After completing all clearing in procedures (Immigration, Biosecurity, Customs) and enjoying a lovely lunch we went back to the anchorage for a much needed full night sleep. The anchorage here in Nouméa is very crowded. In fact, there was no space within the dedicated zones and the marina was full too. So we anchored slightly outside the allowed area and sure enough the next morning the harbour police came to tell us we should move as there was another cruise ship coming in and we might be blocking the entrance. We weighed anchor and went further around to the next bay but same story. Full anchorage. Again we anchored as best as we could, just on the line, and this time the harbour police gave us the thumbs up. Only problem now was that the dinghy ride into town was quite a trek. So we kept asking the marina if they have any space coming up and also asked one of the charter companies who have a private pontoon and luckily on Monday we were invited to come and dock Rehua at the charter company’s pontoon. It turns out that Gilles, who runs the charter business, is a good friend of our buddy boat Taff Tumas (whom we sailed with for six months from Gibraltar to Panama) who are from New Cal. It’s a shame we can’t catch up with them here (they are currently still in French Polynesia) but Sandra has made sure we are made to feel very welcome and sent one of her best friends to meet us on Sunday. We received a lovely welcome bottle of wine and of course lots of local info. As a result we feel completely at home already in Nouméa. I could happily live here if it wasn’t so far away from friends and family in Europe… And the cost of living is expensive. In fact, a couple of years ago there was a general strike that halted the entire country. The protest was against the expensive cost of living and the government promised to put measures in place to make things more affordable. Not sure how they managed. I still hear lots of complaints from locals on how expensive everything is. But then again, it has to be said, you can just about buy anything here. Every type of French cheese and other delicacies, designer clothes, perfumes, electronic, … It’s all here.
The city itself has a very French feel to it, you could imagine being somewhere along the Côte d’Azur, especially when walking along the beachfront in Baie des Citrons, just outside the centre.
Now that we are in the marina we can safely leave the boat for a few days and go explore. We plan to rent a car and head north to see more of this beautiful country. From where we are we can already see the tall mountains that were first discovered by James Cook in 1774. He named it New Caledonia because the northeast of the island reminded him of Scotland. Napoleon III took possession of New Caledonia in 1853 and it became a French penal colony. Nickel (“the green gold”) was discovered here in 1864 and mining began soon after. New Caledonia is much larger than we expected (I guess seeing it on the map next to Australia doesn’t help). The land area is 18,576 km2 (7,172 sq mi) and the total population just under 300,000 consisting of a mix of Kanak people (the original inhabitants), Europeans, Polynesian (mostly Wallisians) and South Asian people.
The climate is a bit cooler than Fiji and very pleasant. The only worrying thing is that there have been a few shark attacks recently so we are not keen to jump in the water here!