New Caledonia – early!

From Fiji we were scheduled to head to Vanuatu for a day, but Cyclone Oma had other ideas. We were forced to skip another stop and head on to New Caledonia a few days early.

The arrival into New Caledonia was another beautiful passage past islands and along the coast line. New Caledonia was named because it reminded English explorer Captain Cook of Scotland. It is, however, a French country. We picked up the local Pilot several hours before docking and came in between the UNESCO recognized barrier reef and the island. There was a lighthouse visible from several miles out that I expected to be a very impressive structure as we got closer. It was, on closer observation, just a very effectively designed utilitarian object. Of course, Dan was on the other side of the ship, so no photo of that.

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Approaching the port in New Caledonia
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The 
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The port is just around this corner

As we came around the island and got closer to the city, we noticed some kite surfers in the distance. As the ship approached they came out further from the shore and turned out to be very skilled surfers who seemed to be welcoming us to the area. We even got a wave from one of them. A couple them took a spill and it was exciting to watch how quickly and efficiently they got back on their boards and continued on surfing.

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One of the impressive kite surfers
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Thank goodness for zoom lenses,, we could see how friendly they are!

Just before we made the turn into the port the captain called our attention to an odd craft on the port side, it was a solar powered catamaran currently sailing the world and calling attention to the condition of the oceans. The ship was named Breguet Race for Water, if anyone wants to learn more. It was an unexpected confluence of sailing schedules and captain seemed pretty interested in it.

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The solar powered catamaran our Captain was so excited to see

We were greeted at the port by traditional dancing and drum and percussion music.

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The drums were loud enough to hear on the ship without amplification
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The dancers were pretty spread out, it was quite a sight

The ship parked in a commercial dock and there was a large container ship being loaded up as we pulled in, there were large cranes moving shipping containers in to place and it was both elegant and precise in pretty amazing ways.

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Containers all stacked up. This is just a small sample. The container port is a major port for the region.

Because we were in a commercial port, we were bused from the Arcadia into the Ferry Port closer to town. We were able to find postcards almost immediately, but the first night we were too late to catch the post office for stamps. So, we wrote the cards and the next morning headed back to town to find the post office.  We tracked the place down and guessed at which queue to register for, waited for our number to be called and lucked out! We were in the right place and we had a very nice woman helping us. She forgave my butchering of the French for the number 14, counted out our postcards (yep, we had 14) and then asked “pretty stamps, yes?” We agreed we wanted pretty stamps and she gave us a selection, some of plants and some sea turtles. Of course we affixed them and mailed the cards before either of us thought to get a photo of the stamps. This is not the first time the person helping us at the post office made sure we had good stamps for our post cards, and it is always fun when they are as excited about our stamps as we are.

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New Caledonia is known for wood carving and this is just one example of many around town.
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The Catholic Cathedral as seen from the ship. There are nice stained glass windows inside and a statue of Joan of Arc outside.

After our successful post card moment, we meandered around the city of New Caledonia, stopping at a number of the markers on the history walk. We learned a few things about the city and were intrigued by some of the artifacts that were encased in the signposts, but never explained or attributed. It was cloudy and a little rainy and Cyclone Oma was catching up with us so we skipped what was likely an ambitious walk up to the lookout point, but saw a number of nice sights. The French did not make significant investment in New Caledonia, so while it was a nice and cosmopolitan city, most of the buildings were utilitarian. We sampled the local beer, but fell prey to a rookie mistake of getting it at the Ferry Port and were overcharged by an extreme amount, but we fell for it. I enjoyed my beer, a flavorful pilsner, but I think Dan might have enjoyed his a little less as he fumed a bit over the price.

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The most expensive beers of any trip, ever….

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