Five Go Mad
The Travel Times
|Colin, Robyn, Megan, Ashleigh and Nicole|
Sunday, 2 Sep 2018 - 7:29AM
The dawn sky is blue and windless. We breakfast outside among the sparkly birds and warming shafts of sunlight. We haven’t seen much in the way of wildlife on the island apart from tree birds and crabs (actually the numerous sandy holes that the crabs live in) and some bathroom ants. No rodents or ground birds. I half expect to see a weka or pukeko pootling about in the bushes.
The crab holes are everywhere in soft ground near coconut palms. They don’t seem to be of the aquatic variety and some of them are enormous judging by the size of their front doors. I swear that I saw a freshly snipped coconut that had been dragged to the entrance of a hole that was large enough to be considered a small cave. Thankfully they appear timid.
I tell myself via Robyn that it’s best to leave after the best part of the day, the best part being before 8:30 that is, when the van turns up. I sound convincing.
I binge on pastries and cheese.
The au revoir from the young trainee at the desk, who has been practicing her english, is delightful. Apparently we’ve stayed an unusually long time, the norm being a fleeting two to three days. We are scooped up and zoom over roads, tarmac and clouds via Ford Transit and orange plane, et voila, pop out in sunny Noumea for a day of exploring. Bags ditched we begin traipsing.
The traffic noise is confronting. People don’t wave. We focus on the boats anchored off the promenade which I find soothing. Many bristle with the accessories which give them away as both accommodation and transportation; things with aerials, domes and vanes, rubber dinghy, washing, kids in togs. After a pepsi stop at a lovely shady bar in Baie des Citrons we decide to catch the bus the rest of the way into the town. Good decision. Cheap, easy, regular and the windows open all the way. The local patrons are helpful (or at least tolerant). It took a few moments at the other end to get our bearings using the old-school tourist map we had (still no google access) before striking off towards the town centre. I have to declare at this point that Robyn was taking the lead with the map and the striking out etc. I had become fairly useless after too much exposure to alternative lifestyles of a floating nature and was stuck in the throes of a thousand-yard stare.
The tree-lined central town plaza, complete with elaborate fountain, was full of people, mostly locals by the look. It’s a proper civic space where people gather to meet and chat, eat their sandwiches or snooze next to strollers. We re-charged energy levels with baguette and coffee at one of the airy cafés there and then lost an hour or so in the city museum, which is in a wooden colonial building on the plaza. Learned that the local population have had a tough time of it over the years; strict colonialism sometimes brutal, curfew, plague, leprosy, war dead. Talk has re-emerged about independence for the Kanak People with a referendum on its way but I can’t see France letting go easily. Hopefully, if nothing else, it will help funnel some of the motherland’s money into preserving and promoting the Kanak language and culture, which is virtually invisible. I buy a Kanaki tee shirt in the shops down the road. The revolution will not be televised.
We bus back to Anse Vata where the Hotel is, chug a gelato and have a lie-down till Robyn’s cocktail alarm goes off at five. There’s a bright looking bar on the corner of the building overlooking the park which has kids and old people in it. Always a good sign. A Kir and some fruity number for me from the friendly and efficient staff. It wasn’t enough to keep us from our quest for food though so we continued on, strolling the strip past a variety of empty restaurants until we settled on one.
Final medium sized island dinner: pizza. The staff were friendly, efficient and remarkably happy despite the fairly slow trade. Maybe it’s just kiwis who like to eat at 6:30 and everyone else comes out later. We were on a fairly early bedtime though as there was a four something something am pick up in the morning for our homeward flight to a bigger island. I like that we live on an island. I pack and arrange my stuff in a line to the door as this is the only way to not forget anything in the morning. Looking forward. Oblivion is reluctant to arrive.