Day 129/130: Half The World Away

Thur & Fri. 20th & 21st December 2012

View from our hotelNo, we are not slacking on the blog posts. Today was two days. As we flew from Tahiti to New Caledonia we went back another 3 hours and gained a whole day as we crossed the International Date Line. We were 10 hours behind UK time, now we are 11 hours ahead. We took off on Thursday morning and landed on Friday lunchtime. All of this time travelling is very complicated – how does Dr Who cope? Sadly, Janet doesn’t buy my argument that I do odd days on the blog.

As Janet noted in yesterday’s blog, the alarm goes off at 4am – and it isn’t any more welcome than she predicted. We didn’t have much choice about the timing of the  flight as there is only one flight a week between the two island chains. We really wanted to go across the Pacific in hops and so this is the price that we pay. At least we have the wherewithal to make a rudimentary breakfast.

First view of New CaledoniaI don’t think we are sorry to be leaving Tahiti. It just didn’t quite work out for us and it certainly wasn’t what we expected (however naïve our expectations were). The weather certainly didn’t help. Given our island trip to Rangiroa, we flew into Tahiti twice and both times it was absolutely chucking it down. I think that we were expecting Tahiti itself to be more like Rangiroa in both geology and weather and perhaps more like Playa Del Carmen in its tourist infrastructure. Instead we found islands that were much more geared to the resort experience, with the big hotel chains offering luxury breaks. Its not that we didn’t enjoy it – more that unlike, say, Bolivia, it under delivered against our expectations.

Cultural / Geographical regions in the PacificAnyway, after our flight, we are now in Melanesia which is both ethnically and geographically distinct from Polynesia which contains both the Tahiti archipelagos and Easter Island. As ever, Wikipedia is quite helpful – see here. Confusingly (but helpfully for our needs), the currency used is still the CFP (Polynesian French Franc).

As we get off the plane, besides the smell of fresh paint in what is clearly a very newly opened (and modern looking) airport terminal, our first impressions of New Caledonia are all positive. The sun is shining, our bags arrive quickly and our EU passports are barely looked at by the immigration officer. There is more of a holdup at the ‘Biosecurity’ check after customs and we have to declare (but are allowed to keep) the biscuits & Pringles we have with us. A good rehearsal for our arrival in Australia where we won’t be able to bring in any food at all. French efficiency also rules the day when it comes to getting a bus into town – no sooner are we on the bus (with only one other family on board) than we are off.

A cruise ship is in portAt around 200km in length, New Caledonia is a much bigger island than Tahiti and they seem to have proportionately moved the airport out of town so we have a bit of a view of the countryside on our way in. Its all very efficient – even down to the peage on the dual carriageway and we are soon dropped off at our hotel. Once we are checked in our first priority is lunch as breakfast was a long time ago – and second breakfast on the plane doesn’t count. As our hotel is right by the beach we stop in one of the restaurants on the road opposite the beach and all is well. It even has WiFi!

Looking back at Anse Vata BayIt is just a lovely day. No sign of Cyclone Evan, just blue sky and sunshine with a breeze blowing in off the sea. Just about a perfect temperature. I think we are going to be able to cope here – which is just as well as with Xmas falling in the middle of our stay here, we may not be able to get out of town or see any of the other islands if everything just shuts down. We’ll see.

I used to be able to do this!In the meantime we decide to take a stroll along the beach – after all we were frustrated in Copacabana and to an extent in Tahiti so lets take the opportunity now. Across the road, there is a strip of grass that runs down to the narrow sandy beach. There are people enjoying the sunshine but it is by no means busy. The beach itself is segregated into swimming and windsurfing areas with a channel for the water taxis separating the two. The breeze is blowing nicely and is nearly cross shore so the windsurfers are zooming in and out of the beach. It brings back memories and is nearly tempting – I wouldn’t want to show the locals up though!!

Taxi boats to Ile aux CanardsIn the background we can see the kite-surfers and we make a note that we must head out that way at some point. We carry on the other way as the bay curves round to a headland and then on round to another bay. The beach round the headland looks inviting and so we just carry on walking. Once again we end up walking further than we intended to but it is all very pleasant in the sunshine.

That evening, we take advantage of the hotel having reasonable Internet access to watch the first half of the Sports Personality of the Year award. This is only the second TV programme we’ve watched whilst we’ve been away and I can’t say that we have really missed it (other than Dr Who, obviously). The sports highlights brought back some great Olympics memories as well as reminding us of some of the events we would have watched had we been at home – the Ryder Cup and Andy Murray at the US Open spring to mind.

Having crossed the dateline we are pretty much half the world away from our friends and family. From the weather reports we hear from home we seem to be from a different planet with the sunshine we have here. But through the Internet, email, Skype, our blog (we love to hear from people who have been reading it) and now iPlayer we feel in touch.

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