main island of Grande Terre is huge, well over 200
miles long on a northwest to southeast orientation, and it's kept
company by hundreds of other varied islands and keys, some of
which are pretty major in themselves! New Cal lies further south
than the islands we are more accustomed to - the capital city,
Nouméa, is at around 22 South - and, therefore, it has
a year round climate that has been called "spring-like."
New Caledonia is a French
Overseas Department, and so is an integral part of France, but
it's unique in France with an overwhelmingly Melanesian population.
Strip mining has devastated most of her extensive mountains, leaving
deep red, and probably irreparable, scars on their faces. New
Cal is spectacular in many unique ways, a rich mix of French and
Melanesian culture and consciousness, and it's historically fascinating,
having been the penal colony for over 4,000 survivors of the West's
first defeated working class revolution - the Paris Commune of
In short, this place wants
many months to explore and get acquainted. But unfortunately,
with cyclone season upon us, we only gave it about 3 weeks.
- in the Loyalty Islands of New Caledonia, Les iles Loyauté -
The Loyalty Islands lie about 80
miles east of the main island.
They are low, limestone islands with some spectacular bays
and endless flat lands that are relieved by rare interesting villages.
Almost every house in Lifou has
its own traditional "case."
The government recently established
a customs office in Lifou's main town
of We - blink and you miss it! - and put a new marina too. We took happy
advantage of this progress
and daringly entered the marina's well-hidden,
confined space and cleared in. With typically effortless formalities,
we entered France once again, parking the boat for a few days
to have a look at this Loyauté island.
||Lifou has beaches!
|And Lifou also
has beautiful sites with amazingly clear water and stunning coral.
With cyclone season pressing,
we zoomed off after a few days in Lifou for New Caledonia's mainland,
After sailing some 80 miles
- it was mostly an exhilarating zoom at an average around 11 knots
- you go through the potentially very rough Havannah Pass to enter
into the lagoon at the south end of Grande Terre. The current
can run up to 4 knots and if you have a strong tradewind blowing
against it, big overfalls and very difficult progress can be the
result for those who don't wait for slack tide. In our fast trimaran
we just pushed our way in against a 3 knot current and made straight
for a midnight anchorage in the Baie de Prony.
- Baie de Prony -
|We found THREE
rivers, each with long cascading waterfalls,
in the inner-most bay of Baie de Prony.
the water was NOT freezing as it usually is in waterfalls. We
had wonderful soothing refreshing fresh water baths!
Another pleasure deep in Baie de
Prony were the several "hot" springs!
One is in the middle of a small bay and only bares at low tide.
The other was at the end of a specially constructed dock with a picnic
table and shade!
The springs were really only warm springs, but they were pure pleasure.
How fine to have a shady little spot like this, so nicely
prepared in the middle of nowhere by a state that cares enough to do
Oh yeah: no fee. Of course.
With a boat named Naga,
we just had to stop in Ngo Bay under Nga mountain!
See those strip-mined mountains?
When we finally decided
to head for Nouméa - certain to be a kind of expensive
"Babylon" - we had WESTERLY winds - contrary to the
Trades and from the direction we had to go, of course, and some
very strong squalls with winds to around 40 knots and heavy pelting
rain. Just to make it a bit more interesting, the southern lagoon
also has some very strong currents that run around 3 knots in
places. So we had an "energetic sail" to windward, blasting
along with a reef in the main - two reefs for a bit - and the
staysail set. Mon, that boat can sail to windward!
Once in Nouméa there
was everything to do and all sorts of civilized pleasures - some
of the best of which were the local market and the French bakeries!
|Not to be missed
is the Tijbao Cultural Center a bus ride of a few short kilometers
old site in Nouméa - the Catholic Church - didn't seem
to get much business.
Other newer interpretations
of things with other programs seem much more important in today's
It might be an Overseas
Territory, but these workers know how to fight
just like their brothers and sisters in metropolitan France.
There was a big struggle going on over the sacking of two union activists.
Here's a bit of just one of many demos about the issue.
The scene below was on our way by
bus to the Tijbao Center, a failed attempt!
It's just a bit of typical French class struggle:
The roads are being blocked by striking workers - this happened every
all around Nouméa - who burn tires in all the most strategic
Traffic was frequently a nightmare but, in typically French style, the
generally didn't seem to get upset - after all, it's right for the workers
to stand up for their rights! Isn't it?!
(Or at least that seems to be the attitude -
and I find it a good reason to love the French.)
We had to do it, at least according
to our plans we did, so we up and did it.
We finally took ourselves away
from the world of up-front class struggle,
of beautiful expensive fruits in the market, and of warm baguettes,
and we headed off on our 800 mile trip to Bundaberg, Australia.
. . . .
And look what we found upon
Click Here for
our first impressions of Australia
much more of New Caledonia and this region with
some good books.
Some of these could be a great gift: