New Cal’s Far South

America has its Far West, New Caledonia has its Far South. Where Westerns could have been filmed if cow-boys rode canoes and didn’t mind getting their feet dirty in the slippery red earth staining everything it touches. Then they’d probably have turned red skinned which would have confused the audience, and “Southerns” is not as catchy a name as “Westerns” for a movie genre anyway…

We visisted the South twice, once by car to Parc de La Riviere Bleue, tagging along a Sunday hike organised by L&S’ friend Fabrice at “Sentier des Cochons” (where men and boys got lost, taking a wrong turn and cut through the bush to avoid backtracking, while Sandrine and I were waiting for them to have lunch at the arrival, and started making plans to call for help when they finally arrived at 3pm drenched but happy), and another sailing to Prony Bay, kidnapping Laurent and Thomas aboard Obelix, and picking up Sandrine, who needs a (maybe indefinite) rest from sailing and had driven there, at the wharf.

I’d say the Far South is an aquired taste. A desolate desert of ocres and dry greens, with mangrove and murky sea due to the muddy bottom. Thankfully it also offers lovely clear rivers trickling down its hills in picturesque waterfalls, inviting water holes, thermal pools, and a myriad of birds and butterflies which treated us to songs and dances.

Our adventure sailing there counts amongst our best memories of New Caledonia, because we enjoyed, in good company, a leasurely long week-end (from 14th July, French National Day to 17th July) full of swims, feasts, discussions, naps, and games.

The sail itself was very enjoyable, downwind both ways, and so much easier with a third capable crew! On the first day, Laurent and Thomas met us early by Nouville where we had anchored because of the “Coup d’Ouest” the day before. A pit stop by Uptopia in Baie de l’Orphelinat to get their snorkling gear and we were on our way. The kids played Monopoly below deck for a while, then came outside when nausea was gaining their fragile little stomachs, but overall they behaved and were very low maintenance. The weather kept dry despite threatening clouds and rough seas on departure. Our arrival in Prony was almost synchronised with Sandrine’s who parked her car as we were finishing our hot chocolate.

We then shot for Baie du Carenage for our first night and immediately hoisted the hammock, and inflated the stand-up paddle board, for that irresistible holiday feel. I think we initiated our guests to Obelix’ very atypical shower, which made Laurent & Thomas reflect, “Boat life is high life” (“La vie de bateau, c’est la vie de chateau”) to which Sandrine usually comes back with the cutting“Boat life is hobbo life” ( “La vie de bateau, c’est la vie de crados”), but she couldn’t this time since she was so well received 😉

On the second day we rowed our way up river and against tide in dinghy, kayak and SUP to a nice swimming hole by an isolated house and spent the day there swimming, jumping from the rope, and trying our luck at surfing on the body board secured to a rope across the river,. A picnic ensued on the table set up by the owner of the house, who came out to give us a mat for our afternoon nap!

La siesta des gars

We then relocated to Baie des Kaoris for our second night and the next day ventured by foot in the bush to reach a tiny thermal pool also called the“Japanese Pools“, where we met one of Azur’s schoolmates, Loucas. The hot pools were rather tepid than hot, and quite crowded due ot the holidays (Thomas and Laurent were gloating that during the lock-down, they had it all for themselves), but very enjoyable after a dip in the cool river. On our way back we stopped to have a skinny dip and natural shower in the river (where we were alone) before having a late lunch at the boat and relocating one last time to Ilot Casy. There we made an illegal fire on the beach to roast marshmallows for the kids’ delight, and throw Thomas’ popular fire dance for the few boats moored around.

On the last morning, we dropped Sandrine back to Prony’s wharf and had a romping sail back to Noumea, arriving mid-afternoon, just in time for the kids to finish their homework for the week ahead. Our two families got along very nicely and confirmed that Obelix, though not huge, could easily accommodate visiting guests. The invitation remains open!

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