Friday, May 23, 2008

First Dives of the Season

We've come around the north end of New Caledonia and are traveling slowly down the northeast coast. We were told that the water tends to be clearer this side - and that's what we've found. We've snorkeled and made a couple of dives. The wind has, unusually, been coming out of the southwest and that has reduced the chop on this side.

The visibility is not great - about 25 feet - but it's diveable and there are plenty of distinctive fish. We spent two nights at 'Baie de Pam' and dived twice off the reef just outside the anchorage. The coral was in good condition - there were even some sprigs of soft coral. We saw two species of anemone fish, a large puffer, a large stingray, and many smaller fish some of which are unique to these islands.

We're now about 12 miles further southeast, anchored behind a small sand island 'Ile Poudioue' near 'Passe Ballade' through the barrier reef. We are close to where Captain James Cook first landed in New Caledonia on 5 September 1774. He landed on Ile Poudioue and named it 'Observatory Island'. It was here he observed an eclipse of the sun on 6 September 1774.

On the island there is a monument to Captain Huan de Kermadec - of the 'Esperance' - who was buried here - the first Frenchman and European buried in New Caledonia.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Arrived in New Caledonia

We've arrived in Koumac, New Caledonia after a six day passage.

The passage was troubled by a persistent large swell from the south, originating from some gales just north of New Zealand. The lows and their cold fronts are not reaching this far north yet, but their effects on the seas are. Our winds were generally good - 15-18 knots SSE - but in the last 24 hours they moved a bit too far forward.

Instead of heading to Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, we headed with a better wind angle to Koumac on the northwest coast of Grande Terre, the main island. Koumac is a small town but it is a clearing port and has a marina. We arrived late Tuesday and today went into the marina to meet with Customs and Quarantine. Our passports are being sent to Immigration in Noumea, so we'll be here a few days.

The Quarantine person took all our vegetables and fruit, so this afternoon we trekked into town to buy a whole new supply. It's a 30 minute walk but we were lucky enough to get a ride both ways, from the same guy!

Once we're ready to leave Koumac - we have to buy fuel and wait for our passports - we go in search of dive sites. From what we saw yesterday, the water in the lagoon is not very clear - we may have to dive outside the barrier reef. There's a town on the northeast coast (Hienghene) that reportedly has good diving so we may well go there.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Preparing to Leave

This is it. We're about to leave Bundaberg (and Australia). Over the past few days we've been furiously shopping for food - we like to buy most of our non-perishables when we have a rental car and access to large supermarkets. While cruising we mainly buy bread and fresh vegetables in the villages we visit.

We plan to visit only New Caledonia and Vanuatu before returning to Australia in October. Last year we came through those countries very quickly as we were hurrying to reach Australia by the start of the Cyclone Season.

We have another motive though. If we visit just those two countries, Tigger will only have to stay in Austrlian Quarantine for 30 days. We're going to put him through it this time so we have more flexibility about where we go and what we do in Australia. We'd like to see more of the country - maybe in a camper - and that means Tigger must be imported.

So we'll be covering a much smaller distance this season and making just four passages. But I will need to brush up on my French. Sacre bleu!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Australia Zoo

Our last tourist act for this visit to Australia was to drive down to Australia Zoo - The Home of the Crocodile Hunter (Steve Irwin).

The zoo has become a memorial to Steve Irwin with his image (and merchandise) everywhere. His family seems to to trying to turn his daughter Bindi into a media celebrity too.

The main act of Australia Zoo is crocodiles - complete with a show in the 'Crocoseum' - but they also have a good cross-section of Australian wildlife and a sampling of larger South East Asia animals.

Kangaroos and emus are housed in large walk-though paddocks and koalas, wombats etc are in smaller enclosures. The zoo is very hands-on (except for crocs!) and has a prominent conservation message.