Noumea - Back to the big city

Category: Ships Log
  Noumea_cover  

October 29th - November 5th

Hanging out in the capitol city of Noumea, New Caledonia.

 

Entering Noumea harbor, we could see large buildings and hotels looming along the waterfront. Sadly, our time of visiting rural tropical islands is pretty much done (at least for now). As we approached the marina, we saw a familiar boat coming towards us. It was Capriccio, our Australian friends we started with from Fiji. We rafted together for a few minutes to catch up and wish them a safe passage. Hopefully we will see them again when we get to Australia!

A few minutes later, we were motoring into a slip at the Port Moselle Marina where we could complete the clearing-in procedures. One of the best things about clearance procedures in New Caledonia is that they are free! This is the only country we visited where there is no fee for Customs, Immigration, or Biosecurity. About an hour after checking in with Customs, the Biosecurity official stopped by for our inspection. Luckily we had used most of our fresh food (except for some veggies from Lifou, which were okay to keep), so all they took away was a bag of garlic and our last egg. With the formalities out of the way, we set off to explore our new surroundings.

 

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The Port Moselle Marina. It is quite large!

 

Noumea is a large city and has a modern French feel to it. The majority of the population seem to be white Europeans. As you walk down the street, most are dressed very professionally, in business clothes. No more tropical shirts for business owners here! The main shopping drag is lined with high rise buildings, and expensive clothing and jewelry stores. The sad thing is, the native Kanaks appear to be a minority in the city, and are the only homeless people or people that appear to be living close to poverty. It’s a startling contrast when compared to the vibrant village life we witnessed in Lifou (where whites were the minority). But I guess that’s a big city for you. Unfortunately, we did not have the time or money to venture outside Noumea to see how the rest of the people on Grand Terre live. I’m sure things are very different outside the main capitol city. On the positive side, we could stock up on baguettes and brie at the grocery, the local market is right next door to the marina (where besides produce, you could also get inexpensive, fresh croissants), and the marina offered free internet and hot showers.  

 

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Some artistic graffiti on a nearby building.

 

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The St. Joseph cathedral towers over the downtown area of Noumea.

 

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At the fish market, these massive ornate spiny lobsters were for sale. I couldn't find any info on how long these guys can live, just that this is a fast growing lobster. Hopefully that means they aren't super old!

 

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Stocking up on fresh veggies at the market.

 

We decided to stay in the marina for the next few days so we could take care of a few boat repairs before leaving for Australia (another tear in our genoa sail, a broken belt in our wheel pilot, and try to figure out why we can’t get our wind vane to work). While in the marina we ran into a cruising friend we hadn’t seen since Papeete, Tahiti, a single-hander from Germany named Gerhardt. He is also heading to Australia (though a bit further south than us) where he will sell his boat and embark on his next adventure, a bicycle tour of Mongolia! On Halloween, Gerhardt talked us into going out for the night to the Baie de Citrons (Bay of Lemons) to check out the several bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Surprisingly, the French have embraced Halloween (I had assumed this was a holiday primarily celebrated in America). Just like in America, the grocery store had an entire aisle devoted to Halloween decorations, costumes and candy. And earlier in the evening, we were pleasantly surprised to see kids in costume walking up and down the docks asking for "Bonbons?" We ended up getting more trick or treaters at our boat than at any marina in the U.S.! At the Baie de Citrons, all the bars were decorated and at least half the people milling about were in costume (unfortunately, we couldn’t locate some costumes we’d brought along, so were dressed as cruisers). It was fabulous people watching!

 

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Even the dogs were in costume at the bars!

 

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The Baie de Citron by day. It gets very windy here in the afternoon and is a popular spot for windsurfing and kiteboarding.

 

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Gotta love the marine life themed beers in the South Pacific...

 

During our stay at the marina, when we tired of boatwork, we checked out some of the local sights. One day we walked over to the cultural museum and spent a couple hours learning more about Kanak culture. They had some great exhibits, including one about the wood carvings used in the ceremonial round huts. Carvings are an important part of a hut; the door posts are carved, almost life-size carvings of ancestors are mounted inside the hut, and the top of the hut is crowned by a carved spear that is similar to a totem pole. We also learned the Kanaks are really into sacred stones. Different rock shapes endow a stone with different magical qualities; the Kanaks use these stones to ensure everything from crop success to fertility to plentiful water. It is so interesting to see how the cultures change from one Pacific island to the next! Another day we hopped on the bus and visited the Noumea aquarium. It’s a decent sized aquarium with a (surprisingly) reasonable entrance fee (1000 francs, or about $10). The best thing about visiting the aquarium is being able to see the local fish and invertebrates swim in front of you while referring to the ID placard on the wall. We were soon able to familiarize ourselves with many of the reef species we could see in New Caledonia.

 

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Chris posing with wood carvings from Kanak round huts at the cultural museum.

 

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Enjoying the large main tank at the aquarium.

 

Now, after about a week in Noumea, we finished with the most important repairs and a good weather window has opened up for sailing to Australia. However, so that our entire experience is not just of the city, we will anchor at a nearby island later today and see if we can’t do some snorkeling before we leave for Australia (we can’t leave a country and not go snorkeling at least once!)!

 

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