Day 169, Year 2: Road Trip Around The Isle of Pines
Date: Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Weather: Ditto–Another New Caledonia Beauty
Location: Kuto Bay, Isle of Pines, New Caledonia

Today was another great island tour day. Every time we rent a car and travel around a new island, we are so overwhelmed with everything we see. One of the highlights for me today was seeing the gardens, newly tilled, and ready to plant. The soil here is Georgia red. It almost looks unreal, but plot after plot looked ready for planting. But the real main attraction of the day was swimming in La Priscine Naturelle. This is a clear pool cut off from the ocean by a coral wall and it is teeming
with fish that are totally oblivious to your presence. They don’t swim away, they simply continue doing what they are doing as you swim through them. It is like swimming in an aquarium, and it was great fun. We saw so many varieties of fish, and like yesterday, we saw some new players. The Great Barrier Reef anemonefish is new to us, as well as the Silver Pompano. It looks like a Pompano dolphinfish except that it is round like a saucer instead of long. We saw Sunset Wrasse and Moon Wrasse,
pencil urchins, small clams, fish grouped together in what I called a tower of fish, and on and on. In fact, we enjoyed our time in La Priscine Naturelle so much that we are returning tomorrow by pirogue. Pirogues are the sailing outrigger canoes in this part of the world and we will sail on one up through Baie de Upi and then walk about an hour across to La Priscine Naturelle. We will snorkel there, eat a picnic lunch, and return to Kuto by bus. We are really looking forward to the day.

But back to today. We drove 62.3 kilometers, or somewhere around 40 miles. We went in a car with Marie and Paul on Ranger. Galaxie and Incognita took another car, and Scot Free went in a car of their own. Our whirlwind tour took in all the sights on the island. We started by driving from Kuto to Vao, going to the Wednesday market, visiting the information center, and then driving to the shore of the Baie de St. Maurice to se the Statue du Sacre coeur. This is a fence of carved totems along
the beach and a circle of totems surrounding a statue of Jesus. This is commemorating the arrival of missionaries to the Isle of Pines. The silver-gray totems make a pretty picture set against the blues of St. Maurice Bay. From there we visited the Catholic church and photographed its red steeple. We then walked up the mountain behind the church to a chapel with a wonderful view of the area. We drove out to Baie de St. Joseph to the pirogue landing, tried to gather information about the pirogue
trips but found that difficult without being able to speak French, and then headed north to Baie de Upi. This is where we walked to the natural pool and snorkeled. As we walked to the pool, Marie and I stopped and played with the little black crabs with one very large red pincer. Strange looking little creatures. We went snorkeling in the natural pool and would have stayed much longer, but we only had the car until 1 PM, so we had to keep on truckin’. The next stop was the Grotte de La Reine
Hortense. As you walk from the road toward the cave you pass through a lush tropical forest. There were giant ferns, plants of all varieties, and very tall hardwood trees. When we reached the cave it was like a huge opening in the mountainside side. We followed the stream in and could see the other end of the cave where light was flooding in a large opening. We didn’t have flashlights so we couldn’t see the rock ledge where Queen Hortense, wife of a local chief, sought refuge for months in 1855
during a time of tribal fighting. The stalactites hanging from the ceiling were huge. It was an easy and interesting cave experience. From there we drove to the top of the island and visited Gadji Bay, drove down the west side of the island and visited Baie de Ouameo, and found our way back to Kuto to meet our 1 PM deadline. It was great to see the entire island, and tomorrow we look forward to a more leisurely day of exploration.

We spent the late afternoon and early evening hours on Ranger with Scot Free II doing a little strategic planning on where to from here. There are some wonderful islands we could visit between here and Noumea, but the weather once again is showing its supremacy. West winds are predicted and very few of the islands have protection from that direction. We will stay here at least two more days and hope the weather reports become more favorable. If not, we have the “West Wind” plan as a back-up.