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By this Author: shaneandnicola

Lifou and back at sea

New Caledonia

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Our last stop was at Lifou. Lifou is the largest island in the archipelago of coral atolls and we were back in New Caledonia. Long stretches of white sand beach, small coves, limestone caves, grottos and imposing cliffs give the island one of the most dramatic landscapes in the pacific.
Melanesian seafarers were the first people to discover and settle. Whether French navigator D’Entrecasteaux or La Perouse was the first European to arrive is unknown - there’s some dispute as to whom. The name Loyalty Islands was bestowed on the group of islands by European merchants towards the end of the 18th century, apparently to acknowledge the cooperation of the indigenous people. Today, the main industry is copra, the dried meat of coconuts, from which oil is extracted. Increasingly, tourism is becoming an important mainstay of the local economy.
Once again we tendered to land.
From the ship we could see the Notre Dame de Lourdes, a historic chapel with a regal iron statue of "Our Lady of Lourdes" looking out from its rooftop. Constructed in 1898 by Catholic missionaries, this rustic church sits nestled atop the area's lush cliffs, which plunge dramatically down to the water below.
Once onshore we spent some time swimming at the beautiful beach.
There were even pigs running around.
In the afternoon we visited the tropical northern end of Lifou. We visited a Vanilla Plantation. While exploring this idyllic setting, which included robust ferns resting on raised coral "pillars" and vanilla vines draped over the branches of trees, we learned how vanilla is harvested and how vanilla-infused products are produced.
Back on the road, we travelled to the towering cliffs of Jokin, a charming village along Lifou's rugged northern coast. Once the walls of the island's barrier reef, these breathtaking, 120-foot cliffs consist of layers of ancient fossilized coral built up over time. We explored Jokin Village while savoring fresh coconut milk, a welcome gift upon arrival.
As tall palms waver in the island breeze, we meandered amongst traditional buildings including an impressive, round meeting hut topped by an intricate thatched roof.
We then headed back to the ship. This was our last stop and we were sad to be leaving these beautiful places.
We had 3 days at sea returning to Sydney. Once again we were so lucky with the weather. Shane and I were not sure how we were going to go on this cruise with the sea days but we were not sea sick and we enjoyed it so much that we will be going on further cruises in the future.
The morning of disembarkation we had breakfast on the terrace with the Harbour Bridge in the background. What a way to finish off the cruise.
Disembarkation went smoothly and we headed to the airport for our flight home. Another adventure ends.

Posted by shaneandnicola 21:32 Archived in New Caledonia Comments (0)

Mystery Island, Vila and Champagne Bay


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Our next day we were in Vanuatu officially the Republic of Vanuatu, it is an Oceanian island nation. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is some 1,750 kilometres east of northern Australia, and 500 kilometres northeast of New Caledonia, Vanuatu was first inhabited by Melanesian people. The first Europeans to visit the islands were a Spanish expedition led by Portuguese navigator Fernandes de Queirós, who arrived on the largest island in 1606. He then claimed the archipelago for Spain, as part of the colonial Spanish East Indies, and named it Austrialia del Espiritu Santo.
In the 1880s, France and Great Britain claimed parts of the archipelago, and in 1906 they agreed on a framework for jointly managing the archipelago as the New Hebrides through a British–French Condominium. An independence movement arose in the 1970s, and the Republic of Vanuatu was founded in 1980.
Our first stop in Vanuatu was Mystery Island. This tiny, uninhabited inlet, originally named Inyeug, is located at the southernmost end of the Vanuatu archipelago approximately half a mile from the mainland, Aneityum Island. It is one of over 80 in the Vanuatu island chain. Used during World War II as an airstrip for the allied forces, it was dubbed "Mystery Island" because its location prevented the Japanese from seeing it from the water, making the appearance of allied planes a "mystery."
Mystery Island also has the auspicious claim to have been visited by royalty. Queen Elizabeth, in 1974, traveling to Australia aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, was so intrigued by its beauty that she made an impromptu stop for a picnic on the beach!
From afar you can see the island and the surrounding reef.
From the ship we went by tender to the beach.
The waters off Mystery Island are a Marine Protected Area, offering a wonderful opportunity to see the ecosystem of the undisturbed coral reef. We were met at the beach, where our friendly guide gave us safety instructions before we went snorkelling. We then boarded a small boat and set off into the turquoise sea, admiring the storybook scenery of the island. As you begin cruising into the clear, open waters, phenomenal underwater vistas come into view. We then went snorkelling and saw dazzling coral formations and various marine life. Tropical fish came out to say hello.
We were refreshed and invigorated from the time spent in the water, we returned to the white-sand beach to relax and enjoy the rest of our day in paradise.
We couldn’t resist these photos with the locals.

The next day we arrived in Vila. Vila is the capital and largest city of Vanuatu and is located on the island of Efate.
Its whole name if Port Vila. Its population in the last census (2009) was 44,040, an increase of 50% on the previous census result (29,356 in 1999). In 2009, the population of Port Vila formed 18.8% of the country's population, and 66.9% of the population of Efate.
Situated on the south coast of the island of Efate, in Shefa Province, Vila is the economic and commercial centre of Vanuatu.
On March 13, 2015, Vila bore extensive damage from Cyclone Pam.
While in Vila we wanted to see as much as possible so set off on a Round Island tour. We visited the Iarofa Cultural Village, where warriors greeted us.
We watched a variety of cultural demonstrations and discovered the fascinating history of the Iarofa people, which included an era of cannibalism.
The highpoint of the visit was an opportunity to watch the ritual preparations required prior to performing a fire-walking rite.
They spit a prepared plant substance on the bottom of their feet before they walk through the hot coals.
They walk through the coals 4 times.
They sang and danced for us and then we posed for some photos.
We then visited Eton Village on our way to the Blue Lagoon. It had sparkling blue water with forest all around it. We spent quite a bit of time cooling off here before enjoying some fresh fruit and a cool drink.
We then went on to Pang Pang village where we were told all about the huge banyan trees. These trees came in handy during the cyclone as protection.
We stopped at a lovely spot for lunch right on the beach at a local village. They prepared a lovely meal and they sang to us while we had our lunch.
That night we went and saw a comedian on board, we hadn’t laughed so much for a long time. At around midnight we awoke to the smell of smoke in our room. We were quite worried, as the last thing you want is a fire on a ship in the middle of nowhere. Shane rang the pursers desk and they advised us that we had passed an erupting volcano and the smell was so strong it had gotten into the air conditioning. We were told all was well. The little old italian couple in the room next door were not put at ease and he said “the captain of the Titanic had said all is well and look what happened to that ship”. We had a laugh and went back to bed.

On the move again, we awoke the next morning at Champagne Bay. We had an early breakfast as we were going to get an early tender to shore. However it was raining so hard you could not see the island. We went back to our room and a couple of hours later the sun was beating down and it was really humid. So went ashore.
It is situated on the east coast of Vanuatu’s largest island, Espiritu Santo. The island has been inhabited for many years by Melanesian people known as Ni-Vanuatu, who still proudly observe the clan system and maintain many of their ancient traditions. We spent the day relaxing on the beach, set amongst a dramatic landscape of mountains, plantations, farms, lowland forest and jungle. We were far from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, so enjoyed the chance to do next to nothing. We swam in translucent blue waters and strolled along the dazzlingly white, soft sand. Lots of market stalls had been set up so did a bit of retail shopping. I bought a couple of summer dresses and Shane got a t-shirt and cap.

Posted by shaneandnicola 20:57 Archived in Vanuatu Comments (0)

Noumea and Mare

New Caledonia

Our first stop was Noumea in New Caledonia. New Caledonia is located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, 1,210 km east of Australia. The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Chesterfield Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of Pines, and a few remote islets.
New Caledonia has a land area of 18,576 km2. Its population of 268,767 (Aug. 2014 census) consists of a mix of Kanak people (the original inhabitants of New Caledonia), people of European descent, Polynesian people, and Southeast Asian people.The capital of the territory is Nouméa.
Noumea is a little piece of France. Before World War II, New Caledonia was a little known and seldom-visited French possession known for its penal colony and its natural resources. (Nickel smelting still plays a major role in the island economy.) The island is famed for its white-sand beaches while its barrier reef is the world's second longest.
In 1774, James Cook thought the island's rugged hills resembled those of his native Scotland. Hence he christened the island New Caledonia. The island and its outlying groups became a French colony in 1854 and an overseas department of France in 1956.
As the ship docked we were greeted by some of the locals singing and dancing their traditional music.
We departed the ship and we went for a scenic drive through Place des Cocotiers, a popular meeting place lined by palm trees and centenary flame red trees. We drove past old colonial houses in the Fauborg Blanchot district, one of Nouméa's oldest residential districts.
We continued on the Promenade Pierre Vernier along the waterfront to Ouen Toro Lookout where two Australian cannons from WWII stand guard.
Noumea from the lookout.
As New Caledonia boasts the world's largest lagoon and a barrier reef that is second in size only to Australia's Great Barrier Reef, the perspective from this tip of the peninsula revealed the bays and beaches as well as small marine reserves fringed with coral reefs.
We went to Anse Vata Beach, where we relaxed on the beach for a while.
Returning to the ship we drove past the Noumea Yacht Club, the Southern Province Government House and Baie de l'Orphelinat (Bay of Orphans), named in memory of the orphans of Empress Eugénie sent to New Caledonia to be brides for the first settlers. Along the bay sits a special centennial monument in the form of an anchor, erected in 1953 to celebrate a century of French presence in New Caledonia. We headed back into town as wanted to visit the USA memorial. This memorial is dedicated to U.S. service members who helped ensure the freedom of New Caledonia during World War II. The monument was erected in 1992, commemorating the arrival of the first 20,000 US troops in Nouméa. Over several years, nearly a million American soldiers stayed on the island during the Second World War.
There was also some carvings nearby.
It was so hot and humid here and we were melting by the time we got back to the ship so it was nice so see cold water and cold towels awaiting us at the foot of the ship.
We went out on deck and farwelled Noumea.
The next day we arrived at Maré Island which is the second-largest of the Loyalty Islands, in the archipelago of New Caledonia. The island is 42 km long and 16 to 33 km wide. It lies northeast of Grande Terre, New Caledonia's mainland. Maré is a raised coral atoll, a former atoll that has been lifted about 120 meters. The interior of the island is the former lagoon, surrounded by a rim of higher land that was the ring of reef islets. Its fossil coral rock is honeycombed with caves, pools, and pits of all sizes, whose sharp edges make for difficult walking. Because of the lifting, the current shoreline is relatively recent and supports only short sections of nearshore fringing reef, unlike the extensive barrier reef found on the main island of New Caledonia, Grande Terre. The narrow beaches of Maré are often backed by cliffs.
To get to land we needed to arrive by tender. So we all packed into the tenders and off we went to dry land.
We visited Yedjele Beach.
It was our first remote beach stop and the water was so lovely.
We went snorkelling. There wasn't a lot to see but we did see something.
When we returned to the tender we wandered around a little market that the locals had set up.
Once again we stayed on deck to farewell a wonderful day in Mare.

Posted by shaneandnicola 20:34 Archived in New Caledonia Comments (0)

At sea


We had 2 days at sea. We were so lucky with the weather, in fact one of the days the ocean was like glass.
Whilst at sea we kept ourselves busy doing some of the ship activities, found a nice quiet place on Deck 7 with deckchairs away from the crowds where we relaxed.
At night the weather was so nice we took advantage of Movies under the stars where we watched some movies (including popcorn). We also went to a couple of musical shows and saw a comedian. There was certainly lots to do from spanish classes, ballroom dancing lessons, line dancing, ukulele lessons, the casino and quiz games to mention just a few.
One night there was a deck disco.
Riviera Deck during the day.
Shane relaxing at the front of the ship.

Posted by shaneandnicola 20:27 Comments (0)

South Pacific Cruise

Departing Sydney

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After arriving in Sydney on the morning of the 29th January we headed for the cruise terminal excited to board our home for the next 12 days. Check in was very smooth so we headed up for lunch on board the ship. While at the buffet it poured with rain, you could hardly see the city and there was thunder and lightning. I was worried that we wouldn’t get a good view leaving Sydney Harbour. By 4pm when we set sail the sun had come out and it was an amazing view leaving Sydney.
The city.
The magnificent harbour bridge.
Luna Park
The Sydney Opera House
Manly ferry and North Head as we near the harbour entrance

Posted by shaneandnicola 20:24 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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