Saturday, 31 January 2009

Leon's dead...

A headline in the local paper the other day read that 'Leon has joined the big fishy heaven in the sky'.  And I read it, gasped and said - Oh no! People have been visiting the aquarium and leaving flowers and cards.  Leon almost seems to have a little bit of a Diana quality to him.  It's not every fish that can generate this type of reaction!

Leon was a star attraction at Noumea's aquarium.  He lived in the biggest tank - which is huge and like a giant wall of glass with lots of fish behind it - and he cruised around, watching the people watching him.  He was a napoleon fish and Max was a little bit scared of him because he was sooooo huge.  He was 21 years old and had lived most of his life in the aquarium... Apparently he was great mates with the divers who came into the big tank - cruising in for pats and recognising the different divers.  I hope the fishy heaven is good to him.  We will miss him alot.

Check out the pics here.  Type leon into the search engine and you can see him in all his splendour....

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Let's go to the Park

Noumea has the best parks.  At the bottom of the hill we live on is the digger park - so named by a friend because of all the roadworks and accompanying diggers that took up shop beside it last year.  Now that the road works is finally finished, I guess it should be called the boat park because of the great view out over a marina beside it.  Max now says 'bateau' when we arrive!

I love this park because it's a one minute drive and a five minute walk away.  It's shady and has great playground equipment.  Everything's coded by age group (not that Max's mate Murphy takes any notice of that) and has good soft, squishy stuff under it to make falls slightly less of a saga.

A little further afield is Ouen Toro park.  It's snuggled into the hillside and has serious adventure playground equipment for bigger kids.  It's a great place to hang out in after a swim at Anse Vata. It's funny because parts of town are so run down...but some smart councillor has set aside some serious cash for the parks.  I say, two big thumbs up!

Monday, 26 January 2009

Long time, no blog

Yes - I've been silent of late.  The main reason why I've been so slack is that I have a job!  I'm working at the SPC. It's a great organisation that does all sorts of things all over the Pacific like health awareness programmes, working on preserving fish numbers (I almost said preserving fish - which would be wrong!) and generally working to bring different and very diverse nations of the Pacific together.  Here's the website  

It's not for long, just a short contract that began in November and finishes next week.  I'm gathering statistics on things like child mortality, life expectancy and import/export figures.   I've enjoyed being in a workplace again.  Hopefully I'll be able to pick up some more bits and pieces while i'm here.  

Oh - and this is what's on the opposite side of the street from work.  Lots of people store their kayaks at the SPC so they can take them out for a paddle at lunchtime.  What bliss!

Sunday, 11 January 2009

New Year and noodles

So, it was December 30th and we were in Mare.  We were idly chatting about what we might do for New Year's Eve and given that we were in a hotel without a car, a nearly two-year-old and no restaurants within 9 kms - we would be eating in the hotel.   Right?  Well, maybe not.

On the 30th, a sign went up announcing the New Year's Eve dinner.  It was a buffet - a pretty copious buffet by all accounts, with crab and prawns and roast pork.  Lots of food and unfortunately a price to match.  As we stood by the door to the restaurant, our eyes scanned down to the price...CFP11,500.  That's $220 kiwis - each - before we'd even had a drop of vino.  Ouch!

So we asked if we could eat something from the regular menu - but have it on the lovely balcony in our room.  They checked, verified again - the answer was no.  CFP11,500 was the only option. They knew they had us sucker tourists by the nads.

Or so they thought...

We were also a good 5 kms from the nearest shop, dad reckoned he could walk it, first thing before it go too hot.  He took off at 6am and at 7.15am he joined us for breakfast.  It had got hot, the shop was further than we thought and he'd had to turn back.  This was now becoming an Odyssey. And Charlie took over Homer's part.

We thought he'd take a bike...but he was smarter than that.  He stalked reception for a few minutes and happened to hear that a car rental guy was taking a car back.  Charlie hitched a ride with him to the local shop (think over-sized dairy on steroids).  Sweet.

Charlie bought us crackers, cheese (camembert in a pop-top can), chippies and cashew nuts for our entree.  Our main was 2 minute noodles (complete with bowls and plastic spoons) and desert was fresh mango.  It was all washed down with some very drinkable bottles of red. Perfect.  He hitched another ride home.

We had a hilarious night slurping our noodles on our lovely balcony overlooking the sea.  And the total cost of the evening was about CFP 1000 ($20) each.  Sweet as.   Here are some pics of Mum and Dad with the noodles and Homer himself, enjoying a beer in 2009.

Bonne Annee a tout le monde!

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Recycle your car

When we arrived here we put all our bottles, tins and other re-usables aside to be recycled.  The piles grew for a few days as we searched for the recycling bins.  We couldn't find any, but as we were staying in a hotel we thought that it was just the fault of irresponsible hotel management who couldn't be bothered allowing the guests to recycle.  We were wrong.

There's very little recycling in Noumea.  One area (Mont Dore) started recycling last year.  In the rest of Noumea it's not possible to recycle your everyday waste - at least, not unless you drive out to Mont Dore.  It is changing though.  The first little steps have been taken.  Now cars, batteries, tyres and used oils can be recycled.  Hopefully more stuff will be added to this list during 2009.

It still feels weird to throw out glass.  I do keep some in case a wave of Nigella-ness crashes over me and sends me into a frenzy of pickling, but I end up throwing a lot out.  It's a pity because this little place is so fragile.  If anyone has any ideas for how to reduce and reuse send them my way!  

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Over the sea to Mare

Last week we had our first trip in a plane out of Noumea.  It was very exciting heading out to Magenta airport, the first step on our trip to Mare.  Forty short minutes later and were cruising over the large, flat, green (and strangely holey) island.  Let the holiday begin!

We stayed at the Nengone village hotel (the only hotel on Mare) and we thoroughly enjoyed our very comfortable bungalow - complete with flatscreen TV, aircon and delicious views out over the sea.  In fact - it almost felt a bit posh for we weren't too upset when Max stepped in and trashed the poshness in true almost-two-year old style!

The hotel is nestled around a lovely white sandy beach that had some lovely coral to snorkel around.  It's super-calm because the reef protects a little lagoon that is an astonishing range of different shades of blue.  We had plans to walk to the Shabradahn beach and go kayaking and explore beyond our little haven - but it was HOT (30 degrees plus in the shade) and the food, Max and general holiday mood meant we put those plans on hold for our next trip ;)

So - how was the food?  The best thing was the coconut crab that Charlie and my mum ordered one night.  They got one MASSIVE beast, complete with the necessary tools, to crack into, gnaw on and generally tear apart as comprehensively as possible.  Yum.  The crabs actually spend most of their time on land and have pinchers so big that they crack open coconuts with their bare claws (kinda like tearing of tights with teeth...) and they eat so much of the mighty coconut that they actually taste of coconut.  Wow.  So Mum and and Charlie spent nearly an hour working their way through the crab while Dad and I watched, tasted and pointed out difficult little bits they'd missed.

We'll go back to Mare - maybe to camp or stay in a gite and get to know some of the friendly locals.  Our day in a little rental car was just a taster for the next trip!