Saturday, October 23, 2010

We have been busy making the cultural rounds in Noumea. We have been to visit the cultural museum, the city museum, the aquarium and the zoological park. I enjoyed the city museum the best because it explained the history of New Caledonia and the city of Noumea. It also had a big section on the participation of New Caledonia in the first and second world wars. New Caledonia was the French equivalent of Australia, it was the penal colony for France. Once the convicts were here and had served their penitentiary sentences, they were not allowed to leave but had to take up residence here. There are some beautiful old stone buildings including the Catholic Cathedral that were built with prison labour.
The indigenous people here the Kanaks were treated very poorly by the French, not even being classified as people until 1946. They had their land taken from them and made to live in certain areas where the land was much poorer. At one point they weren’t allowed to leave their homes after 8:00 P.M. I was appalled about how they were treated until I started thinking about how we treated the aboriginal people in Canada and I am not sure we did any better. There are quite a few homeless people in the main parks here, it reminds me of Yellowknife. There seems to be a big difference between the have and the have nots here. Friday night we were out walking around trying to find some place that was open for dinner before 7:00 P.M. and there were quite a few drunks having a good time.
The restaurants and shops operate on European time, the shops close for lunch for an hour or two and restaurants serve lunch until about 3:00 and then close until 7:00 or 8:00 for dinner. It takes a bit of getting used to. The shops seems very stylish after the Mother Hubbard dresses that are worn all over Vanuatu. The women of French descent have style, and all the women cruisers are eyeing their high heels and their stylish clothing and makeup and feeling a bit inadequate. I would love to buy a pair of heels, but can’t imagine myself tottering around in them, my feet would kill me and I would probably catch them on the toe rail as I tried to get off the boat and go headfirst into the water. I can’t imagine walking down the dock with them on.
The aquarium was great, we really enjoyed it the great variety of fish and informative exhibits. Fortunately the signage was in French, English and Japanese so we were able to learn about the aquatic life. They had a great display on mangroves and their ecosystem. The zoological gardens had lots of beautiful birds and as much as I hate seeing caged animals I know I would never have seen these birds if I did not see them in this setting. The park was huge and we could have walked around for hours. Getting a cultural fix has been a nice change from beaches and snorkeling.
I would like to leave this anchorage and visit some of the outer anchorages but I am not sure I can convince Barry that we should do that. He is really focused on watching the weather and being ready to leave for Australia when a good window becomes apparent. It should be an 8-10 day passage to Coffs Harbour our intended point of entry into Australia. I cleaned the hull yesterday so I hope we don’t stay here too much longer, I don’t want to do it again.
We are socializing with new and old friends, boats tend to go several ways from here. We have buddies that are going back to New Zealand and Fiji as well as on to Australia. We also made contact with a fellow that we met in Apia, Samoa over 2 years ago that lives here. He invited us to his home for dinner and served us venison, it was delicious. He speaks very little English so Barry and I practiced our French on him until his wife showed up. Her English was better than my French so we got along very nicely although we did continue to try and speak French to include Marcos.