After a few days, the weather had really calmed so we moved to a reefy island area called Mato. This was a magical place with water of every color blue. The island actually has a pretty good hill on it with a trail to the top (if you can call it a trail). We climbed up and were rewarded with the most incredible view. We were above some working osprey so we could look down on them as they cruised the skies in search of fish below. The water was so clear, you could actually see schools of sharks along the reefs. As we came down we also spotted what we think were a school of pilot whales....wish we were still at the top for a better view. When Michael went exploring earlier in the day on the beaches in search of nautilus shells, he almost accidentally grabbed a sea snake on the shore. Luckily the snake ran into some shrubs...it does seem there are quite a few in this area. After our hike we went on a snorkel to a nearby reef (swimming distance from the boat). It had a very colorful variety of corals with different structures. There were plenty of fish – including a few of the more friendly shark species. A good sized nurse shark was cruising around where Michael was exploring and a smaller black tip made a pass by Barbara. It was a very nice snorkel though the water was chilly and full wet suits were mandatory.
We enjoyed two very lovely nights in this anchorage but decided we needed to make our way back to Noumea – the big city – to get better weather info and start to think about a departure time for New Zealand. So we sailed until the wind died and had to motor to the big city. Upon arrival we dropped the hook in the bay as we waited to see of the marina would have a space. We lucked out and it was probably the end of zero dollar days (probably for months!)
We have had a little fun in town thanks to the "Inti" folks Connie and Graham also being in the marina. We did a pizza night and that was followed by a bumper car frenzy! There is a small traveling amusement park set up in a nearby parking lot. We joked about playing on the bumper cars and sure enough, we talked the attendant into giving the four of us a deal. It was a blast – with only a little whiplash to claim the next day.
Today (Sunday), we went to the Kanak (the indigenous people of New Caledonia) cultural center called Tjibou. It is a beautiful building and park area. The paths that lead to the exhibition area are filled with descriptions of the various trees and plants as well as rock and wood sculptures. The story of the Kanak and their legends was well told through these items. The exhibit itself was more about the building and contemporary Kanak art. There is a nice display outside of Kanak homes and they were different in many ways from the traditional homes we've seen in other island nations. These are very conical and tall and use stone as well as the wood and thatch from indigenous trees. He thatch is not the palm frond roofing we've seen more often. It was very interesting. The bus ride was uneventful.
Now we play the waiting game and get the boat ready for the tough passage to NZ (though we hope it won't be tough).
Watch this space for when we leave....then you can track our progress on the YIT site.