Friday, February 7, 2014

Report # 40 Noumea, New Caledonia February 7, 2014 Friday Very cloudy, extremely humid, 86 degrees

Arriving to Noumea
Well, here we are at Noumea, on the island of Grand Terre, and the capital city of New Caledonia. Along with several other smaller islands.the total population is 245,580 of mostly Kanak natives and French citizens. These islands are situated halfway between Fiji and Australia in the Coral Sea.

Bay de la Moselle

Goats on the hillside

Kayakers and wave runner

Narrow road to little island
A lone sailboat
Boat harbor
We are here in the hot season (mid November to Mid April) and also the cyclone season. We have narrowly missed the last system, Cyclone Edna, that blew through here a few days ago. The average temperature is 75 degrees, but the humidity is extremely high, making it feel much hotter.
Drums and all
Original New Caledonians
Kanak warrior

Putting on a show

The economy is based on nickel reserves, with New Caledonia producing 20 to 30% of the world's supply. Agriculture is second, and tourism has to be a close third. It is no wonder that Noumea is a huge resort and beach destination with high end hotels, restaurants, and boutiques galore. In fact, the second largest barrier reef in the world is here, earning it the UNESCO World Heritage Site distinction since 2008.

Coming alongside the pier
Docked and unloading
Amsterdam docked right in town
Cruise terminal
Inside the terminal building
There are 3500 species of plants, including orchids and ferns, 4300 animals, and 1000 different species of fish that live in some of the largest lagoons in the world. Some unusual animals include the cagou, an endangered bird that barks like a dog. No kidding. They cannot fly, but can run really fast. Another strange creature is the dugong, or sea cow, a close cousin to the manatee. They live in the lagoons and eat marine plants. Last is the kaori trees, one on the island measures 40 meters tall and is said to be over 1000 years old.
The "Ho-Ho" bus price was good
We have been here twice, and have taken every tour to see the main attractions. Today, we chose to do the town on our own, since they make it very easy to do so. The best deal here was the Hop On Hop Off bus (HoHo) for $15. per person. That would take us to one dozen stops, where we could get off or stay on to any place we chose. It was good for all day until the last coach at 5pm. Compared to taking the little yellow train ride through the shore excursions on the ship, we saved over $110. And that was only for a two hour ride.

So we boarded the bus right outside the terminal building at about 10 am. It took about 20 minutes for the bus to fill with passengers, but we expected that to be the case. 

Following the coastline, the bus went to the morning market, where kiosks were set up with veggies and fruits along with souvenirs stands. 

Morning Market
Skies were fairly clear this morning
A buoy
Port Plaisance was next for shopping, followed by Citrons Beach, one of the "clothing optional" beaches. 

Citrons Beach
Citrons Beach
You should have seen the rubber-neckers on our bus trying to see some of these bathing beauties. We did see one, however. 

The more family-oriented beach was a stop at Anse Vata Beach. A stop for Duck Island would give people the opportunity to catch a boat to this nearby island for a day of swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing. 

Anse Vata Beach
Anse Vata Beach
Anse Vata Beach
Narrow strip of sand
Locals on the narrow beach
Palm-lined beach

Not crowded today
Yellow Tchou Tchou Train

Le Meridien - 5 star hotel
Our destination was the stop at Le Meridien, a five star hotel and resort, right on a private stretch of beach. You cannot see this property from the bus stop, but we knew to walk up the road a piece, then follow the sign on the road that led down to the hotel. No buses are allowed to drive down their driveway. We were welcomed to the hotel lobby that faced the ocean below. Remembering a visit here a few years back, we knew to walk through the lobby and follow the staircase down to the waterside and drop dead gorgeous pool area.

Entrance to Le Meridien
Hotel pool
Looked inviting

They wanted $17 to use a lounge on the beach

Obviously, no takers, except for hotel guests
Unadorned beachfront

The hotel's outdoor restaurant
Posing by the pool
Pool hut and restrooms

It was here that we ran into our hosts with a few other guests, who were enjoying a cool swim in the water. We were told that in order to use one of the hotel's lounges, they wanted $17. each to use them. No one wanted to pay that, so all of the lounges were empty. Except for the hotel guests, of course. Some of our friends did go to the hotel's beach restaurant, ordered some food and drinks, then used the beach with no problems. 

Beach side walkways

Fish ponds in gardens
We simply strolled around the grounds, taking photos, then went back to the bus stop. Wouldn't you know it.....we missed the bus by 2 minutes, so we had to wait almost 1/2 hour for it to come back. Unfortunately, we did not have a schedule, which is probably island time anyway. They come when they come.

Hotel's poolside ballroom
Patio of the hotel
A cool watercolor

Yellow-blooming tree
Since the ship was not leaving until after 6:30pm, we had plenty of time. Guess we could have walked down the hill from the Meridien, but there were few sidewalks and the traffic was flying on by us. 

Oh good.....lunch
The next stop was at Palm Beach, where we followed the side streets to an advertised Italian cafe called La Dolce Vita. The attraction here was a wood-fired oven where they! All types of pizza, and really, really good too. But lunch almost did not happen as planned. We arrived there at 1:25 pm, dying of the heat, and in need of something ice cold to drink. One of the waitresses said they were closing at 1:30 pm for a shift change. We both said , Oh NO, with an unmistakable body language that said it all. Disappointed, big time. With that, the owner came outside to call us back, and we were seated promptly inside the cool restaurant. Since this cafe was the ONLY one like it in town, we would not have been happy with anything else.

Lunch rush was over

Patio seating
Best way to cook pizza
Wood-fired oven
Lunch was a delicious margherita pizza, topped with tomatoes and loads of cheese. The beer was No. 1, a local brew we understand. We also polished off half a liter of ice water as well. The humidity can be a killer, and if the sun had been out full bore, it would have been worse. Within the hour, the patrons eating with us left, and the staff were setting up for the dinner crowd. Time to go.

Local Noumean beer

Number 1 pizza....margherita
The following stops on the way back to the ship were the Aquarium, McDonald's, The Melanesian Museum, and the Noumea City Center at Place des Cocotiers. Finally, the last stop was at the ship where we began. We got off at the park at the Place des Cocotiers, where we strolled among the local kids who were hanging out for the afternoon. Many of the shops surrounding the square had closed for the afternoon, so shopping was out. And we really did not need any souvenirs from here. 

Some of the hotels
Place des Cocotiers 
One of many cafes

Local the hat

Flower beds

St. Joseph Cathedral

Casino (supermarket) at Port Plaisance
What we needed to do was pay a visit to the local grocery store called Casino Supermarket. It is right across the street from the ship, and they have everything you may need. That is, except for alcohol or wine. The aisles that had the wines were cordoned off, but why? The rumor had it that alcohol sales were cut off shortly after noontime, because there is a huge problem with teen drinking on the island. Who knew? Anyway, with the wine shoppers on this ship, we are certain they lost a whole lot of revenue today. 

Searching for stuff
The cold section of the market
Fish market
Lobster crackers
Darkest red beef we have seen
Cooked meats
Freshly baked baguettes

One ear of corn was $5.00
We found our few items we needed, including two packages of Australian Tim Tams, a most delectable chocolate covered crisp cookie. They were pricey, but will be so worth it.

Sailaway was held in the Crows Nest, but we stayed outside on deck nine as the lines were dropped, chatting with Barbara H, our port guide. We keep each other up to date with pizza restaurants that we discover along the way, since she is also a dedicated fan. Just as we were talking, the ship's horn was blasted three times, almost driving us overboard. When you are not expecting it, that can be startling. In the past, the Captain usually warns the folks outside first. Not tonight. After the horn blasts, all of the cars shoreside blew their horns as they passed us.
Getting ready to sail by 7pm
Harbor at night

Leaving the terminal
Casino Supermarket
Downtown lights
Finally cooled off
All of us, without exception, were tired tonight at dinner. Everyone remarked about the humidity, which takes its toll on you. Salads and a light meal was our best bet, as we sailed towards the next port of Isle des Pins tomorrow. The Captain must have pulled in the stabilizers, since we were rolling pretty good during dinner.

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