The day after our first class day, we were in Noumea. We arrived early in the morning, docking around 8am. I was up very early, as usual, watching the dawn and our approach to New Caledonia.
The sky was again gorgeous, with a lot of lovely clouds making it so interesting. As we approached the islands, they were shrouded in grey, but as the sun came up, the light caught on parts of the highlands, and then on the lower parts too.
We passed between a gap in a reef of some sort to enter the harbour. To me it looked like a large sand bar.
I went downstairs for breakfast and my shower and when I came back out on deck again, I could hear far off singing. We were quite close to the dock, and when I looked, I could see a little group of specks on the dock. As we came closer, those specks turned out to be a singing, dancing, drumming, Polynesian cultural group. They were singing, dancing and drumming to welcome us! It was wonderful!
I had booked to go kayaking for my onshore excursion, but that tour didn’t leave until about 11am. However, I wanted to catch the shuttle bus into the city centre so go souvenir shopping for my family.
Just before 9am, I caught the shuttle bus which deposited me and many others at the tourist information centre in town. Upstairs was a souvenir market. A lot of the goods were not the sort of quality I was interested in, but there was one stall that really caught my eye. A lovely girl called Dominique Subileau was selling jewellery from clay that she makes herself, and I thought it was beautiful. I stocked up on some necklaces, a brooch and some earrings for various family members. She tested out her English on all of us, her customers. She had a lovely French accent!
Back to the ship for some morning tea – I knew I would be having lunch very late, because my tour was over lunch time – of delicious fresh pineapple. Yum! (How they kept serving us fresh pineapple throughout the cruise when they took on no fresh food in port, I don’t know!)
And then down to the dock for boarding my bus. There were about 20 of us going kayaking in that timeslot. Another group had gone earlier. We were driven to Dumbea River, outside of the city of Noumea. The river was slow flowing and gentle. It was practically clear, so you could see quite well to the stones on the river floor.
As I did not have a companion, I was paired up with one of the instructors, Julien. We headed off, leading the group. In the first five minutes, my arms went jelly-like and I thought I had made a terrible mistake in choosing to go kayaking! I knew I was pretty fit, but most of my exercise is walking which tends to focus on the lower body, rather than the arms. However, as Julien and I were at the head of the group, and there were some stragglers, we stopped to let them catch up. This gave my arms the chance to rest, and I was fine after that.
Because some of the others were struggling, I was re-paired up with the wife of a husband and wife team. Dianne and I were not very good! Julien actually strapped our kayak to the back of his so that we could keep paddling, but go a bit straighter! After some time he unclipped us and we continued more successfully.
We were paddling upstream for about 1.5 kilometres, to a small beach at the side of the river. There were pulled off to the side, beached our kayaks and went swimming. The water was an extremely pleasant temperature (rather Goldilocks-like – not too hot, not too cold) and it was very relaxing and enjoyable.
On the way back Dianne and I did much better, managing to make good progress and keep our kayak reasonably straight. I was the person on the back of the kayak, which made me the “captain” and able to control the direction we were going. At the end of our kayaking jaunt, Dianne and I voted ourselves the “most improved”!
When I got back to the ship, I immediately had a shower, being a little cold and wet, because I’d gotten saturated during the kayaking. That made me feel much more comfortable!
I took some embroidery up to Cloud Nine, which was a room overlooking much of the ship, where a lot of us went to do our embroidery in the afternoons and evenings. (It was also where the knitting-needle-less Knit and Nag was supposed to happen!) I sat with some others and enjoyed the view and the embroidery.
We were supposed to leave port at 4pm. 4pm came and went and we supposed that someone very important, or perhaps a whole tour group was running late and they were waiting for them.
At about 5pm, an announcement came over the PA system. “Hello, this is Captain Ryan, your ship’s captain.” (Imagine this in a Norwegian accent!) There was an electrical fault with the ship that meant we were unable to leave port, and therefore would be staying docked in Noumea until 4pm the following day, giving them time to fix it, rather than just going back to sea and having a worse failure. This in turn meant that we would lose too much time to go to Fiji, and therefore would instead just slowly be returning to Sydney.
It was a disappointment. Some people on the cruise were extremely upset and demanding all sorts of things, but really, these things just sometimes happen. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t get to go snorkelling in Fiji, but the reason I’d gone on the cruise was for the needlework, and that was all happening, so I was happy. And, at the same time as our cruise, there was another cruiseship drifting in the Caribbean, without working plumbing, without electricity, so we were infinitely better off!
I’ll continue my story tomorrow.