After leaving Fiji we had one day at sea , sailing past lonely islands that would occasionally poke their heads up on the horizon, before we were to arrive at our next destination; Easo on the island of Lifou in New Caledonia.
Day 24 of our trip lacked somewhat in adventure. I went about my Tai Chi. Martin enjoyed his poker tournament. We both avoided the Art Auction that had already done much damage on our wallets, and both of us lamented our sunburns. But nonetheless it was nice to be able to relax and enjoy a day at sea before we were plunged into three days exploring the gems that New Caledonia had to offer.
Day 25 neither of us really knew what to expect. The sky was blue with only the odd threatening cloud, however there was a strong breeze demanding its own recognition. Early morning and a long stretch of land broke the horizon, and before long we were on our life boats being tendered to the pier. A narrow golden beach sheltered by coconut trees stretched out on either side of the pier, meeting the beautiful opalescent sea. However “Paradise” was only paradise from a distance. On closer examination the beach was so littered with jagged pieces of coral, fallen leaves, and litter, it threatened to take away from the picturesque landscape we had first envisioned.
Following a path up the hill, past the row of coconut trees, we decided to investigate the marketplace where the locals had set up base to welcome us with cries of “Miss! Miss! Hair-braiding? Massage?”, eager to grab our attention, and grab our money. The usual local knick-knacks and crafts covered fold-out tables, but amongst them lay treasures of beautiful stone and wood miniature spears and axes, tomahawks, and masks. On others local foods, kebabs and coconuts, mixed with more american fare such as hotdogs, lay in the open to tempt appetites. I purchased a good ol’ can of coke and almost choked when I realized it cost me $3 USD.
On the pathway leading up to the market a woman was set up with a wire basket containing two very scary creatures; Coconut Crabs. Nightmarish things. Giant, ugly…crabs, there’s no other way to describe them. A handwritten sign was set up with a container asking $1 USD for a photo of them.
After searching for a little while we found a spot to set up base, lay out our towels, and get down to the serious business of reading and sunbathing. Although a warm 25 degrees C, the wind had picked up somewhat, and it felt to be one of the cooler days of our adventure so far. Lots of black and white butterflies fluttered past in complete oblivion to the breeze.
Taking a quick dip in the sea we realized that the beautiful opal coloured water we had seen from a distance, was murky and grey up close. The broken coral mutilated our feet and made it almost impossible to walk or stand up in the water, worse than even Beachcomber had been. The final straw for me, that had me retreating back to the beach, was the Doritos chip bag that floated past me almost unseen in the murky water, as I was gathering my courage to dive under.
Needless to say, with the temperature dropping, and with all the deception the island had trialed us with, we decided not to stay too long. The wait at the pier however was extremely long, as it seemed we weren’ t the only ones eager to get back to our boat.
Being only early-afternoon we enjoyed our lunch back on board of the Zaandam, and basked in the New Caledonian air from the luxury of our verandah. Looking back on our photos we marvelled at the beauty of Easo, the beauty that somehow translated differently when we were there. With a little trepidation we wondered what our next two New Caledonian ports of call would be like.