Saturday, November 17, 2012

Nov 15-17, 2012 – New Caledonia

November 15, 2012 – Thursday – Noumea, New Caledonia

I am booked on an all-day tour to Amedee Lighthouse, which is located on an island by the same name offshore from Noumea. This was not the tour I wanted, but it was the only one available after I boarded the ship a few days ago.  There are two busloads of us taken to the boat basin, where we join two more busloads from a P&O cruise ship (also in harbour today).  Needless to say, there were lots of people on the Mary-D, the large excursion boat which took us out to Amedee Island.

The passengers from the P&O ship were mainly Australians, and many were families with young children, so this was not my ideal situation for a tour. Despite that, the tour was well done. The tour operator put on a superb lunch, with entertainment from a singing and dancing troupe, and some alcoholic drinks were included with lunch.  I enjoyed a lovely fruit punch, along with the BBQ pork, and lots of salads and pasta dishes.

The lighthouse on the island is made of metal, and was dedicated in 1862. I climbed the 300 stairs to the top, and admired the beautiful views of the lagoon surrounding the island. The only real disappointment was the snorkeling, which was available in the lagoon on one side of the island.  I snorkeled after lunch and found the reef was totally dead, although there were a few fish swimming around, and the Striped Sea Snake (poisonous) also made an appearance! They also offered glass-bottomed boat rides and rides out to the edge of the reef, but I didn’t bother with those excursions.  I favored sitting under a shade tree.

I learned from the P&O passengers that on eclipse day their ship had missed being on position on the line of Totality.  Apparently 600 passengers had bought this cruise predicated on that happening, although there was also a large group of passengers who didn’t care one way or the other.  That would be totally devastating for those who expected to observe Totality, but didn’t get the chance.  Apparently the ship left port a bit late, and encountered strong headwinds, and couldn’t get to the position in time.

November 16, 2012 – Friday – Ile de Mare, New Caledonia

I don’t have anything planned for today’s port of call, however there is a free activity this morning where everyone is driven by bus to Wabao village, where the Captain of the Paul Gauguin and the village chief will exchange gifts at a welcome ceremony. So a hundred or so passengers pile into buses and make the 20-minute journey down the road.  We encounter cute children dressed for the occasion, and who sing a few songs. The captain and the chief make brief speeches, and then there is some food for those who decide to stay.  The rest of us return to the ship, or are dropped off at a snorkel area called Yenjele Beach.  The beach looked wonderful, but I stayed on the bus and returned to the ship for lunch, and then had a snooze in a sofa on the pool deck.

I meet some interesting people at dinner in L’Etoile this evening. Two couples are dedicated eclipse chasers, and are from the same university town in New Hampshire.  One couple are SCUBA divers, with the wife having done over 1,000 dives, and the husband having done over 1,500 dives. The wife no longer dives, but her husband continues. The husband of the other couple was an engineer with AT&T before it was broken up, after which he retired and went into the telephone standards industry.  Peter, a Brit living on the Isle of Man arrived at the table a bit late.  He is a live wire, and spends his retirement kite surfing at various locales around the world.  He really likes going to South America, where he asserts the best kite surfing in the world can be found.

November 17, 2012 – Saturday – Ile de Lifou, New Caledonia

The ship is anchored by 8AM, and tenders run to the nearby little village of Easo. The tour I signed up for goes to a beautiful white sand beach near the main town of We on Baie de Chateaubriand. We leave at Noon and return mid-afternoon.  Richard is our tour guide, and does a good job describing their local customs as we travel the half hour it takes to get to our destination.  Only about 10,000 people live on the island, despite it being quite big. Tourism is their only industry, so the economy is not great.  They get about two cruise ships per week on average, and have one 4 star hotel located in the main town of We.

The beach has to be at least 3-4 kms long, and has some very nice coral and fishes, which I snorkel out to see.  The water is a bit cloudy because of the swell coming into the bay, but in spite of this, I enjoy the hour swimming in the tropical waters. I see a few fish, and some live coral, and even a small shark shows itself briefly. There are only about a dozen people on the beach, other than our group of about 30 tourists.

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