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".

27 February 2007

Ouvéa: Underwater Marvels (and Monsters)

The one day we got out to go snorkelling in Ouvéa, the waters were rough at Mouli Bay. But Laurent couldn't resist and though he nearly got swept away by the surf, he had the immense pleasure of swimming with a ray - a bit like this one:

Video by tiptup29

Thank goodness he did not see this (also found and filmed in Ouvéa) - a leopard shark:

Video by tiptup29

But most surprising of all ... a parrot fish (also found and filmed in Ouvéa):

Video by djenemoa

24 February 2007

Ouvéa: A Deserted Island

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2006.

In addition to its untold beauty (sands so white and silky, seas so aquamarine, skies so blue, one has the impression one has died and gone to heaven), Ouvéa feels deserted. True, during the day one does not see very many people (as it is scorchingly hot and bright - at least in December), but there are not many people to see. At the 2004 census, there were 4 359 inhabitants (according to Wikipedia).

As there is little work on the island, many Ouvéans live in Nouméa and return home for the holidays. What with one police station, one bank, four gas stations, one pharmacy and two dispensaries, services are also fairly limited.

Ouvéa makes Nouméa look like a teeming mecca.

22 February 2007

Ouvéa: Food and Water

Food and water was in limited supply on Ouvéa. Certainly not at the four-star Hôtel Paradis d'Ouvéa - it was always possible to order lunch or dinner there, though at rather costly prices. I mean that as we were on the southernmost part of the island, without a car, our options were limited.

Photo by Laurent Guaider, 2006.

We did have the "Snack Fassy" (pictured above) down the road (within walking distance) which was run by locals. The Kanak ladies served up one menu a day (usually something like chicken and root vegetables with, say, a papaya salad) and that was it. We ate there on the first day. That night I was terribly ill with a tummy bug. Unfortunately, I was ill for the entire week.

It was wonderful that we had a great hotel where I could rest and stay cool, but it was not the greatest for Laurent, Sophie and Pablo. Poor Laurent had to get a ride to a pharmacy (the only one, about 20 minutes away by car), take care of Pablo, try to entertain us while I felt under the weather, spend lots of time at the pool. We weren't able to explore the island as we normally would have done. Sophie got sick later in the week and Pablo got his first fever at the end of the week as well.

All of this could have been due to the water that I drank from the tap on the first day. Not a good idea on Ouvéa (we quickly switched to bottled water). As Ouvéa does not have any rivers or reservoirs (except for a few water holes), fresh water is practically non-existent. In fact, the water on Ouvéa is desalinated sea water. When we returned to Nouméa we learned that the desalination plant on the island had had problems and that the water wasn't good. The problem has long since been fixed.

It could also have come from something I ate at the hotel restaurant. We think Pablo came down with something at the end of the week as I was breastfeeding, and that Sophie got a bad egg somewhere. Who knows?

The good news is that we got in lots of rest and games of Uno!

20 February 2007

Ouvéa: The Paradis d'Ouvea Hotel

Photos by Laurent Guiader, 2006.

There are not many lodgings on the tiny island of Ouvéa. "Paradis d'Ouvéa" is purported to be the only hotel. As it is a four-star, it is on the expensive side (villas run from €288 to €636 a night and bungalows are €436 a night). But the service and the beauty of the hotel are truly astounding. Above you'll find a view of a gazebo one can rent for a private lunch or dinner with a private waiter.

We stayed in the Paradis d'Ouvéa hotel for four nights (we were able to get a big discount on our stay - which made it possible; had we not had the discount, it would have been impossible for us to afford four nights) - from 18 to 22 December.

Located on Ouvéa's southernmost island, Mouly, it is one of the most beautiful spots on Ouvéa. The hotel opened in late 2000 and is partly funded by Japan. The 15 spacious bungalows, many right on the beachfront, have an Oriental influence and a strong Japanese clientele. There is a pool (with a waterfall) along with a large restaurant that serves haute-cuisine.

16 February 2007

Ouvéa: The Most Beautiful Loyalty Island

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2006.

To return to tales of our tour of the Loyalty Islands over Christmas, we'll turn now to Ouvéa, the most beautiful of the islands. Ouvéa is known as one of the most exquisite coral atolls of the Pacific Ocean. Hard to beat, Ouvéa sports a 25 kilometre-long stretch of unbroken white beach, an enormous aquamarine lagoon and a peacefulness unknown in this world. The island is 35 km long and in some places less than 40 metres wide. A single road runs north to south, most times along the long stretch of beach, through coconut groves - and at other times along the very edge of the deep blue Pacific Ocean.

Ouvéa gets its name from the Wallisian word uvea, meaning "island far away". Historically, it has seen many turbulent times, divided between Melanesian and Polynesian cultures as well as by religion. In the late 1980s, violent political events shook Ouvéa, the tremors of which were felt all over New Caledonia and France.

14 February 2007

Will You Be My Valentine?

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2007.

So what do you say, will you?

This particular post goes out to all of Pablo's worldwide admirers, and in particular to Sophie, who is in London, on her way to Paris. Pablo is slightly anxious for her to come home so that he can show off his two new teeth, his newly acquired balance, his unworn shoes and his ability to put food (in addition to rocks) in his mouth, all by himself. "Have a safe trip, home, Sophie! Hurry!"

Pablo would also like to say a special hello to Ben in Stonybrook University Hospital. Ben is a wonderfully inspiring young man who has just gone in for his last round of chemotherapy. Pablo is sure all of you join us in sending him lots of good wishes for a speedy recovery.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

09 February 2007

Basic Tourism Information about New Caledonia

Billed as "where the French Riviera meets the South Pacific" by a tourism site for Australians, New Caledonia is a veritable jewel.

If you are looking for some basic answers to some basic questions about New Caledonia, I can suggest "Frequently Asked Questions - New Caledonia" as well as "New Caledonia Tourism Information & Facts". Not only will you find out whether or not we speak English, but if the tap water is safe to drink, if New Caledonia is expensive, how far it is away from Australia and whether or not one can surf here. More importantly, you'll learn whether or not your mobile phone will work in New Caledonia and if you need a passport, visa or vaccinations to visit.

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2005.

06 February 2007

Happy 60th Birthday to the Secretariat of the Pacific Community

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2005.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community, an intergovernmental organisation located in Nouméa, celebrated its 60th birthday today. An early-morning flag-raising ceremony at its headquarters (above) marked the start of celebrations.

The SPC was founded in 1947 shortly after World War II by Australia, France, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States to coordinate aid to the region. Today, it is a thriving, bilingual organisation with around 340 staff, a large number of whom come from the Pacific Islands. SPC's role is to provide technical advice, training and research to its island members in areas such as public health, sustainable development of land and marine resources, and social issues (women, youth and culture). A strong focus of this work is to build the skills and capability of its members in these areas.

04 February 2007

World's Most Expensive Baguettes

Last Wednesday, we paid €118.49 (or $153.18 depending on your currency) for two French baguettes. Now I know things are expensive here (a recent report about the perks of retiring to Nouméa put the cost of living at 40% higher than Paris), but this is asking a bit much.

When Laurent told me how much we had gone over our weekly budget (and I had looked at what he had come home with), we pulled out the receipt. How in the world could two baguettes cost over €100? Mind you, we have friends who spent €25 on a round of Camembert when they first arrived. It's an easy mistake to make.

Turns out the cashier had keyed in 70 francs (the real cost of a baguette: €0.59) twice - which makes "7070" and then multiplied 7070 by 2 - which equals 14140 francs, or €118.49. When Laurent went back to the store and presented the receipt and asked what had happened, the manager giggled. She immediately detected the error. She showed it to a colleague. They giggled. She took it to the cashier. They giggled some more. Apparently this was most hilarious. The cashier asked if Laurent hadn't noticed that the bill was a bit high. Yes, he responded, but he had a baby in arms, the groceries to pack up, and a looming mealtime for aforementioned baby.

To make a short story long, we were reimbursed for the mistake and all is well. But it reminded me that when we had arrived, we had been warned to always check our receipts and our change: strange things were known to happen. This being said, this is the first time something like this has occurred - well, as far as we know ...