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Isle of Pines

Isle of Pines and our sailing tracks (Jon) The Isle of Pines was another place I could have spent a lot more time.  Since most boats have to check into Noumea before going anywhere else, getting down to the Isle of Pines is often difficult, as it's SE of Noumea - directly into the SE trade-winds.  But we got a delightful (if sometimes dangerous) west wind and took advantage of it, flying the spinnaker for 70 miles in one of our best sails in a long time.

There are many more anchorages that we could have visited, but our charts of this area were lacking in a lot of detail.  Now, we don't mind doing it the old-fashioned way, with someone up the mast to look out for coral heads and the rest of us feeling our way in, but our charts were so poor and the reefs so extensive that we decided there were easier pleasures.  There's a lot to see, and much of it is easier to get to than, say, the north end of the Isle of Pines.  Something to save for next time...

We decided not to anchor in the main anchorage of Kuta (which is completely open to the west) but instead went one bay further southeast to Kanumera, as it offers much better protection from the west-sector winds we were experiencing.  Kanumera has a wonderful soft beach where we had a big yachty-potluck and it became our base of operations for several excursions.  It also has ruins of the old penal colony and several walking trails nearby - around the headland to the west, up to Nga Peak, and around to the SE where they still build their dugout sailing canoes.

Ocelot (lower, center) in Kanumera Bay, Iles de Pins
Ocelot (lower, center) in Kanumera Bay

One of my favorite excursions was to the Nekanmue Atoll, at the very SE tip of New Caledonia.  We had a nice SW wind and so a glorious sail to get there, and then when the wind switched back to the SE, we had a nice sail back.  The pass through the reef is not at all marked and was a bit nerve wracking, but friends on a Catana 47' catamaran had gone in and said it was worthwhile.  Much of the atoll is too shallow, even for Ocelot, so we did a lot of dinghy exploration, visiting all 3 islands and walking around their coastlines looking for shells.

Tianna and Amanda on a motu in Nakanmue Atoll
Tianna & Amanda on a motu in Nakanmue Atoll

(Sue) We didn't begin to explore enough of the Iles de Pins or it's surrounding islets. I loved the hike up Pic Nga early in the morning (although Jon got better pictures by waiting and hiking mid-day), and the long tramp we took with Peter and Tina from Scud around the peninsula that separates Kanumera and Kuto Bays. The red hills, pine trees, and blue waters make this a very picturesque area, and unlike anything we've seen before in the South Pacific. The visit to Nekanmue Atoll, SE of Iles de Pins was a sheller's paradise, with chambered nautilus shells on the sand, and gem quality (empty) eyed cowries lying atop piles of bleached coral that was the "beach".  Silver gulls rested on the sands, and osprey guarded huge rough nests in the wind-blown shrubs. The trick was not stepping on any of the dozens of banded sea kraits that slithered amongst the coral rubble. It was truly a naturalist's playground!

Warren, on Scud, anchored at Iles of Pines
Warren, on Scud, anchored at Isle of Pines

(Amanda) Isle of Pines for me was fun largely because there were other teens around. Tia, my cousin, was of course on board still, and Scud was around with their two boys. Neither of them had to do schoolwork, while Tia and I slaved away all morning, but occasionally we had a bit of a strike and got away with it. At those times, or in the afternoons, we'd find something to do with Adam and Warren. We swam at the beach sometimes, played Scrabble or cards others. One morning, with the adults tagging behind - a LONG way behind - we climbed to Pic Nga, a one-and-a-half hour round trip hike. The hike up was grueling, but it was still early enough that it was cool... most of the time. The trail was there some of the time, winding around a dry streambed at the beginning and then becoming just a tunnel through the underbrush. At one point it was basically a miniature scree-field, and rather steep. That was fun to descend, as we sort of jogged down. The parents came down more slowly, I can't imagine why...

Heading out to explore Nuana in Nekanmue Atoll
Heading out to explore Nuana in Nekanmue Atoll

Another time, the four of us hired mountain bikes from the little resort there, and went all over our corner of the island. The paved road went a long way, and we could have followed it practically forever, but it was more our track to get to the off-road, off-trail dirty wild stuff. We lost Tia for a little while, during which time she went and had a bit of an incident with a tree, and she came back a bit scraped up. She just grinned, though, and we went to cool off in the ocean before returning the bikes - good thing we returned them then, or we would have had to pay for another hour that we thought we'd already paid for. I have to admit, sometimes it would definitely be nice to be able to speak and understand French perfectly. Still, that hour (or was it two?) bombing around the trails of the Isle of Pines was great fun.

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