Thursday, March 28, 2013

YOLO island hops back to Noumea

We headed out of the 'lagoon' and into the open waters of the South Pacific Ocean again to take the outside route back up to Noumea.  There are lots of little islets in the area and we went outside the reef to head up and back into the lagoon through a different pass through the reef.
Our first island was Amedee, with the lighthouse quite visible.

Looking out at YOLO from the beach on Amedee.  A resort here brings lots of day visitors, and a few stay in the over-water bungalows.

The lighthouse is well-maintained and you can buy tickets from the ferry to climb the tower when the ferry brings tourists in.

Base of the Amedee lighthouse, built in 1862.  The lighthouse still works.

The reef at the end of the island has its own light so yachts don't get too close to the island.  These waters are strewn with reefs, so navigation needs to be in good light so you can see the shallow water. 

The bungalows on Ilot Maitre.

Ilot Maitre is famous for its huge, shallow, reef-enclosed lagoon where kite surfers flock.  There were dozens of kite surfers here. I'm amazed they don't kill each other in collisions or cut each others' kite strings.

We could watch the kiteboarders from our yacht on the other side of the island.  Big jumps and twists and rooster tails from the good ones!

You can see a kiteboarder in midair in a jump here.

All the dots and speckles are actually kites with people below them on the water.

The moorings at Ilot Maitre.  It was pretty decent snorkeling when the wind finally died down after a couple of days. 

From Ilot Maitre you can actually look across the bay to Noumea, about 7 miles away.  Here you can see the pinkish orange smoke (beind the catamaran) from the mining processing plant on the main bay, Port Moselle.  They have to stop processing when the wind blows towards Noumea as it is pretty toxic to breathe.
A blue and black sea snake in the shower drain on the beach at Amedee.  He came out when the water got too high in the drain (clogged by pine needles, sand and snake) and would recede back down when the water flowed out.  It made me watch the drain as I tried to wash the salt off me.
Another sea snake along the beach.  Good thing these are considered harmless to humans.

You're actually looking through the water at a snake curled up in a hole in a rock ledge near the shore.  I almost reached into the water and grabbed his tail, but then thought better of it.....
 A tricot raye sea snake on the grass in the island.
Kite surfers on Ilot Maitre

Our next stop was Kouare Islet.  Nothing here except birds.

Kouare sandspit by moonlight

Kouare sandspit by day

Kouare sunset

Kouare reef waters
Blue and black sea snake curled up in the sand by the showers.

Big banyan tree on Amedee.

A huge cuttlebone from a cuttle fish, washed up and drying on the shore. I usually see small ones like these in bird cages.

Amedee Island has some expensive visitors; this private helicopter landed, set up a table, this Japanese couple had some wine, and then they all took off again.
After visiting Amedee, Kouare and Ilot Maitre, we had to return to Noumea's harbor, Port Moselle or Orphelinat Bay.  We anchored just between the two bays and dinghied in to clear out.  We had good wind and zig zagged our way around the reefs and out the pass and headed to Australia--five to seven days away. 
Au revoir to the French islands here and off to the land of Oz, where they speak Strine, another dialect of English.

YOLO at Isle of Pines, New Cal Nov 2012

We headed back to the island scenery when we left Noumea for Isle of Pines.  It was a slog to go back the way we'd come when we'd arrived and we took 2 days to get back to the channel entrance.  Then it was a right turn and we headed SE towards the IOP.  Lots of reefs and islets strewn about this part of the Southern Lagoon and we pulled into Kuto Bay to anchor in a well-protected, very popular tourist site.  There was only one other catamaran anchored here when we arrived, but boats arrived almost daily after us; they must all have been waiting for the same winds as we were. 

Cruise ships and the big catamaran ferry that plies back and forth to Noumea disgorged hundreds of people that populated the beaches by day.  Once they left, the place was practically deserted and we had the island almost to ourselves.  The mile-long smile of soft talcum sand in Kuto Bay where we anchored was Jason's favorite walking beach.

Kuto Bay and its Beach

The photo below came from an interactive Cruising Guide to New Caledonia.  I added the tiny red X (enlarge the picture if you can) to mark where we were anchored in Kuto Bay.  The bay on the other side of the tiny isthmus is Kanumera Bay, and it, too, was gorgeous.  Local tourists here, too.  The island in the top center of the shot is Adventure Is. and we had that to ourselves one day when we took the dinghy around to the far bay.  The long white thing in the top right corner is the island of New Cal and the little blue box shows the part of the country where these islands are--Isle of Pines.

View of YOLO from the beach on Kuto Bay.

The toilet block on the jetty.  It was only open when the ferry or cruise ships came into the port.
The view of Kuto Bay beach and Pic Nga (the peak we climbed) from our anchorage spot.

Big ferries and cruise ships disgorge hundreds of passengers when they arrive and the place is overrun with tourists.  Jason entertained a few while hacking open coconuts on the beach and telling stories of our cruising life.  We shared the fresh coconut chunks and the tourists left envious.

We found the bakery and bought warm baguettes that we grabbed out of the baking trays ourselves.  We wandered around the old waterworks buildings from 1874 and climbed hills for a view.  The island was used as a prison back in the 1870's and the old prison stands covered in growth but still open to wander through.  The current police station is in the old garrison headquarters behind a stone wall.  The governor's house used to be the prison warden's home.  The old French rock walls seem to have a pinkish orange tinge to them and they still look pretty solid where they are still standing.
An 1870's wall

A building on the governor's property just off the shore.

Carved wooden fence posts at the garbage area by the toilets and dock

Our coconut haul from Kuto Bay.  I shredded and toasted much of it and left some in chunks for nibbling.  Toasted coconut lasts forever in the fridge and we had it in pancakes--yummy.

The governor's home on the shore, now a private property. It used to be the prison warden's home.
A wood carving of a sea snake at the end of the dock by the toilets.

A cute little bldg behind the old governor's home on the shore by the jetty.

A Jeep carcass behind the old governor's house.

An old 1874 waterworks building.  Still in pretty good shape for its age.
A stone wall around the police bldgs.  They were part of an old prison when the French kept prisoners on this island back in the 1870's.  

The convenience store where we could buy fresh baguettes.

Jason carrying our baguettes as we walked up a trail across from the bakery.  You can see the old waterworks bldg in the background.

Looking back down as we climbed the trail above the bakery.  YOLO is one of those yachts.
The front corner of the old governor's property, looking out towards the ferry dock.

 Palm trees, Norfolk pines and casuarina trees on Isle of Pines.

A bird's nest I found near Kuto Bay.

 Curly cue seed pods we saw on the trails in New Caledonia.
Jason at the top of Pic Nga, a 362-meter peak.

Karen at the top of Pic Nga.  It was a hot day!  I'm wearing a wet bandana to keep my neck cool.  It was a long climb on a hot day on a rocky trail.

Karen at top of Pic Nga.

Walking down the trail from Pic Nga, trying to keep the sun off the back of my neck.

A view from the Pic Nga.  Adventure Is at the top center, Kanumera Bay on the left and Kuto Bay on the right.  YOLO is anchored in Kuto Bay but you can barely see the yachts there.

Another view from the top of Pic Nga towards another beach.  You can see the shallow sand bar across this bay that keeps most yachts out.

The red rocky soil of Pic Nga.

The trail along the ridge supposedly led back down to the bakery in town.  Jason wanted to walk back along this trail but we couldn't find the connector path, (thank goodness!).
Bright yellow and orange sap oozing from a tree at the base of Pic Nga.
We wandered thru the old prison building ruins one afternoon. There were signs that they may not be safe, but I ducked in for a quick look around. 
 The back entry to the prison.

The damp walls of the prison with green mold growing on them.

Another view from inside the prison.  How'd you like to spend years in here?

Outside the prison entrance.

The barred windows of the prison.

Looking up at a metal bar ran across the ceiling in the 2 big rooms of the prison.
 I wonder if prisoners were tied up to it?

The old plank sign. It was so worn you couldn't read it.
The old prison entry from the road.
Kanumera Bay, across the isthmus.

A single yacht in Kanumera Bay

Clear waters at shore in Kanumera Bay.

 Wouldn't you like to be swimming here?
Kanumera Bay beach

Another shot of our favorite walking beach--Kuto Bay

Jason wading out to our dinghy from the beach at Kuto Bay.There were lots of turtles in the bay around us, too.
We did enjoy some French wine and Brie cheese here.  Some of the only affordable food here!

A satellite shot of the Isle Of Pines  from the interactive cruising guide.

A black and white sea snake.  They can be in the water or on the sandy beaches.  We saw lots of these in this country.

A brown and black sea snake sunning itself on Adventure Island, where we went for a snorkel one day in the dinghy.  The snakes have tiny mouths and their teeth are way back in their mouths so they can't really bite you unless they manage to get you between your fingers or such--not likely.

Our aluminum dinghy anchored at Adventure Island.  We were the only ones there.
We finally had to leave this paradise island and head back to Noumea to clear out of the country and head for Australia for the cyclone season.  But we did stop at a few other islands on the way back......  see the other posts.