Sunday, December 13, 2015

Down Time at Ile des Pins

Another big beautiful fine sand beach at Baie du Kuto
One of the most famous down under vacation spots especially for boaters is New Caledonia’s Ile des Pins. It is a collection of reefs, atolls and islands about 60 nm southeast of Noumea, but still within the barrier reef that surrounds New Caledonia. There are only a few passages to enter the barrier reef and as you might imagine, there are a number of shipwrecks where others tried to create their own entrance! The charts are well marked, but one should navigate in good light only.

Sometimes you need a little help from your friends
when parking your "car" on the sandy beaches!
Since our draft is 2.2 meters or just over seven feet, there were a number of places where we could not enter the lagoons as they were too shallow. This is when we would look at our friends on catamarans and wave from a distance! There are many beautiful places where we could anchor on the west side.

Dennis and Brian are off to the boulangerie for baguettes!
It is over a mile's walk and they are only open between
6 AM and 11 AM so you have to get up and get going!

We chose to base ourselves in Baie de Kuto and land cruise, walk the beach and veg out for a week. We had been on the move for some time and it was the right time to just hang on the hook. We played a little Boule with Sue and Brian on S/V Darramy, enjoyed the beach bar patio and the treks to the store for fresh baguettes. In fact, we found a Boule set in the shop so we have our own now!

Dennis found an artist’s studio and boutique nearby so we stopped there to see the painted garments.  Too stiff for me as I know how to paint on fabric and I didn’t think I wanted to wear these. Interesting and good for tourists. But we decided a long time ago that we are not tourists and do not buy something to remember every place we have been. Too much stuff!

I love these fences along the road.
We hung out with a few of the Pacific Circuit Rally boats and met some of the ones who will be heading to Australia. Those from Australia (also known as Oz) gave us some insight on what to see and expect while we are there. Cruisers are the most generous people you will ever meet. There is no scarcity mentality out here. We all share information, tools, skills and time. And friendship!
The snorkeling lagoon.
Baie de Kuto is full of sea life. There are a number of sea turtles that just swim around the boats. We saw rays and a type of fish or shark that attaches itself to the bottom of the boat to eat anything growing there. I think it is called a remora or something like that and I do not have Internet to research it right now. Of course, there are many fish of different varieties and across the way in the inner lagoon, the snorkeling was said to be good. It has been too cold to enjoy snorkeling so we passed on it. Dennis did dive on the boat to check things out underneath and to look for a part that we lost overboard – not to be found.
We rented (or as they say: hired) a car and drove around the island to see the historical sites, visit the caves and have lunch at the Meridian Resort on the far side. We ventured down two-track paths and under low hanging trees and vines to find the places of interest. We saw the prisons and a cemetery from a more brutal time in their history.

There is a lot of danger to avoid when sailing inside
the barrier reef. Here is a sample from Ile des Pins
New Caledonia has a history of the French vs. the Kanaks, the indigenous people. Like many of the island countries we have visited, the native people were not treated well and are just coming into social equality in the last 50 years or less. Of course, change follows a fair amount of unrest, but eventually things are changing.

In fact, the official name of the French territory is Nouvelle-Calédonie and may soon be changed to acknowledge the Kana
k people and culture. There is an accord that stated that “a name, a flag, an anthem, a motto, and the design of banknotes will be sought by all parties together, to express the Kanak identity and the future shared by all parties.” We have seen the new flag which was adopted in 2010 and is flown in the outer islands as the flag. This makes New Caledonia one of the few countries or territories in the world that has two flags.

More breathtaking views of paradise.
We have seen flag and currency changes throughout our travels - especially banknotes and coins. Many countries are removing Queen Elizabeth from the bills and coins. In fact, some of the money we used in those countries last year was not accepted this year. It made for a trip to the bank to exchange old for new. Many of the countries are now printing colorful banknotes on a type of poly material. It makes them hard to counterfeit and they are waterproof. It helps those sailors and locals who somehow manage to get their money wet! 

We enjoyed a nice lunch at the Meridian Resort where
they have a beautiful lagoon and beach that goes for miles.
But the real adventure began after lunch. As we turned to go down the road to the Meridian, a guy was trying to wave us over. We just ignored him and kept going. We had a lovely lunch in a beautiful location. It is always nice to be off the boat for times like this.

The history of prisons on these islands is
old and not very pleasant.
When we came out and turned the wrong way, the same guy came up to the car as we were turning around in a parking area. He was a local and wanted to know if someone could ride to Kuto with us. Then he introduced an attractive young lady. Dennis said, “Sure.” I was skeptical, as usual! As we began to clear out the back seat of this little compact car to make room for her, two more guys wanted to ride along, too! Now I am really unhappy.

The caves were interesting and not real touristy so it
was an adventure finding them on our own.
As it turns out, this was a television crew from Japan filming a travel log for their station and You Tube! Of course, I know how hard reporters work to get their stories and meet deadlines, so I finally warmed up to the idea of this entourage! We stopped at several places so they could film, including a well-known church on the island. Since they had a whole support team following in a van and another car, we looked like we were invading when we arrived somewhere.
This is the "road" to one of the caves.
At one point on the highway, the car was so weighed down with people and gear that we had to make several attempts to get up one of the hills! The guys were going to get out and push, but we finally got enough momentum to make it!

We stopped at the artist's boutique because Dennis had learned that the wife spoke Japanese. So it was fun to watch them all chatter away in Japanese and capture it in their project.

Not sure how we fit five adults into this car!

We continued on to the Baie de Kuto and showed them our boat at anchor. The reporter had never been in a dinghy so we took her and the camera man for a short ride around the anchorage and around S/V Trillium. She was thrilled and so excited. Unfortunately, we didn’t have room for the sound guy to go with us. Then we took them back to shore and said goodbye. We hope to find the video somewhere on You Tube. Maybe some of you will find it before we do!
This was the "gang" we picked up - actually, they
picked us up and it turned out to be fun.

The crew at the boutique.

The sand is so fine it cakes on you. Think powdered sugar!

Our friendly manta ray swimming by the boat.
And here is the Captain swimming by the boat - actually
under it and looking for something!


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