My adventure started when I woke up at 5.31a.m. as the clock alarm failed to go on. Never in my life had I got up so quickly frantically throwing on my clothes and running to the front door to see if the shuttle bus to the airport was there scheduled to pick me up before 5.30. No bus was in sight so I hopefully left the porch light on while I gulped down some milk and used the loo before looking out my front door again. To my relief, the bus had just arrived, so I grabbed my travel bag, locked the door as I went out and boarded the bus. As it was pulling out of my street, I looked at my watch and realised that just 5 minutes earlier, I was still in bed. That must be a world record I thought to myself. At Brisbane airport I was told at security that my sunscreen lotion was more than the millilitres allowed on the aircraft, so I had to check my baggage in. What a nuisance. On arrival at Tontouta airport in New Caledonia I found that my bag was already on the carosel to pick up. That was the fastest unloading of a full aircraft that I had ever experienced. You win some, you lose some – To save on the 30,000 Franc cost of the airport shuttle bus to take me the 42 kilometres to Noumea city centre, I asked a few locals heading for their cars if they were going to Noumea and one lady with 2 children kindly gave me a lift and I practised my French with her on the way. I found a money exchange machine where I put in dollars and lost $25 of it in the 10% commission charged before the notes in local Francs were issued. So I only got 70 Francs to the Australian dollar. The youth hostel was familiar as I had been there before and the staff were very friendly and helpful. My room was clean and from the window I had views over Noumea. Three other guys shared this large room and they were quiet, considerate and friendly.
On the Sunday, I went on a fantastic full day tour to Amedee island with its iconic lighthouse which I climbed the never ending internal spiral stairway to be rewarded at the top with magnificent views of the island and surrounding reef. The tour price included entry to the lighthouse, a glass bottom boat ride to see the fish, turtles sea corals and a small shark. This was followed by a cruise back on the Mary D through turquoise waters to the outer reef where we saw more turtles, some rays plus larger fish. Our delicious smorgasbord lunch was complimented with fruit punch, traditional dancing accompanied by local musicians. It was a true Pacific island experience. For the remainder of the afternoon, I enjoyed snorkelling just off the beach to corals of various shapes and colours inhabited by many colourful fish, plus a few sea eels and sea snakes which also slithered up onto the beach under my chair while I was drying off in the sun. These striped snakes locally called Tricots Rayes are not aggressive even though their venom is highly poisonous. It was a very enjoyable day with perfect weather – 24C and a light breeze.
On my last full day in Noumea, I looked around the town centre, stocked up on food and found a bank which gave me a much better exchange rate to change cash. Even though I paid for all my accommodation with my Travel card in Euro, you still need local currency for everything else such as food, bars and bus fares. Noumea has a few museums worth a visit including the Tjibaou cultural museum located not far from town on the Tara peninsula. It includes Melanesian/Kanak culture, sculptures and architecture. The more exclusive suburbs of Ansa Vata and Baie de Citron are worth visiting for the beach, restaurants and bars. The aquarium is definitely worth seeing.