More of Noumea

Saturday a very wide catamaran became our neighbor. It was a tight fit
to say the least. Our fenders were squished and our Canadian neighbor on
the other side, Larry lent us a couple of his, which are fatter. Susan
was gone when the cat came in and I was sure she’d want to move, but she
was happy since their captain said they’d only stay overnight. They
changed their mind late in the day and we agreed to move first thing in
the morning. This only after the cat’s captain said he had a very thin
hull and was afraid our rubber fenders would puncture his boat. That’s
absolutely preposterous. Hysterical. If his boat is that thin he
shouldn’t be sailing it. Still, we moved yesterday morning. It’s a
pretty good slip, but the pier is much smaller and way more wobbly.
Susan backed the boat in so we can board from the stern ladder and avoid
the pier.

Saturday night Steve took us out to our favorite French restaurant for
dinner. This was our second time and just as good as the first. It’s
about $33 per person for a three course fixed price dinner. We’ve now
sampled 18 dishes there in our two visits and everything is excellent.
We came back to the boat and got Steve to his shuttle for the airport.
We assume he made all his connections….

Yesterday, Susan and I did a museum day. We started out at the Zoo where
the emphasis is birds. We both enjoyed them but were most impressed with
the flying foxes, i.e. bats. Big bats. They’re nocturnal but were moving
around in their cage jockeying for a better place. There were also
smaller bat that huddled all together in one tight ball in their cage.
The endemic and endangered bird is the Cagou. They’re very pretty and
have a nice headdress.

From zoo, it was on to the Tijbaou Center. It’s a Kanak cultural center
that the French made a big deal about building. It’s a big political
move to satisfy the Kanak. The structure is an amazing piece of
architecture that reminds me of the Museum of Modern Art in San
Francisco. It’s a series of huge half finished, local traditional,
thatch roofed house like structures rising 3 or 4 stories tall. The
center has some things on Kanak Culture, including modern art. We both
loved the traveling exhibit of photos of Vanuatu. It made us sorry we
missed it. It made me wish that we’d taken more trips off to the
countryside and met the locals more. Next time. I’d love to come back
here and explore more.

Today we picked up our rental car and went exploring. We trekked off to
the mining town of Thio. There isn’t much there, but it’s on the
north/east shore and we wanted to see life outside of Noumea. The land
is beautiful and during our day we thought its similarities to Hawaii,
Marin County, Scotland and the Australian Outback. The latter wasn’t a
comparison of geography, but of large stretches of uninhabited land.
Outside of Noumea the population drops and suddenly there isn’t anybody
for mile after mile. It’s about 240 miles up the coast to the tip and we
only went a short way in that direction before heading east. It drove
home the point of how big New Caledonia is.

The mines have stripped the tops off of tall mountains and left red
dirt/rock outcroppings that look like they come from Monument Valley
Utah. We learned that the mine owners now have to re-forest, but the old
ones stick out badly. Below these outcroppings are rich green forests.

We’’e now back at the boat and pooped from two days as tourists. Susan
just had her dinner: a piece of cake from a local patisserie. I probably
do something simple: open a can.

Gerard arrives tomorrow and I’ve only got a couple of weeks left on the
trip. It’s been just amazing, but I miss home and will be glad to have a
hot shower and sleep in my be everyday.