After a lovely first night in a deserted anchorage off a sandy beach, we headed the 30 miles to the capital of Noumea to clear into New Caledonia. High rises loomed in the distance as we approached and the harbour was filled with moored boats. This was a big city. The VHF radio started to buzz with voices – all speaking very fast French. High school french lessons had been a long time ago! But we made our way into the Port Moselle Marina for clearance and a berth for a few nights. It was great to pull in and see many boats we knew – in fact we moored right next to Simon and Barbara on Tuarangi who we met in Vanuatu!
Clearance was easy here – we had Tatianna from Biosecurity on board and she took our fresh goods and filled out paperwork. Michael went to the office and completed customs forms that were submitted and we waited for customs to arrive. You have to wait for two hours and if they don't come, you can take your yellow flag down. We have absolutely no paperwork from the process. We will have to wait until Monday morning to go to immigration to complete that step.
There is a festival going on right next to the marina – so lots of music. We have absolutely no CFPs, the local currency (Cour de Franc Pacifique) and banks are not opened until Monday as well. They do have ATMS so we may have to resort to that!!
It seems appropriate that we arrived on September 19 (the 18th in Europe). Why? Well, Scotland had their vote to become independent from UK. New Caledonia was named by James Cook (who else?) because the terrain reminded him of the highlands of Scotland, which was called Caledonia by the Romans. Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom and New Caledonia is still part of France. France claimed the land in 1853 for a penal colony. They sent shiploads of convicts here. After their sentences were served they were encouraged to farm the land. Female orphans were sent in as brides and thus, the French populated the islands. The natives weren't so happy about this as their land was being stolen. The Kanaks, the indigenous Melanesian natives of the region, revolted in 1878 led by Chief Atai – but was quashed by the French military several months later. During WWII, the French and Kanak New Caledonians were recruited to fight for France on the French and Turkish fronts. Americans also arrived here as a base for fighting in the Pacific – bringing with them modernization for the area. They even have a small memorial to that effect in the city. The history continues not unlike most of these Pacific Islands. Colonization was contested by the indigenous people – but here, unlike most of the other countries we recently visited, the colonizers didn't want to give up the land which had heaps of minerals (nickel, iron, chrome etc.) and a place for their prisoners (who could work the mines!). So with lots of assassinations of the Kanak candidates in various elections for independence, the French still really control the country of New Caledonia and the French tricolor flag is still flown. There is a small concession to independence with a Kanak flag, anthem and a separation of some of the land. The Loyalty Islands are predominately Kanak (nothing there that the French want!) and the other areas are French.
So that's the history in brief of New Caledonia...like Scotland, not an independent country.
The good news about a French country – great croissants, breads, wines and cheeses. It is a spendy place though...you get 93 CFPs to $1 US – a croissant costs 80 CFP and a dozen eggs 465 CFP and two onions 136 CFP. Dinner out can range from 2200 and up per meal (without drinks). We went out last night to the snack vans (like in Tahiti). These are vans that serve up full meals – mostly of the Asian style – and we paid 800 CFP each for a meal and 500 CFP for some fries! Unlike Tahiti though, there were no tables and chairs near the vans for dining – so it is all "take-away."
We did lots of walking around yesterday and Michael downloaded some google maps for some of the outer islands here so we can get out of town as soon as possible. The good news is that there is internet here at the marina (not speedy), but is included with the cost of the slip.
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