From the outback to the reef

Sun 25 Sep 2016 03:02

We were very sad to leave the white baking soda beaches of Isle of Pines and head back to the mainland, and the contrast in the landscape couldn’t have been more dramatic.  Baie du Prony is a large, beautifully protected bay with anchorages and arms in all directions.  Its most startling features are the blood red earth and sparse vegetation.  We honestly felt like we had anchored somewhere in the Australian outback!



Not only is the red powerful visually, it’s also mighty powerful once stuck to any part of your body or the boat.  Red soil = red mud and the goo stains like you wouldn’t believe.  The soil is rich in minerals and there is evidence of past and present mining all over the hills.  It’s not exactly a wilderness experience.  At the end of many of the arms are small streams you can explore in the dinghy with many walking tracks taking you to old mining sites and ruins of the many penal colonies which the French were so keen on in the late 1800’s. 



There’s also a bit of thermal activity about, and someone has even made a fabulous hot pool only accessible by dinghy.




The stream by dinghy tours also provide some great photo opportunities for reflections.



Although it can get shallow if you don’t time the tide right – but its ok if you can get a “dinghy tow” – this gives only 1 pair of red feet J




In the centre of Prony you will find the lovely Ilot Casey.  It’s a nature reserve, with the only white sandy beach you’ll find in the area.  I comes complete with some very scenic walking tracks well maintained by Parks and Reserves people.




There is an abandoned resort on Casey and the only permanent resident is the very famous “Brownie”.  He’s a legend because he enthusiastically greets everyone who lands on the island and proceeds to give you the full tour.  Here’s Brownie in his “guard house” by the wharf – the vantage point from where he can watch all the comings and goings.




He had a great tour guide – even showing us the best beach for a swim half way round. 




We have had the most beautiful weather since we’ve been in New Cal and faced with a period of light winds we decided to head back down to the Southern Lagoon to go to spots that you can only safely anchor in overnight when the conditions are light. 




Holy Moly – we knew that the Islands themselves would be beautiful – but we weren’t really prepared for how beautiful it was underwater.  Being on the very edge of the lagoon near the open ocean, we’re talking crystal clear water and wall to wall hard coral of every colour possible.  We haven’t seen hard coral like this since the Great Barrier Reef in Oz – it was equally as spectacular – possibly better. 






At a chilly 23 C – all you need is a full wetsuit and you can stay an hour at a stretch – we honestly didn’t want to get out – even when the first shark did a “drive by”.  Lucky for us it wasn’t time for a takeaway lunch!




Sadly we needed to be making our way towards Noumea as we developed a problem with some of our electronics on the passage from Vanuatu and we want it sorted before heading back to NZ.  Even though New Cal is “part Europe” the other part is still definitely “South Pacific” as “island time” is well and truly alive.  Nothing happens quickly and throw in the ol’ French style 2 hour lunch and it gets pretty frustrating L  On the way back we stopped at the famous lighthouse at Amedee – right on the edge of the outer reef.  We had hoped to stagger up the 321 steps and get what is supposed to be a pretty impressive view of every colour of turquoise possible, but unfortunately if was closed.  It was still a very impressive structure especially since it was shipped out in pieces from France in 1862.




The waters around this Island are part of a marine reserve and are infested with green turtles.  You can swim around side by side if you can keep up and they kept popping up all round the boat long after we’d got out of the water.




Right now we are in the marina in Noumea which has resulted in another assault on our favourite Patisserie and a bit of “retail therapy” while we wait for the AIS unit to arrive from NZ.  Prices here for most things are about the same in NZ – this is certainly not the usual cheap living costs of other south pacific islands – but anything that is imported from France is much cheaper than what you can buy them for in NZ.  Plus you can’t deny the quality and style of French clothes and shoes in particular – If only the boat (and the wallet) was bigger!


So that’s about it from us.  Hopefully our new unit will arrive in a few days and we’ll be out of here.  We have used this time to prepare ourselves and the boat ready for the passage back to NZ and in a week or so we will officially be on “weather watch” for a window to head back to NZ.  We’ll be seeing you all soon.




Take care

Linda and Carl