We are exploring "Ile des Pins," the lovely island in the lagoon of New Caledonia's main island. We have had windy weather and the boat is rolling a bit in the anchorage, but we have gotten ashore each day with a new adventure. Day one was a simple walk around to see some of the prison ruins – old stone walls and buildings built in 1800's to house some of Paris' criminals as well as political prisoners and Algerian deportees. Day two we trekked uphill. We managed to get to the highest point on the island. With the help of a local dog that adopted us for our walk, we went to Pic N'Ga, They don't believe in easy trails to the top – it was pretty straight uphill over some rocky terrain. Our dog would patiently wait for us and then go ahead. Once on the hill, we were rewarded with remarkable views of the the island and the beautiful turquoise waters of the various bays and inlets. You could really see the coral reefs that surround this island and see why sailing these waters can be hazardous to your health and well-being! It was a beautiful clear day, so our views were incredible. The trip down was tricky and our faithful little companion stayed with us. The path is open to the sun and it gets quite warm against the rocky landscape so we were glad we got an early start for a change. We met lots of folks making their way up as we were heading down. We were tuckered out that night.
Today, day three, we got up bright and early to head to market day in the nearby village of Vao. It is the largest village on the Ile des Pins. On Wednesday and Saturday mornings from 6 to 11 am, there is a fresh market. We heard you have to get there early. It was about 7 km away and we planned to walk there. We left Astarte at 0600 and were at the market by 0730, but just about everything was already gone! We did score some carrots and a few green tomatoes and small peppers. The best news was that, like most french countries, along with the vegetables, their was a stand selling cafe and croissants (as well as baguettes, pizzas and other treats.) So we sat at a communal table and tried to communicate with our high school French as we enjoyed our treats.
We then continued our walk around the village of Vao. There is a statue near Baie de St. Maurice that is very interesting. It is a baroque statue – very European looking, surrounded by a fence of native wooden totems. It is a strange mix of modern religion with the ancient beliefs. The statue is a joint religious statue to the early missionaries and a war memorial to those who lost their lives "for France" on the island in World War I and II. Each of the paths we went along had lovely homes with beautiful gardens and lots of birds. There is a 19th century Catholic church in the center of town founded by a Marist priest who converted most of the island during his 30 year stint.
On our walk back, a pickup truck stopped and gave us a ride. She was a medical person who works the whole island and she stopped and picked up every walking person and dropped them off at work and us off near Kuto Bay where we are anchored. Upon our return, there was this giant cruise ship anchored just outside the inner the bay and lots of cruise ship people about. We chatted with the security people from the cruise ship that were at the dock where we tied up our dinghy. They were former Navy men with the India Navy. We had lots of questions about their lives as they did about ours so we chatted for quite awhile as they unloaded more and more folks from the cruise ship. They certainly must feed those people well aboard!
We'll decide where tomorrow's walk will take us – perhaps a shorter one just to the other bay. Today the wind has calmed so it is a bit calmer aboard. This is a really beautiful spot and lots to watch!
Don't forget to pick up your copy of the October issue of Blue Water Sailing magazine – there is a long article and photos from us in it about five years of cruising.
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