Hitting the reef was not the only surprise on our way around the island. A few days later, we anchored off Poum, a small village in northern New Caledonia. It has been another gray day. Clouds covered the sky and the cool wind did its part to depress the mood.
We took the dinghy to the beach to look for the nearest supermarket. As always, when we arrive at a new village, we first looked out for a few locals to introduce ourselves and ask directions. Yet asking for directions is actually much more of a reason to start a conversation. It’s more about the gesture of saying „hello“ and finding out whether we are welcome or not.
At a property guarded by a barking pit bull, we finally struck up a conversation with a small family: they described us the way to the supermarket and post office but also warned us about the many good-for-nothings and asked if we had also locked the boat securely.
We said yes (I never lock the boat) and made our way to the supermarket. We had just arrived at the last bend in the beach, from which we still had the boat in view, when a small motorboat with three young men came hurtling toward us. They just came back from fishing. At first, we were a bit concerted by their loud shouts and the wild nature of their appearance and gesticulations. But then it turned out quite quickly that they were up to no harm, but simply delighted to see tourists so far in the remote north.
They came just at the right time! Only a few seconds later and Annika and I would have already disappeared behind the next bend and would not have noticed how two drunkards tampered with our dinghy: They started the engine on shore and revved it up a couple of times.
When we realized what was going on, the boys immediately jumped back into their boat and chased screaming and cursing in the direction of the suspected thieves and beat them into flight. At a run, Annika and I took a little longer to get back and when we finally arrived at the dinghy, the three apologized to us for their people and advised us to rather do the shopping at the next port. – An advice, which we gladly followed. We chatted on for a bit and after we had thanked them and made our way back, we even got a fish as a gift.
Running out of the water caused the impeller pump to break. But although this was our first and only negative experience with the locals, in the end we were also happy and positively surprised by the help we immediately received from the other young men!
The weather forecast finally showed a light wind window for the following days, which we could take advantage of to sail back to the south of New Caledonia. After 48 unexciting hours at sea, we moored the boat in a small marina not far from the capital and rewarded ourselves with a large pizza. The circumnavigation was done!
From now on the days were much more relaxed! We knew we had to wait for a spare part and therefore were not in a hurry at all to cover the last 50 nautical miles back to Noumea. We did some small hikes and anchored a couple of nights off a small island on the outer edge of the reef.
Here we met the crews of several Australian and New Zealand boats that had recently arrived in New Caledonia as part of a rally. – „The first foreign boats in New Caledonia – finally some company on the water!“
Together we went surfing and diving. For Annika and me it has been the first time, that we dived together without a diving school. Without a guide, who knows the spots like the back of his hand, everything has to be prepared by yourself. You must pay attention to the depth, watch the current and of course you never know what to expect down there!
As a contrast program to our water activities, we were drawn to the mountains! – walking our sealegs.
Just a week ago, Anni and I climbed the Mont Humboldt. At 1618 meters, it is the second highest mountain in New Caledonia. The trail started at the entrance to one of the many nickel mines. After leaving the long mining road behind, the trail wound up the mountain through a patch of forest. Then we followed smaller ridges until we reached the 1200-meter mark. Then, nature changed abruptly again and for the last two hours we climbed through the thicket of a forest. It was so dense and wild that you could think you had ended up in a fairy tale forest.
After a total seven hours of walking, we reached the Refuge du Humbold: a really cute hut in a slight valley just below the actual summit! It was already four o’clock and we noticed that it was quickly getting colder. We stowed our backpacks in the hut and started looking for dry branches and twigs to start a small fire.
By the time the flames burned, the sun had already set and temperature dropped to about 10°C. We began to warm up the food we had brought with us and boil water from the cistern for the next day.Despite the temperature Wearing ski underwear and keeping the hot water bottle in the sleeping bag, it was actually quite bearable. With all the efforts of the day, I slept like a baby!
The next morning, we got up early and covered the last 300m of altitude all the way to the top. What an insane view! Being almost in the middle of the island, you have a view on the mountains, the green valleys and their red peaks. It is the only mountain peak in New Caledonia from which you can also see both sides of the coast and the ocean!
This journey is my dream! If you want to support me and keep the journey going, please feel free to invite me for a symbolic dinner!
Thank you so much!
We briefly enjoyed the view; took some photos, then we had to start the descent again. It was cold and our pants were wet from the morning dew. Also, we wanted to be back at the mine before four o’clock.
We had a bunch of luck at the very beginning of our hike already, which saved us quite a bit of time and energy: A truck driver had already picked us up a few minutes after we had turned onto the mine road and offered us a ride to his loading station. This saved us several kilometers of boring walking and also we would hardly have made it through the security post further down in the valley otherwise.
As soon as we were on our own feet again, we attracted the attention of the mine supervisors: they were; kind of understandably; not really pleased to see us in the middle of their mine and wanted to know, how we had gotten there. To protect the driver, we blamed our legs for carrying us this far and at the same time tried to convince them that we could take good care of ourselves.
Only after some back and forth did we finally manage to convince the two women not to throw us out, but to drive us a little further up, to the start of the actual trail. – Without these two „shortcuts“ the hike would have been way harder!
In any case, we now knew that if we didn’t show up at the mine until closing time, we would have to walk all the whole way through the mine. So, we stepped it up a notch and made it back to the mine on time. The car we stopped was boss himself on his last inspection run up the mountain. He drove us to the nearest bus station.
We have been anchoring off Noumea again for a few days and are preparing for the onward journey. We have been waiting for the ordered spare part for the forestay for over three weeks, but now we know that the package has been lost at DHL.
Although it is strange to know that such a critical component is defect and the boat is not 100% , we decided to continue sailing to Vanuatu anyway. I checked with the manufacturer for their assessment and set the second forestay for added safety. – According to DHL, an investigation into the whereabouts of the package will take „one to two months.“!
For the crossing this weekend a suitable weather window has announced itself. With light winds from southwest – west, so from behind, the 260 nautical mile crossing to Vanuatu should be easy.
Also! We have a new crew member on board! She comes from Australia. Right now she is diving with Anni, brought her own diving equipment and surfboard will probably stay on board until Indonesia!