This blog on New Caledonia is for those of you who ever wondered what life on a tiny island in the South Pacific might be like. Tired of bracing winter winds, the stress of an inner city or simply dreaming of a life change? This is a blog about what happens when, in the words of Yogi Berra, "you come to a fork in the road, [and] take it".

29 September 2006

Strikes in Nouméa

We learned last Friday that a major strike was planned for Nouméa and that it would severely affect our gas and food supplies. People flocked to the pumps and to the few stores we have on the island. By Tuesday, pumps had "empty" signs taped across them and people were being turned away at the bakeries. One baguette per family - where bread was available.

It must be said that there is a fair amount of striking on the island, and we have grown somewhat used to it. Coming from Paris and its infamous transportation strikes, we thought, how could things be worse? They can. Take away our gas and our French bread and you have a nation on its knees. Sounds silly, but it is true.

That being said, an official order was issued and the gas blockage was lifted yesterday. Apparently the planes were running out of fuel and that could just not go on. I went to the bakery today and baguettes were to be had.

But the union leaders have said they will not give up: they will only get more powerful. What is the issue? There are several.
  • One is the hiring of the Filipino workers on the new nickel mine in the south. They want the Filipinos to go home - and they want the jobs to be given to the Kanaks. I've been told that to hire the Kanaks, management would need to train them for three years - for a job that will take six months. Apparently the Filipinos have the neccessary skills and are in place. But it seems grossly unfair to "outsource" the labour under the noses of a population that wants to, and is eager, to work. And a population who owns the land, and thus the nickel.
  • One is the exorbitant prices here. Yesterday 500 people marched on the capital (down the road from us) to protest the costs of basic things, like food, electricity, etc. The prices are exorbitant here - I often say they are 2.5 times the prices in Paris (and Paris is not cheap). For a 3/4-member family, we spend about €210 a week on groceries. Electricity is: €100 a month. Internet is: €125 a month. If we order anything on line (barring books) worth over €25 (including shipping), we pay heavy importation taxes: anywhere from 40% to 60%. But the Kanaks are just trying to get by. They don't have Internet or online options. They are just trying to buy food.
  • One is the lack of proportional taxation for the rich. The island is purported to be controlled by 10 families who hold all of the money and control all of the importation (not to mention, as I heard recently, the banks). The strikers would like to see these high earners taxed.
Will they be successful? The government says no. Will we continue to receive gas, flour and goods from abroad? Who knows? An affair to watch ...

For more on the current state of our affairs (in English), you can see and

25 September 2006

Travel is Good for Everyone

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2006.

We recently spent a week in Australia and I have to say, it was a boon! Five-month-old Pablo took his first aeroplane ride and two and a half hours later he was in a whole new country. He loved it! We totally broke with his usual schedule of playtime, nap, walk along the sea, lunch, nap, playtime, massage, walk, bath, bedtime. He found himself up and out in a major city (Sydney and then Melbourne and then Sydney again) visiting sharks and seals in the Sydney Aquarium, shopping with Big Sister Sophie, off to see Little Penguins (in the wild) in Phillip Island, visiting with koalas and wallabies at the Taronga Zoo and listening to the story of the 14-year trek towards the completion of the Sydney Opera House. The proud owner of half a dozen new baby books in English, a passport with Australian stamps and baby clothes for six months from now, Pablo is totally outfitted for his next big trip ... to the Loyalty Islands in December.

22 September 2006

How Quickly Views Change

A storm blew in on Monday while I was on the phone with Paris. Luckily Sophie was around to document it from our balcony. I watched in amazement as it flew out as quickly as it blew in. One would have thought it was the apocalypse, but no, just a quick reminder that even chaos can be beautiful.

Speaking of beautiful, happy birthday, Stevie!!

Photo by Sophie-Alix Kilcoyne, 2006.

20 September 2006

We've Got the Blues

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2006.

Last week we left New Caledonia for a short jaunt two and a half hours away to big, strapping Australia (more on this to follow). One of the best things about leaving our little island was, believe it or not, coming back. We got to see what we look like for the first time. (When we landed here just over a year ago, it was 22.30 and very, very dark.) Above, a shot of our island and her blues. Actually, this is one wee part of her - not the whole island! Click on the photo to get a better view ...

I couldn't help thinking, seeing this, what person would not love this, not want to see this or visit this? What kind of person would say no? And for all of you out there who have not yet been to New Caledonia, what's keeping you? :)

18 September 2006

Whalewatching in New Caledonia

In early September we went on a real South Pacific adventure - whalewatching in the Baie de Prony. The whalewatching season here spans two months, from mid-July to mid-September when the whales come down to warmer waters to mate, give birth and/or feed their young. It takes them three months to get here, in which time they lose 10 tonnes. But it seems well worth the trip as they return every year and are protected in the Baie de Prony's nature reserve. We were lucky enough to see several of them - the humpbacks - as they played and a mother sought a secluded place to nurse her newborn. Our catamaran tossed and turned with the waves, and we eventually left them in peace (thank goodness - as I was as sick as sick can be!). But as we left to tour the bay, our skipper told us that three males had recently come closer into the bay. What with the building of a nickel mine and the hammering under the sea on the bay, the whales have been responding to what sounds like their calls and are venturing closer and closer. One wonders what the final effect the mine will have on the whales and their adoptive habitat.

03 September 2006

Weather in Nouméa: Sun, Sun, Sun!

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2006.

When we moved to New Caledonia over a year ago, I could not believe our luck. Every morning, we woke up to sun and blue skies. I went swimming in September. Never was there a grey day. Here it is a year later, and we have gone from beautiful weather to even more beautiful weather (guidebooks say the best time to visit New Caledonia is September through November, but December was heavenly as well). In February and March it grew very hot (around 38°), rainy in April and May, cooler in June and July, a sunny August and now we are moving back into September. It will start getting warmer and warmer now and we will not see much rain. Like I said, I could not - and cannot - believe our luck!

As for sun, we basically have 12 hours of it a day. The sun rises around 6 and sets around 6. For an interesting graphic on our amount of daylight, see You'll note that there isn't much variance: constant sunshine is the name of the day.