Tuesday, December 28, 2010
25/12/10 - 28/12/10 New Caledonia Christmas, Generalised Shenanigans
Oook, so apparently I've spent too much time holidaying and not enough time blogging. Time to remedy this!
Christmas Day in New Caledonia was spent as any good Christmas should be spent: with great company, great food and all activities at a relaxed pace. We had delicious turkey, prawns and pork for lunch, and then lobster for dinner.
The lobster was very very tasty, but to be honest it tasted like a chunky chunk of meat, but made of prawns. Definitely not a bad thing, but I think my palate didn't appreciate the price tag.
Boxing day was another sightseeing day. We began by going out in Annette and Claude's boat to visit Ilot Maitre, one of the smaller islands off the coast of Noumea. The boat ride was very fun, with the speedboat bouncing up and down on the clear blue water.
When we moored just off the island, it was swimming time. The water was pleasantly cool - a relief from the constant New Caledonian heat.
I borrowed one of the snorkels from the boat and did some snorkeling over one of the coral reefs nearby. The view was fantastic, with thousands of fish and corals to be seen.
Unfortunately, it was soon time to go back to the mainland, as we had other exciting sightseeing things to do.
Later that day, we went for a drive to a river that snakes its way through a massive mountain range that divides New Caledonia into east and west.
The drive to the river was breathtaking. At every turn it seemed like one gigantic mountain gave way to another. The whole thing reminded me of the film "Jurassic Park", except without the killer dinosaurs, of course...
We were intending to go for a swim at one of the river's popular swimming spots, but due to the heat and the popularity of the boxing day holiday, it appeared that all of the really good spots were taken. Eventually the road turned from bitumen to gravel to red dust, and we found ourselves a spot.
Unfortunately, the spot which we had found was fairly shallow, and the river bottom was covered in very slippery rocks. Nevertheless, I still tried and swam, but it was more just lying still and letting the water wash over me. Still, the water was lovely and cool, and the setting was rather peaceful, so it was definitely worth the trip.
The rest of the day was spent lounging by the pool. All in all, a great boxing day - certainly better than a shift at The Big K.
On Monday we explored downtown Noumea. We had a look around their many shops, and also in one of their supermarkets.
The supermarket was an interesting experience. Some items were very expensive compared to Australia, such as junk food, but other items, such as cheese and alcohol were significantly cheaper.
The former can be explained by the fact that, well, the French love their freaking cheese, so much so that nearly a quarter of the shop was devoted to it. The latter can be explained by the fact that New Caledonia doesn't have all of the taxes that we do on alcohol.
Hot. Monday was hot. Boiling hot. Nearly 40 degrees hot. Walking around in the midday sun was not healthy, so we tried to go to the aquarium to cool off in their air conditioning.
Unfortunately, it was closed on Monday's. So, a short phonecall later, and we were picked up by Annette, and taken shopping with them at a much larger shopping center. This one was fairly similar to the last, except that it sold electronics and clothes as well. The electronics were super expensive - a single blu ray movie was well over $60 AUD.
After another browse around their extensive cheese section, we headed back to Annette's house.
That evening, we had a French dish called "raclette" for dinner. Essentially, it was various deli items such as salami, prosciutto, olives, onions, gherkins and what have you, smothered in melted cheese. As if this wasn't fun enough, the cooking procedure was very hands on, as you had a grill which you melted the cheese under, and grilled any other parts to your meal on the top. A very social and very tasty meal.
On tuesday we finally got to visit the aquarium. And it was definitely worth the wait. The aquarium took you through all of the various depths of water throughout New Caledonia's ecosystem, from mountain streams, all the way through to deep oceans.
My favourite area was the petting pool, which had a real baby sea turtle which you could touch, and other types of star fish and sea cucumbers. There was one fish in particular that looked like its whole body was its head, and then a tiny tail at the end. We nicknamed it "headfish", and he jetted around the tank with great speed, refusing to stay still long enough for an in-focus photograph.
Also impressive was the massive tanks filled with shallow sea life, such as leopard sharks and gropers.
After leaving the aquarium, we chilled at Annette's house for a short while, before heading to a local waterslide park. It was essentially a tiny wet n' wild, with two rather fun waterslides. One which was a solo slide, and the other that was a two-person toboggan ride through a pitch-black tube that twisted and turned. Great fun.
That night, we went to a local Pizza place for dinner. The pizza was very tasty, and it meant that I have now tried pizza in every country I have visited, with the possible exception of Singapore airport. But I will try and rectify that when I head to Japan in March.
Next up: More New Caledonia stuff and the journey home.