Monday, December 13, 2010

A/NZ - Ile Des Pins, New Caledonia - Day 13

This is our last island stop in French Polynesia/South Pacific region. The best was saved for last. The weather was wonderful (73 deg and sunny) and the island was incredible. The water was so clear that it disappeared at the shore. Once given a little depth it turned an iridescent turquoise blue. Even with a ship load of people coming ashore, there was still enough sandy beach to swallow them all and leave unpopulated stretches without foot prints. Please excuse my enthusiasm as I write this. Sigrid feels the same and wants to return some day. The island was discovered by Capt. James Cook, of course, and he named it "Ile Des Pins" meaning "Island of Pines".

This is another French speaking island. It is just off the coast of the Big Island of New Caledonia (Noumea was our first stop). As is the case on all French Territorial islands, the French Pacific Franc is the currency used. The exchange rate is $1 U. S. = 105 PF. It is a little disconcerting to see a price tag on a t-shirt for 3,000 PF.

The French were a little nuts. So many of these tropical paradises served as penal colonies back in the day when they had them. This island had almost 4,000 political prisoners at one time and was considered the most infamous. The prisoner confinement was pretty severe and if you ever made it out you carried scars of all kinds for the rest of your life. What a waste/desecration of natural beauty.

Sigrid and I early in the morning before going ashore.

You have to enlarge some of these photos to fully enjoy the island's beauty.

This was another tender port.

The locals were at the dock to greet us.

They danced and sang all day as people came ashore to visit.

The trees were just exploding with flowers.

The dock in the background gave me an excuse to take another photo of a flowering tree.

You can still see the old fortifications near the shore.

It doesn't get any prettier.

I got one of these but couldn't bring myself to wear it. It looks much better on Sigrid although she obviously wasn't too enthused about wearing it.

The ladies get together for weaving.

The other side of the bay from the dock.

A local resort building has a southern look to it.

It is a long ways to anywhere from here. It is refreshing not to see New York, Chicago, or LA on the pole.

I just can't get enough of the trees or the beaches.

A wind warped Cook Pine tree.

Sigrid and the beach.

An abandoned shop along the road that we explored.

I have never seen this many coconuts on one tree.

This table looks to be the perfect spot for a fruity island drink aside from the fact that it is almost directly under the palm with all the coconuts......caution.....hardhat area.

We found where most of the swimmers from the ship went and it isn't hard to understand. The sheltered cove is a perfect place to swim or sun.

Almost unreal.

Leaves in the sand.

A free lunch.

Chicken and island vegetables steamed in palm leaves.

Served on a leaf. Sigrid thought is was very good. I was just so-so on it but I couldn't complain about the cost. My guess again is that Holland America footed the bill for the food. The island people are just too poor to give food away to hundreds of people.

One last look at the pines that Capt Cook saw.

There is a trail to the top of the mountain (870 feet high), but we didn't want to spend the entire day hiking and miss so much beauty.

We now have two days at sea as we return to Sydney.

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