Day 179, Year 2: Museum Marathon–Mix of Nature and Culture
Date: Saturday, October 20, 2007
Weather: Overcast and Windy; Winds ESE 15-20 with Higher Gusts
Location: l’Orphelinat Bay, Noumea, New Caledonia

We started our day before 6 AM with a Sat phone call to our boat insurance agent and we were assured that we are insured. That was a relief and once again, we want to thank our daughter Heather for taking care of that for us. Time gets away from us out here where there are few deadlines, and the delay in written communication other than email can result in weeks or even months before we get notices. No excuses, but just the way things are when we are between ports. Thank goodness someone on lands
looks after us. And if you were wondering why we called the poor insurance man so early in the morning it is because our 6 AM on Saturday was his 3 PM on Friday afternoon.

Our next phone call was via Skype at the internet cafe. We called our daughter Heather and linked up the webcams. We were so anxious to see Sam. We got to see him briefly while in Port Vila, but the connection was not very good and we kept getting frozen video. Today the video was great. Everytime we see Sam he looks more and more grown up. He had his nine-month check-up and the doctor discovered that he has an ear infection. She started him on antibiotics. Since his congestion has just been
dragging on and on, maybe the antibiotic will put him back on a healthy track. But I must say that being sick doesn’t seem to slow him down. He is in constant motion reaching for the video camera and trying to eat it, grabbing the computer key board, then grabbing the mouse. He is certainly enough to keep Heather and Jed busy 24-7. By the time we finished with that call and downloaded some weather information, it was time for Mark to take his computer back to Ranger and meet Marie and Paul, and
Donna and Gerry of Scot Free and come back to the bus stop where I waited to catch the Noumea Explorer. This was to be our transportation today for our marathon museum tour. It was another whirlwind day, and we enjoyed every aspect of it.

The first stop for today was the Parc Zoologique & Forestier or Zoo and Botanical Gardens. There were spectacular views of Noumea as we climbed to the top of a summit where the park was located. We had only an hour and 45 minutes here in order to catch the bus to the next stop, so we walked as fast and saw as much as we could in the alotted time. We saw the flightless, quickly disappearing cagou which is New Caledonia’s official territorial bird. Some of the showiest birds were beautiful white
peacocks that enjoyed fanning their tails for us. In much too little time, we had to hop back on the Noumea Explorer and make for the next destination, the Jean-Marie Tjibaou (pronounced chee-bauw). Tjibaou was a leader of the Kanak people and was assassinated by one of his own people who felt he was selling his people short by signing the Matignon Accords in 1988. Tjibaou had intended the Accords to be only a stepping stone to independence of the Kanaks. The center cost $50 million American
dollars to build and was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano. The architecture of the place is overwhelming. There are ten huge metal and wood structures that represent the shape of a traditional Kanak case or home. These structures tower over the very long building that is divided into three parts. The inside was nice but the grounds were spectacular. A botanical garden winds around the main building and is filled with references to Kanak legend, accompanied by Kanak art, and more information
on native plants than I have seen anywhere in the Pacific. There is a ceremonial area with three traditional case or homes. One of them must have been thirty to fifty feet high. The final touch was a nine foot tall bronze statue of Tjibaou that stands on a hill overlooking the center. Tjibaou started out as a Catholic priest and left the priesthood with the Pope’s permission. He did not feel that he could best serve his people in his role as priest. He remained a spiritual man, however, and
the center is a great tribute to him. We spent two and a half hours here but could have spent the entire day. Then on we went to our final stop for today, the Aquarium des Lagons. This was a small but very well-done aquarium. The highlight for me was seeing the nautilus float through the water. We have found nautilus shells, but we have never seen a nautilus while in the water. So that was a thrill. It was also so much fun to see so many of the fish that we have been seeing when we snorkel.

That last Noumea Explorer pick-up was at 4:20 and somehow we made it. We had not eaten all day, so when we were dropped off right next door to McDonald’s, we decided to join all of the teenagers and have a quarter pounder. They are called Cheese Royale here, but they taste the same. Donna and Gerry actually had Happy Meals and we had great fun playing with their Happy Meal toys. It was a fun ending to a great day.

Back on Ranger we took a look at all of that weather information we downloaded this morning and saw that we might not really be able to leave on Monday. There is a low pressure system that would cross our path and leave us with fluky winds coming all directions. We will watch tomorrow and Monday to see exactly where that low ends up, and make our decision then. Until then, the museum marathon continues with a visit to the New Caledonia Museum and the Maritime Museum. We will visit both tomorrow
after a very early morning trip to Noumea’s fine fresh food market. That should be a real treat.