Sunday, 30 January 2011

A morning at Ilot Maitre

We took the kids and Max's best mate Murphy out to Ilot Maitre this morning.  The winds were predicted to pick up in the afternoon so we went out on the early (8am) boat to the enjoy the morning calm.

It'a about half an hour in the big Escapade Ilot Maitre boat.  The boys loved sitting up in the  big chairs and peering out the windows to watch the bubbles as the boat plowed its way over to the Ilot. 

We've been out to the Ilot a few times.  There's a pretty little snack (with very slow service) and even a well-equipped playground.  You can set up under the trees and just stretch out on the sand to soak up some rays and enjoy the gorgeously clear water.  It's a reserve so there are lots of fish and turtles.  I've also seen rays and even a cunning little octopus hiding in the rocks.

The island is known for it's sea snakes but I didn't see any today.  Normally they curl up under the wharf and sunbathe on the rocks.  It's always a bit of a buzz to have one of their little heads popping up beside you when you're snorkeling.

The boys had a gorgeous morning, playing with their new friend Allan and jumping around Polly.  They had lovely pruney fingers by the time we'd finally got out of the water.

Next time we'll be more organised and bring over a pram so Polly can sleep and we'll spend the whole day.  It's stunning!

Friday, 14 January 2011

Vania - continued

10.30am and she's really blowing.  

We're still only on orange alert and it sounds like the cyclone is losing intensity.  I'd hate to see a category 5 storm - this one's already very impressive.

We're all inside, the wind sounds like it's about to take the roof off but we feel very safe.  Luckily the power's still on so we're keeping the kids amused with dvds.

The trees outside are getting well and truly buffetted but so far all looks pretty good outside.  No flooding and only a bit of debris around.  We'll be hanging on for the next 12 hours!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Cyclone Vania

Well, it's a cyclone according to the NZ websites but still a strong tropical depression on the French ones.

Whatever it's called we've already got weather that resembles an oddly warm Wellington Southerly.  Lots of wind and some impressive rain.  We're on yellow alert which means there's 'cyclonic activity' in the area.  The Loyalty Islands sit out to the east of the Mainland and they are on the next alert level.  They will probably go up to the highest alert (cyclone about to hit) this afternoon.  If the current forecasts are right, in Noumea we will probably get the nastiest of the weather tomorrow.  Hopefully it will curve away and we'll just get tickled by the edges of the cyclone.

So what do we do when this happens? Well, we're all stocked up with candles, water and yummy food.  I'm trying to think of ways to entertain the kids inside for a couple of days.  The petrol stations are really busy as everyone's filling up and in all the supermarkets people's baskets are full of water and torches.

Down at the beach I spotted a few guys in the water with surfboards.  It looked like a lot of fun. Normally the beaches here have absolutely no swell as we are protected by the reef.  Maybe I'll drop Charlie down at Anse Vata for a surf after I pick him up from work tonight.

It's actually a bit exciting!  

Monday, 10 January 2011

Isle of Pines revisited

We said we'd be back and we were.

We spent a couple of days before Christmas there and it was heaven to be able to laze in the water in the heat that hit mid-December.

Staying at the Kou Bougny  was nice.  We were six and there were four of us all lined up in a row like little mummies on the top floor of the Case.  I thought we'd melt without airconditioning but the fan actually did the trick.  I think the nicest part of the Kou Bougny is its restaurant which is right on the beach.  The hotel's little odd because  the accommodation and the restaurant are separated by a road but you get used to that.

A cruise boat came in on the last day and we all had breakfast and took bets on how they were going to get all the cruise people off the boat and onto the island.  They came down on the lifeboats!  How cool is that.  Not being too keen on sharing that stunning beach with however many hundreds of people are on one of those cruise ships (I think this was the Pacific Dawn), we took off for the Natural Aquarium.

It was great to go back up to the Natural Aquarium.  Polly loved playing in the shallows and we all cracked up at a family who decided to don life jackets for the walk in...It's only 10 minutes by the way and we did it with mum and dad and the two kids!  The tide was pretty high but the water only came up to mid-thigh.  There were lots of little fish to keep us company as we waded over from Chez Regis.

The Tour of Caledonie

WIth the countdown to our exit from New Caledonia underway, it's time to stop talking and start doing.  So the first thing we've done this year is take the little Fiat out for a big spin.  Here's a little summary of what we did...
Noumea to Kone
3 hours
The drive takes you up to Bourail and then you're nearly there...really...just another hour to go.  The West Coast is pretty much the same.  The road gives you some glimpses (so very tantalising in the heat) of the lagoon but largely goes inland.  The mountains of New Cal rise up on your right and the road stretches out in front.  The only real excitement is waiting for the next nutty driver to overtake on a blind corner, pull over with out indicating in a 110 km/hour zone or just sit on your tail until we slam on the breaks. Ha ha!

So what's in Kone?  To be honest, not much.  It's a town that's booming with the new mine being built.  The mine's impressive, with a massive new coal electricity plant, and a HUGE conveyor belt that will dump the nickel-filled soil in front of the smelter.  And it takes up a big corner of a very pretty beach...I wonder how that will look in ten years time?

Kone to Poum
2 hours
With the kids in the car we were cruising.   The road winds up and over the hills and the vegetation gets stragglier and the landscape gets rockier.  Suddenly, the road drops down and you're right outside Poum.  

We stayed at the Malabou Beach.  It was perfect.  A nice little beach, very good service (so very rare in New Cal), and lots of stuff to do.  

We loved the kayaks and the pool.  The restaurant was fine, with an evening buffet.  For us (and the kids) the best thing was the fresh pasta cooked on demand.  Nothing flash - but who wants flash with two under five year olds?

The bungalows are nice and some have great views.  We all fitted nicely.  Well, the kids thought it was nice - mum and dad could do without having the kids sucking on their toes at 3am...

Poum to Poindimie
5 hours

We did this day really slowly because it was stunning.  I hadn't really appreciated just how big New Cal is before we looked out over the massive plains up the north.  From there, the road narrows down and seriously winds up and over the Col d'Amos.  

And wow - the views from up there are gorgeous.  The East Coast has fabulous waterfalls that crash down from the mountains (highest at 1600m) and into the sea.  

There are white sand, palm tree-lined beaches and all along the road are little stalls selling fresh fruit and soapstone carvings.  Everyone waves at you as you pass by and people stop to chat.  It is just so laid back and just about my ideal picture perfect place for a pacific holiday.

We stopped to buy stuff and take a dip at the bottom of the spectacular Tao Waterfall.  It was breathtaking.

Our little fiat did us proud.  I was nervously counting the kms as we neared Hienghene (and the petrol station is 12 kms after Hienghene, just to double my nervousness...).  We didn't fill up in Kone or Poum so we were running on vapour by then.  That didn't diminsh the fun of crossing the Bac de la Ouaieme.  There's no bridge, so you get ferried over on a little barge.  Fantastic!  

Poindimie to Noumea
5 hours (including a wee barf from max and lots of sanity stops)

Man, it can rain on the East Coast!  It was pouring when we left the very picturesque Chez Simone's.  We all squeezed into her new but traditional-style bungalow.  The place is gorgeous with little paths and carvings all over.  We felt like we were in a warmer version of NZ with all the pungas around us.  I would have loved to have spent a few days up there with no kids!  This picture is taken from the balcony of her bugalow. Lush.

The trip back was long.  The car's a bit smelly now but we had fun.  A stop at the Saturday market in Bourail for some tropical flowers, brochettes and for Polly to play hide and seek under the tables was a good move.  The local ladies loved her...I was a little less happy about chasing after her in 33 degrees.

So we came home with a pack full of stinky clothes, a full memory card on the camera and a nice relaxed attitude to 2011 and all the great stuff we'll do.  

On y va!