Posted: Sunday, Nov. 9, 2008
Next Earliest Posting Date: Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2008 after Fiji Islands
Before I go to our visit to Noumea I have to bring you up to date on two previous events which must be mentioned in order to keep order in this cruise’s history.
First a story which I forgot to mention in the Sidney Blog, but Susy has already shared with Gigi so I’ll tell my version (which won’t be as good as Susy’s). Wednesday night, in Sidney with departure scheduled for 11 PM, and all aboard for 10:30 PM, Susy and I had dinner on the ship and planned to watch departure from the upper deck, but having some time to kill (it was a little after 9:30 PM) we went to check our emails at the ships Internet lounge. As usual Susy did hers first, and when we got to mine there was an email from Gigi saying that Nicholas wanted to have a Kangaroo. Teresa had said he couldn’t have a real one, but Nick said that was OK he would take a pretend one. Well, Susy lit up like a Xmas Tree and said we had to get off the boat immediately and get his Kangaroo. You know old conservative Gagu, I said "wait a minute, it’s 9:45, that only leaves 45 minutes, and what happens if, etc. etc.". Everyone knows Susy, so needless to say, she was going alone if necessary, but going. We only had to go to the corner (about a half a mile away) to the nearest souvenir shop, and she was off with me in toe, because I wasn’t going to leave her in Sidney alone. We got the Kangaroo and got back on board with only 15 minutes to spare (Susy said “I told you we had plenty of time”), then watched as we sailed out of beautiful Sidney harbor.
The second story has to do with Susy’s birthday, which we celebrated yesterday, as I’m writing this on the 8th while sailing away from Noumea. If you look above at the photo album “Noumea, New Caledonia”, you’ll see the first photo is Susy at our table with a large portion of the waiters, singing their version of “Happy Birthday”. She had a cake with 3 candles (how that relates to her age I can’t guess, but maybe it stands for 30, which is the age Susy looks). The second photo is of one of several friends who stopped by the table to wish her a Happy Birthday.
Now to Noumea which is the first of the three South Pacific islands we are visiting. New Caledonia is an island, discovered by Captain Cook in 1774, and named as such because the island reminded him of the Scottish highlands. It was not claimed by him and in 1853 when the French were looking for new lands in the Pacific they claimed New Caledonia as theirs and later for a time made it a penal colony, but soon there after nickel was discovered and today is the second largest source of nickel in the world. New Caledonia is independent, no longer a French Colony, but maintains ties to France and has a representative in the French Parliament. The main island is about 250 miles long and 30 miles wide at its widest point. It has a population of about 350,000, with 100,000 of those people living in the capital, Noumea. Most of the people are “Kanaks” (the indigenous tribal group), but there are also a large number of European settlers (mostly French), the majority being miners or cattle ranchers. In the third photo I show you the ocean terminal welcome sign. When Susy and I struck out from the terminal you can’t believe where we ended up, a outdoor flea market. The fourth photo shows Susy hard at her daily task (when on the ground) of perusing the market place. As luck would have it, we arrived there just 15 minutes before the local dancers were going to put on their daily show. The fifth photo shows the men dancers and the sixth photo shows the women dancers. I didn’t get a lot of photos here, but took a lot of video, which I hope to turn in to a video for you when I have some time. After an hour or so market perusing, we hooked up with a short sight seeing tour of the Noumea end of the Island. The seventh photo shows you a typical beach, which our French guide pointed out was pristine clean, with no sharks or jelly fish, as are all their beaches. Our first photo stop and the 8th photo shows Susy in front of the beautiful background, and in the ninth photo I tried to stitch together several photos to give you a panoramic view. Again just to insure you that I am along on this trip, Susy kindly took my photo in front of the “view” (10th photo). Please don’t fall over, but I’m only in the eleventh photo also because Susy wanted you to see (and remind us) our French guide (he was born in New Caledonia, 3rd generation) because this must be one of the only Frenchmen we have ever met who had high praise for the United States. He told us the story of WWII, when the US came into New Caledonia and made it their Pacific headquarters. He said over 500,000 US troops were on the Island at one time or another, and when we left after the war, we left it with all new roads, a huge new hospital, and all and all, he said the New Caledonians owe their lives to the U.S. and it is the most wonderful nation in the world. You may be thinking he was just looking for a tip, but we could tell he was sincere. The 12th photo is another panoramic view of the port of Noumea from one of the hills above. The 13th photo shows the native dancers at the pier as we were departing, and I have to end this with a photo of the pool party as we sailed away from this beautiful tropical island. The ships band was playing island music and the atmosphere was one of being in a tropical paradise. I wish every one of you could be with us to enjoy these moments.
On to Fiji, the second South Pacific Island,
Love you All,
Gary (alias Gagu)