Ile Des Pins –New Caledonia

The sail down from Ouvea towards the Iles Des Pins can be a difficult one. With the sea running from the SE and the wind regularly set from there as well, it can be a long beat. PJ of Stormy Monday had suggested that rather than going straight for the island, we should run on to the main island, go inside the reef and take our time in the sheltered water exploring the rarely used anchorages on the E side of the island. It made sense so we initially headed for  about  two thirds of the way down the island. As we cleared Ouvea, we found that the wind was from a wonderfully unexpected ENE direction so we hardened up and aimed further S to take advantage of it.

The next morning found us inside the reef in flat sheltered water and we pushed motor sailed SE the last few miles to Pass de Tare and anchorage described to us as a cyclone hole. We went in and found ourselves in a wonderfully sheltered bay, completely surrounded by forest. Wolfi and Cathi were in just before us having pushed a bit harder upwind. With a good muddy bottom, we anchored in 40’.

We spent a day looking around and met a delightful Frenchman who had been given permission from the locals to convert a small patch of one of the islands into a vegetable  garden. Once a violinist in Paris, we had found his way to New Caledonia and had never left. He does some trading with the locals and enjoys his life parked up in the bay.

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We moved on early the next morning escorted out of the pass by a couple of dolphin for the short jump to Iles Des Pins. There are a couple of routes into the huge sheltered nature park and we chose to head for Bay de Gadji which is on the N of the island. With only 15miles from Bay de Tare, it didn’t take us long but we had time to catch a King Mackerel. Finally, a fish with white flaky meat!

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We arrived to find Nigel on Varaiki leading a group of Rally boats off, all ducks in a row,  towards the narrow pass to the main town on S side of the island,  Hannah was disappointed to see her friends charge off but as we pointed out, Rally fleets are normally a bit more focused on moving on and are running to a timetable, something we have always tried not to do!

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We parked up for the first night at  a v sheltered anchorage in about 25’ of water just on the W side of the channel outside Bay de Gadji. The next morning having recce’d the route, we moved 500m E into the far shallower Bay de Gadji in 10’ of water into the whitest sand we had seen since the Bahamas. What a place! Lou has posted on Facebook that this is her favourite anchorage of the whole trip and it is difficult to argue with her. A huge area of sheltered water with great holding, oh so white sand and for the first few days at least little wind  meaning that Skylark looked as if she was floating on air, the water so flat and clear.

The original plan was to stay for a couple of days but we just loved it here. Joined by Be and Be and Plastik Plankton we had a great time being surrounded by beauty.

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Geoff decided he needed some time away from it all and took himself off on his paddleboard. He didn’t need to go far to find peace! I rather liked his style.

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We had a period of fantastic calm and beautiful sunsets. These are my two favourites. I’m quite proud of them considering they were taken on our little compact.

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Of course, as always with Hannah involved there was a continued drive for sleepovers and after several, we managed to get rid of the whole problem by suggesting a camping exhibition to one of the islands. The suggestion was joyously taken up by the smalls and we had a great time finding wood enough for the fire, selecting the right trees for the hammocks and then agreeing who would be sleeping with who.

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The view from the campsite was pretty impressive.

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Of course the adults couldn’t simply desert the kids so we got to visit, feed and water and hang out at the camp, at least until the kids told us it was time for us to leave them on their own.

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With one girl in each hammock, there was a minimum of strife. Shelby, smart girl she is, decided to enjoy the relative peace of Be and Be without her siblings!

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After rousing the kids out early after a few days ashore, we moved around to Kuto, the village in the main bay on the S side of the island where the ferry comes in. The ladies were disappointed again by the lack of fresh product available in the shop (singular). When pushed the shopkeeper said there might be fresh coming in by ferry a few days hence but it wouldn’t last long. I find it amazing that the service from Noumea to the outer islands is so poorly operated. With a fast foot ferry operating a couple of times a day, there must be opportunity for someone to spark. At the moment the only people who get reasonable service amd access to the plentiful produce of the main island are the hotels who ship in their own.

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We operated a taxi service in and out of the dock as you aren’t allowed to tie up to the ferry dock or the passenger dock (reserved for cruise liners) and we weren’t happy leaving the boat on the beach. It worked well and we all got to run about. Hannah did a good job as Dinghy Captain.

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The bay at Kuna has Dugongs in it. We kept a good look out for them but all we saw was the very occasional glimpse of a dark shape as it rolled underwater. We even tried a engine off drift through where we though we had seen a couple but with no success. Similar to Manatee, the big difference is the tail which looks like a Whales rather than the spade the Manatee has.

We climbed N’Ga, the highest hill on the island which overlooks the bay. Hannah had to hauled up the last little bit. Hot, bothered and without Eleanor to motivate her, she was not a happy chappy Smile 

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At 262m, N’Ga isn’t that high but the views are spectacular. With a 360 visage, you can certainly see why the island has its name. Interestingly, the island was originally a penal island and was used by the French to get rid of inconvenient political prisoners for a brief period in the mid 19C. It is a lot nicer than the hell hole of Devil’s Island, made famous in the film Papillion, but it proved to be too expensive to maintain.

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We needed to move on and see a bit more before we left Skylark. There is a huge amount to explore at the S end of New Cal and we could have spent weeks exploring. We looked and discussed, asked opinions, researched online and eventually decided that the weather was settled enough to go for one of the less visited small islands W of Ile Des Pins. Be and Be headed off to pick up family coming out to see them from home. Plastik Plankton and Skylark headed towards our final stop before handing her over, the island of Ua.

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