Thursday, October 2, 2014

Noumea Town

We sat in the hot sun this morning and practiced our French with a small group of school kids, while we waited for everyone to arrive. Sunscreen, mosquito repellant, selfies, snacks…. Seems to be the modus-operandi first thing in the morning.

We headed off to Anse Vata in the local bus. While the kids explored the shops, we adults sat and had coffee, a milo milkshake and pain au chocolat, before we walked along the shore towards the Aquarium.

It was interesting to see so many tropical fish in the Aquarium, and to recognize some of the fish that were seen while snorkelling at Duck Island and on the glass-bottomed boat tour at La Pare Armadee. The Turtle pool was the definite favourite with everyone, and it helped that they had shaded seating, so while resting and being entertained by about 5 turtles, we were lucky enough to still be there when the staff came to feed them.

After the Aquarium we wandered next door to have lunch at Quick. Quick is a French fast food restaurant, very similar to McDonalds, but definitely not quick!

We then walked around to the Bay de Citreon for a swim and a relaxing afternoon. It’s quite a busy place with shops and restaurants across the road, and there were many people sunbathing and swimming. Some of our girls swam out to the pontoon anchored a little ways off the beach.

I think the highlight of today was the Le Choo choo train tour around Noumea.

We all crammed into the back carriage, leaving the front two empty. Our guide was a lady named Lida, who we recognized straight away because she had been helping the other day at La Phare Amedee. She has a very distinctive voice, an American accent, although we later found out that she is originally from The Netherlands.

She gave us an interesting talk about the history of the island, pointing out important landmarks. The Americans, it seems, have had a big influence here, building 5 hospitals, after they occupied New Caledonia during WW2.  Lida and the train driver took us up to the top of a hill so we could look out over the city and all the way over to the Lighthouse island.

There were canons up there that the Americans had used during the war. On the way back, Lida took us through the old French colonial part of Noumea, with their pretty houses and colourful exteriors and the shuttered windows. Because there was no glass available for windows at the time they were built, the shutters were practical for their ventilation as well as protection.

Lida wanted to show us her favourite building. I think she is quite passionate about it, as she wanted to walk us all the way around us to show the graffiti art that the young people of Noumea had done on the building. It is a day once a year that they all come up there and express themselves in this art form.

From Rosa Parks to Amy Winehouse, it was quite impressive and as Lida said, all done from spray cans. It was a lonely place though and we found an area around the back where someone had made a home behind the iron gates.

From here we drove back into the center of town to catch the bus back to school. Tomorrow the kids will spend most of the day at the school puttin ghteir presentation together and in the afternoon join in some sporting games and activities.

Sunset at Bay de Citreon.

The Lighthouse Island

Everyday since we arrived in New Caledonia, the locals and the tourists have been telling us, “wait until you go to La Phare AmedeeIsland. That will be your best day.”

Well, yesterday was that day. We were all very excited about it, and the weather looked to be promising.

Down at the docks, there were a couple of other school groups waiting. Looked like it was going to be a busy day over on the island.

It took about 45 minutes to get there, and we all jumped off and walked down the long, beautiful jetty.

How do you explain the beauty that is La Pharre Amedee? It is not easy because it is so incredibly beautiful it takes your breath away.

Right in the middle of the island is a huge white lighthouse. Unfortunately we were not able to climb it as they are renovating it.

We found a nice little spot under an umbrella, right on the water. Everyone went off to change, and came back to excitedly report that the toilets were nice and there was toilet paper in them! But not to look up!

Why? Because right above our heads in the girls toilets was the most enormous spider.

 So much to do on the island. The glass bottom  boat, the boat trip out to the reef, the luncheon, the coconut-tree climbing and shredding demonstration, as well as an island dance performance, not to mention swimming and snorkelling and paddle-boarding.

 Most of us went on the glass bottomed boat first, and were treated to reef sharks who liked playing with the boat. They somehow attache the top of their heads to the glass and suction them on there and go for a ride.The guide called them “the lazy sharks.” And we saw some of the beautiful coral, fish and the highlight – a turtle. The colours of the water out at the reef were like jewels. Incredibly beautiful.

Of course, one of the things that we all were fascintated with was the Tricot Raye – the sea snakes. Brown and black or blue and black stripes, they were everywhere on the island. Some were even mating under the porch outside the little souvenir shops.

 We were told they were afraid of humans and that even though they are among the most venomous snakes in the world, that they wouldn’t bother us if we didn’t bother them, and that their mouths are too small anyway to bite human flesh. But, we had a couple of close encounters, in spite of their fear of humans. Mrs. Rust, sunbathing on the beach had one crawl right along side her, so quickly in fact, that we didn’t have enough time to call out and warn her until it was very close. We also saw them cruising through our towels and clothes towards the end of the day. One of the workers on the island warned us to check our bags before we headed back to the mainland!

Spot the snake in this photo. Actually, there were two (but you might only be able to see one)! Crawling through out things. You can see all of us lined up at the edges, staying well away until the snakes slithered off into the water.

 What a fantastic day it has been. At lunchtime we were treated to a smorgasbord lunch of all kinds of food. Salads and roast meat, prawns and crab and mussels,  followed by desert of cake, fruit and icecream. Then while we were eating the staff put of a wonderful pacific island dance for us – with live music of drums and ukeleles. They even chose some of our girls to join in the fun.

The rest of the afternoon we just lazed aorund on the beach, browsed in the little shop, swam and snorkelled and suntanned.

The locals were right. La Pharre Amedee is  unforgettable.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Cultural Centre Visit

Yesterday we spent most of the afternoon at the Cultural Centre.

When you first drive in, your view is arrested by the incredible architecture of the place. It's stunning!

George was our guide for the afternoon. He had a lovely hat.

The art was amazing. These photos are from some of the exhibitions we were allowed to photograph.

Outdoors they have reconstructed a traditional Kanak village. George told us it took two weeks to build the chief's hut, in spite of it's intricate construction, because the whole village helps in the making.

While we were outside, George pointed out a tiny fern-like leaf in the grass. When you touch it, it curls up into itself. It had a special name, but I can't recall it at the moment. It was lots of fun, and soon the entire group were dotted all over the hillside, filming this little plant reacting to the slightest touch.