisible waterfall was.
We reached Kuto Bay on the Isle of Pines in the afternoon after a long sail through the reefy area.  There is a clear path that is marked on the charts and the big ferries use it to avoid the coral.  Jason pushes the envelope and we cut a few corners and sailed along the outer edge to reach the bay, but there was always enough water.  There was only one other catamaran in the bay when we anchored.  The mile-long beach of white, talcum-soft sand became Jason's favorite beach to walk on.  It really is a pretty place.

Beach at Kuto Bay.  Pure postcard paradise.

No comments: