Feeling we’d paid our dues after a somewhat trying first few weeks in northern New Cal (earning our surfs in between hiding out from 30+kt strong winds) we were finally rewarded as we headed south to Ile des Pins with some of the most beautiful white beaches and fluorescent turquoise water we’ve seen in the Pacific.
As we ventured down the south western side of the main island, the arid hills of the north were replaced with green mountainous landscapes and vibrant red soil. The weird tall skinny pine trees returned, as did the palm trees. And its hard not to be happy when there are palm trees around. The wind also became more friendly and stayed that way for the next few weeks, meaning that rather than hiding out we were back to hanging out.
To break up the journey down south, and with an urge to make use of our long lost land legs, we stopped for a few days to explore some of the beautiful walks around Baie de Prony. We didn’t care so much where we were headed, we just walked all day along the nickel rich red soil tracks purely for the enjoyment and novelty of walking. Life on a boat just doesn’t scratch that itch. A lunchtime waterfall pit stop gave us some respite from the midday heat (its so much hotter on land than at sea), and a soak in the natural hot springs at sunset was the prefect way to end the day and wash ourselves free of the bright red soil.
Keen for more walking, we also stopped in at the pretty Ile Casy where the local tour guide is no other than Moose, an abandoned dog (the island was previously inhabited). Moose waits for you at the end of the jetty and despite his slight limp (he looks like he’s getting on in years) then gives you a guided tour of the whole island stopping at all the best spots for you to take in the views. And it’s quite the tour, taking more than an hour to walk all the way around. Apparently a vet comes to visit him regularly now to check on his health, and visiting cruisers like us keep him fed and watered. He seemed happy with our payment of bacon. We were more than happy with his tour.
But arriving at Ile des Pines was pretty special. The elements were finally being kind to us with no wind, clear skies, and lovely sunshine. And we enjoyed anchorage after anchorage of white soft sandy beaches with water so turquoise and inviting it was rude not to jump on in. It felt like we were on holidays. There weren’t even any sea snakes.
If there were surfing options nearby (there’s unfortunately not) we’d probably never leave. But the conditions were perfect for SUP exploration, and so we more than made the most of it paddling around the sheltered waters between the many coral mushroom formations. Until Nick’s beloved (yet already known for its solo adventures – see Tongan Troubleshoot) SUP decided once and for all it needed more in life than we could offer and ran away one evening. Nick was distraught. Searching proved fruitless as wind and current would have taken it into open ocean. And unfortunately unlike last time, it didn’t change its mind and magically reappear 24hrs later. We were one SUP down.
And as with our last SUP misadventure episode in Tonga, when our run of bad luck came in threes, this seemed to be the first of another bad run. The next morning I awoke ill. And Nick succumbed later that day. Upset tummies, all over aches, but worst of all horrible lower back pain in the kidney region. At least it wasn’t ciguatera (we’d thrown back the numerous job fish we kept catching as they are often contaminated here), but it didn’t seem like a normal tummy bug either. The only thing we’d done differently was fill our drinking water bottles up in Kuto, which after a quick google search showed there had been a problem earlier this year with exceedingly high nickel content in the water supply rendering it undrinkable, but all was meant to be fine now. We’d been drinking the water for the last day only, and the symptoms of Nickel toxicity seemed strangely similar to what we were experiencing. Either way, we stopped drinking the water, rested up in Gadji - probably the most idyllic anchorage we’ve found in a long time, and made our food supplies last that little bit longer by being unable to eat for a few days. Things could always be worse.
But while we were being forced to slow down in the midst of tropical paradise, the start of cyclone season officially rolled over, giving us that little reminder that once our energy was back we really needed to get moving again (also having a wedding to witness in Australia – we’re coming Brook and Nina!!). With our eyes on forecasts it looked like we had just under a week until the next weather window would allow us to set sail for home. So we figured that was more than enough time to explore a few more of the southern islands before checking out of Noumea.
A few wiggly sails through maze like reefs later and we’d found a few more slices of paradise. But the sea snakes obviously liked the uninhabited sand encircled islands too, leaving the idea of fires on the beach a little less appealing than usual.
But not so unappealing that after a quick check out and restock in Noumea, we didn’t head straight back out to more of these islands to enjoy a last few days of New Caledonian magic, before the long 6-7 day passage back to Australia…
Watch out Sydney, we’re sailing in!