Day 162, Year 2: Tour of Ouvea
Date: Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Weather: Another Absolutely Gorgeous Day
Location: Mouli, Island of ouvea in the Loyalties, New Caledonia

Villages here are called tribus, and today we visited most every tribu on the island. We rented a car for half a day and left Mouli around 11 AM. There is one main road on the island that runs north to south. And in fact, at times the island is so narrow that there is little more than the width for a two-lane road. We headed north and made a stop on the north side of the Mouli bridge. We had been here with our bikes yesterday, and the view was so spectacular that we wanted to take it in one
more time. Yesterday there was a heron standing on the beach and he acted as if he owned it. I wanted to see if he was still there today. He was not in his spot, but soon after we arrived he came walking out on the beach to the exact same spot where we saw him yesterday. Maybe he does own the beach! We then went to Camping de Lekine to drop off a packet for Ranger. They had met a man yesterday and taken some pictures of him. He wanted copies and they had arranged for him to pick them at Camping
de Lekine. With that done, our next stop was just a little north where we turned right off the main road to go back to see the cliffs at a spot where you can walk across the bay at low tide. Valerie at Camping de Lekine had told us about this spot and it was special. The bay is narrow and shallow and even though it was not low tide, it looked like we could walk across anyway. We opted not to, but we got some great pictures of the cliffs with stalactites and stalagmites hanging from the sides.
We also saw a couple of little green birds in the trees that we thought might be the green parakeet (Eunymphicus Uvaeensis) that is endemic to the island. It is also endangered and hard to find, so maybe we were seeing something else. I tried to get photos, but they were very elusive little things.

The next stop was in Fayaoue which serves as the business center for the island. There are grocery stores, gas stations, a couple of restaurants, and an airport. We wanted to visit the caves out near the airport, the Grotte de Kong Houloup, so we followed the directions for getting there that we had read in the Lonely Planet. The directions led us to the end of a road where we got out and walked and sure enough, the trail led us to the caves. The openings were small, but when we looked inside,
it looked like you could crawl around and explore for quite some time. We just took pictures and enjoyed the area. There were more butterflies flitting around than we have seen anywhere across the Pacific. There was an orange and black butterfly that looked very much like a Monarch, and a beautiful little white and black butterfly. There were others, but these two were the most abundant. There was lots of pink and orange lantana, so it was butterfly heaven.

It was time for lunch, so we stopped at a place by the lagoon named Snack Champagne. No one spoke English and we surely don’t speak French, so ordering was a bit challenging. We decided to have what the person before us had been served. It ended up to be a raw fish salad with coconut milk and it was delicious. But it was served with french fries and rice and was more than either of us could eat. Everything else in the area was closed for lunch, so we decided to head on north and return to Fayaoue
on the way home to check out the grocery store. The gas station was open and we had our dinghy gas tanks with us to fill, but we also decided to do that on the way home. So on north we went.

Wadrilla was the next town. We stopped to see the large white memorial to those who died in the hostage crisis of 1988. A group of Kanak freedom fighters captured sixteen gendarmes and held them hostage in a cave in the northern tribu of Gossanah. After about two weeks, 300 gendarmes stormed the cave and killed nineteen of the freedom fighters. There is way more to this story, but basically Ouvea has become a symbol of martyrdom in the resistance of the native people to French colonialism and
the memorial in Wadrilla is physical evidence of this. The main wharf for Ouvea is just a little north of Wadrilla, so we stopped to view the northern islets of Pleaides de Nord from there and then we visited the coconut oil soap making factory, Aiia. The business only has about twelve employees, but we were so impressed with their simple, yet efficient operation. A young man named Edward showed us the process. He could speak very good English which was greatly appreciated.

>From the wharf, the road north winds around to the Col de Casse-Cou, the narrowest point on the island (45 m). From there we went to St. Joseph’s district. We visited the Catholic church and then followed directions we had copied from the Moon Handbook of the South Pacific to find Trou Aux Tortues. This is a sinkhole near the ocean where the Grand Chief of Wenaki supposedly keeps turtles until he is ready to eat them. The water is brackish and it is said that no one has ever found the bottom
of the sink hole. When we arrived we immediately saw one turtle, but we sat and waited for what seemed like an eternity and only one other turtle surfaced momentarily. We started walking a track around the sinkhole, but somehow we ended up on another road headed to what we think was a little village. We went back the way we came and just before we were about to give up and go back to the car, one turtle surfaced and put on quite show for us. We had our turtle fix for the day, and headed on to
tribu de Ognat at the end of the road. From one viewpoint, we could see the island of Lifou and look back to see all of the east coast of Ouvea.

On our way back, we stopped at Trou Bleu d’Anawa. This is another sinkhole. You are supposed to ask permission to visit, but when we got to the location, no one was there. Evidently someone is building a beautiful homestay on the edge of the sinkhole. There were many cases, some built of white stone. When this place is finished, it is going to be fabulous. It is right on the lagoon and has the Trou Bleu in it’s backyard.

Our last stop was in Fayaoue to get fuel and stop at Chez Fella, supposedly the best grocery store on Ouvea. It was a little like the Chinese stores in Nukalofa in Tonga. The shelves were stocked, but you have to stand behind a counter and have someone get things for you. Not a very easy way to shop, but I was only after onions and potatoes, and that was easy. It was then back to Mouli and out to Scot Free II for a delicious spaghetti dinner. The number of boats in the anchorage increased while
we were gone today. New Dawn out of Alaska and Cool Bananas (love the name), a US catamaran, had come in while we were gone today. Tomorrow was supposed to be a snorkeling day, but the news of a tourist that was killed by a shark on the neighboring island of Lifou has everyone a little timid about getting in the water. Maybe we will just swim in the crystal clear waters here in the anchorage and not venture out to the reef.