Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Quick Update

A quick update.. will post more later.

My favourite part of the day is catching the local bus. It's really fun watching all the different people get on and off, who you get to sit next to, and driving through the sometimes narrow streets of Noumea where people are standing around smoking, or walking to their business. Also, the bus driver usually has loud music blaring through the bus. On one bus yesterday we had the French version of the hymn, "I know who holds tomorrow."

Everyone was tired today - so we were glad for a slower day, shopping at the markets in the morning and the cultural centre in the afternoon. This is the main shopping day for the kids, and they got some really cool things, and picked up pain au chocolate for morning tea and cold drinks at the cafe. 200 francs for iced tea!

We walked into the centre of town and relaxed for awhile in the shade before getting some lunch at the supermarket. Today is the last day in New Caledonia that you can use the old money, so we discussed who needed to used up the old.

We caught a very nice bus, along with another school group from Australia to the cultural centre where George our guide took us around their amazing building. It was fascinating learning about the history of the Kanak people and viewing their traditional homes.

Monday, September 29, 2014

L'ile Aux Canard

We've had a very full on day today, starting with a morning at the school.
Early start for everyone.
Andrea, Gaylene and I took the local bus from the hotel around to the school to meet up with the kids. We knew it was going to be a good day when the bus driver blared Celine Dion through the bus as we drove around the Bay.

Soon the bus filled up, mostly with school kids.

The teacher at the school gave us a tour in the beautiful morning sunshine.

We all had the experience on sitting in one of the French/English classes. The English class had a project for our kids which they listed on the white-board. We have to make a tourist video of New Caledonia, by getting special video footage and photographs of the places they listed. On Friday they will put it all together as a presentation at the school.

We ate a big school lunch with the rest of the school, running to get under cover while a quick shower fell. We were worried it might rain into the afternoon, as we were scheduled to catch the bus back to Anse Vata to get the water taxi across to Duck Island. But the shower soon passed and the sun came out again although it was very windy.

What a beautiful place Duck Island is! You could almost swim out to it from Anse Vata, it's that close. It was hot and sunny and calm over on the little island. Andrea advised us to put our reef shoes or wear sandals getting out of the boat, which was wise advice, because all around the shoreline was dried out coral - such pretty shapes and textures.

We found a shady spot under an umbrella for us all to sit and store our things. There is only one place to get changed here on this island, and it was a small toilet - long drop toilet, that is. So we held our noses and got into our bathing suits.

Everyone got a chance to go our snorkelling. We heard reports of a baby octopus, a sea snake, a fish with a very long nose - a little like a sword-fish, and lots of beautiful reef fish and coral. Everyone talked about getting stung by something out there that made loud popping sounds. One of the girls said it was like that popping candy. We wondered if it might have been a micro jellyfish of some sort.

After the snorkelling some of the girls sunned themselves, some of us walked around the island (which doesn't take very long at all). It was nice to be able to go for a little swim in the beautiful clear water and to cool off on a very hot afternoon.

This was our little spot for the afternoon. You can see my son, Hugh on one of the loungers and Ben on the other one. The girls chose a different part of the island to sun-tan.

At 4pm, our boat came to pick us up and we travelled back to the mainland.

I have lots more photos to upload, but will try earlier in the morning when the internet connection is better.....

Sunday, September 28, 2014


It is early Monday morning. I have woken at 4am. There is a 2 hour time difference, so I think our bodies are going to need some adjusting time.

We have a full day ahead of us with snorkelling this afternoon, but we finally arrived to warm and cloudy Noumea half an hour after our scheduled time of arrival. The flight struck heavy turbulence, somewhere around halfway. The stewardesses gave up serving drinks - I think they were worried about tea and coffee spilling and burning someone. So we were all rather relieved to spot the beautiful, blue jewelled islands dotted across the ocean as we began the descent into New Caledonia.

Most of the host families were waiting patiently in the airport. As we got off the plane we walked down a glassed corridor where they were waving to us, but we still had to clear customs and collect baggage, and queue at the toilets! I don't think anyone had wanted to go to the toilet on the plane - too  bumpy!

We all cleared customs really easily and walked out to meet the families, who were so lovely and welcoming. One of the families had bought a lei for one of the lucky girls!

The ones that were left, just two girls and the three adults, took the chartered bus into the city. It is about 20 minutes drive from the airport, and we were so thrilled to be here, driving on the wrong side of the road, and taking in all the beautiful scenery. It's very green, and quite mountainous. Little villages and houses dotted along the road - some of the houses are painted very bright colours, and the trees and flowers are beautiful. I can't wait to take some photos of the different foliage.

The harbour in Noumea is so incredibly beautiful. There were lots of families and couples walking along the beach edge. We even saw some swimming.

We arrived at our hotel on the Bay de Citreon, and are getting ready for our full day ahead. Looking forward to hearing how everyone's first night has gone. We hope to take the kids snorkelling out to this little island later today for the snorkel trail.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

New Caledonia Currency Made Simple

The countdown is on! Soon I will be joining my son and a small group of other students on a school exchange trip to Noumea! My first trip out of the country since America in 1993, and trust me, I feel like I'm a beginner at overseas travel all over again. Never mind the intrepid traveller I once was through war zones, refugee camps, remote Indonesian islands, the busy streets of Taiwan and Bangkok and Singapore to be followed by University and work in America, I am a different person to that girl of 20 years ago. Now I'm looking through the eyes of a seasoned adult and a Mum.

New passports, new luggage, new bathing suit and the cellphone has been invented!

We had to go and order our CFP Francs from the bank early because it takes a week to arrive.

CFP stands for Comptoirs Francais du Pacifique. It is a French currency especially designed for the French Polynesian territories. On some currency converters it is listed as XPF.

The highest banknote is 10 000 francs.

10 000 CFP = $133 NZD

This can get very confusing of course. It might make you feel very rich for a little while to be holding what seems to be a large amount of money in your hands, but in reality, the 10 000 franc is worth approximately (depending on exchange rates) $133.00 New Zealand dollars.

The New Caledonia Francs are very beautiful!

5000 CFP = $66 (NZ)

1 000 CFP = $13 NZD

And I think the 500 CFP has to be my personal favourite note. Isn't it pretty!

500 CFP = $6 NZD

There is a coin system too, although I don't have any on me at the moment.

The currency has had an overhaul this year, bringing in new notes - so I am unsure if the following is current.

CFP Coins - I am rounding these down to the nearest hundred. Eg, 100 CFP is approximately $1.33 NZ, but to keep it simple I'm rounding it down.

100 CFP =  $1 NZD

50 CFP =  .60c NZ

20 CFP =   .25c NZ

10 CFP =  .10c NZ

5 CFP =  .05c NZ

2 CFP = .02c NZ

1 CFP = .01c NZ

The coin system may be more simple to keep track of, as it is fairly similar in value to our own currency.

Well, I'm looking forward to spending all that money on French food and souvenirs to bring back for my family!