Day 153, Year 2: Happy Spring, Happy Fall!
Date: Monday, September 24, 2007
Weather: Picture Perfect Day
Location: Baie de Hienghene, Grande Terre, New Caledonia

Today was the first full day of spring for us and your first day of fall. And I think both of our days might have been similar. The daytime temperature here was in the seventies and even though the nighttime temp only went as low as 70 degrees, it felt very cool after being in Vanuatu. So we are having beautiful blue sky, sunny days that are not stifling hot and cool nights. Sounds like fall in Maine to me.

In honor of spring, we, along with Scot Free II and Ranger, took our dinghies a few kilometers up the La Hienghene river. It was the first time I have been close to the town of Heinghene, so I enjoyed seeing it up close. We went past the brand new sports complex, the brand new marina, and the brand new downtown mini-shopping area. We went under a bridge and as we headed away from town the river wound around and headed inland. It was very shallow near the banks and we had to make sure we stayed
on the outside of the curves as it was much more shallow on the inside. The sky was bright blue with puffs of white clouds here and there and the lush growth along the river banks contrasted nicely with the drier mountains rising up behind. Along the river bank there were coconut palms, huge stands of bamboo with new light green leaves popping out all over, and some of the very tall, thin pines that grow here. There were also African tulip trees with their bright orange blossoms and a tree that
has a red bottle-brush blossom like the Puhutakowa in New Zealand. It was a feast for the eyes. And somehow while we were ogling at the beauty, we managed to hit a rock with our propeller. Ouch! Mark pulled the motor up immediately, and we thought everything was fine, but as the day wore on and we took other dinghy trips, we were given reason to believe that the propeller’s days are numbered. Other than our unfortunate encounter with a rock, the rest of the river trip was without problems.
As we went further and further inland, the river narrowed and started to feel more like a big creek. At this point, we turned around and headed back to Hienghene. We enjoy watching men standing on the gravel beds casting nets into the water, saw a couple of horses, and a couple of houses, but for the most part, the river was ours. When we got back to Hienghene, we tied up to dock that was built to accommodate launches that shuttle people to and from cruise ships and walked along the waterfront.
This whole complex was built just a couple of years ago to accommodate visitors from a cruise liner, but we don’t know if that cruise liner still comes here. The huge mooring ball that we had read about is no longer out in the harbor, so we will have to ask tomorrow. There was a very tiny little mini-mart, a restaurant of sorts where you could get cold drinks, an building to accommodate an open-air market, a pharmacy,and a laundromat. And today there were two French-speaking couples sitting under
a little gazebo that were very helpful for us. Gerry can speak basic French and he was able to find out things about travel to Noumea and neat anchorages to visit on the southeast coast. We could understand very little of what was being said, but still we enjoyed meeting the couples. They were very friendly. After they left, we had a cruiser confab trying to figure out how we will get to Noumea to do the Immigration part of our check-in if they won’t do that for us here tomorrow. We have all
kinds of schemes but not sure what we will really do. First, we need to find out what the Port Captain recommends tomorrow morning.

Mark and I went back to Windbird for lunch and then we took off in the dinghy once more to explore the waters around the interesting rock formations here. We took off for La Poule Couveuse and Le Sphinx. In French, “poule” means chicken, and La Poule does look like a hen sitting on her nest. If you are old enough to remember those little ceramic dishes with a lid that had a hen’s head and tail, then you can imagine what this rock formation looks like. Except, of course, that it is huge. There
was lots of beautiful coral on the north side of the rock island and we floated over the coral and around to some other interesting formations. We motored most of the time, but when it got super shallow, we rowed. We circumnavigated La Poule and then headed across the bay to another formation known as the Sphinx. On the way there, we met Marie and Paul on Ranger who were coming in the opposite direction and we invited them to stop by Windbird on their way home. We had fun talking about our cruising
plans for New Caledonia, but we can make no certain plans until we find out how and when we can complete the check-in procedure.

070924 Day 153 Grande Terre, New Cal–Exploring Hienghene