Roxie Writes - April 18th
Bucky Writes April 17
Well, if Noumea is the Paris of the Pacific, then Paris is dingy, run down, and dreaming of past glories. At least Noumea has the advantage of lush tropical plant life to veil the decay. Of course, all we saw was the area within easy walking distance of the docks. I’m sure there are much nicer neighborhoods and the countryside must be beautiful. There were Island tours available, but Roxie and Kyle were reluctant to pay $149 for a bus ride. With no air-conditioning.
After the stop at the free internet café, Roxie and Kyle walked a few blocks to the local market, and I must say I was glad I didn’t have to walk because the heat and the humidity were exhausting. I’m a Willamette valley sheep, and I rarely experience humidity without precipitation. The air was syrupy. My fleece felt heavy and itchy. Kyle, who, in his youth, served in the US army, and trained in Panama, was delighted to be able to experience the humidity without being forced to wear an 85 pound pack and trek through the jungle. Roxie soon wilted. She sweats like a pony, and evidently, the brain needs a certain amount of bodily fluid to function at top capacity. Most of the day, she was about a quart low.
The market was fascinating, though. Local produce in abundance, and local folks negotiating for it. Papayas bigger than a sheep’s head! Mangos and leeks and alien green lumpy fruits. Green oranges. The native women wore loose, floaty dresses rather like muumuus with elegance and style. The native men wore trousers and Aloha shirts. The ex-pat French citizens wore shorts and tank tops. Since the cruise ship was in town, there were many shops selling tourist trade items: dresses and children’s clothing and t-shirts, shell jewelry and straw handbags and hats. Roxie bought a couple of batiked sarongs because she is such a sucker for fabric. The lady selling them threw in a couple of lovely shell bracelets. Very classy!
Then we wandered. Kyle, being alert and generous, spotted a fabric shop and steered Roxie in. She shopped and shopped, but wound up buying only 1.5 meters of fabrics. They also offered items already made up, and Kyle found a size 5X shirt for a friend of his.
A final stop at a grocery store for some water. The security guards insisted that Roxie and Kyle leave their knapsacks in lockers while they shopped to prevent shoplifting. A lady tourist with a deep south accent, when requested to leave her totebag in the locker, proclaimed in a loud carrying voice, “Well that’s bullshit. I ‘aint goin’ in then!” Ah, the ugly American. We all averted our faces in shame.
The lables, of course, were all in French, so we bought six liters of water at the best available price we could find. (about $1 a liter. It’s $3 on the ship) and Kyle found a bottle of Tabasco sauce for his morning tomato juice. We later discovered that the water was carbonated. Oh well.
Then back to the ship for iced beverages and salty chips. As the ship prepared to leave, a group of performers arrived at dockside and gave us a performance of native dance. The dance in New Caledonia is mostly strong and aggressive, with much stamping and slapping. One grey haired fellow performed a very warlike dance with a sword, slashing and whirling, shouting, stomping. I would hate to face HIM on the field of battle! A few of the women’s dances were graceful and lyrical, and it was delightful to see these plus-size ladies move with such lissome lightness.
They were accompanied by drums, singers and ukuleles. It was the best part of our stop!
The OOsterdam is too big for the regular cruise ship docks, so we tied up at the industrial cargo docks. It was fascinating to see this side of island life. Everything has to be shipped in, and Noumea is a transfer point for shipping to many of the smaller islands. There were cargo containers neatly arranged in orderly clumps. Lines, numbers and letters painted on the asphalt kept everything organized. Some islands had two or three little containers huddled together. Others had more than fourty full-sized containers stacked four high and four deep. Those little containers fascinated me. What did they hold and where were they going? And who was going to get them there? We saw one huge container ship loading up, and I could imagine they were going to a large island with a deep port, taking regular shipments of groceries and hardware, and all the things we usually buy in a store. But what was in those little containers? And where was it headed? Some island have small harbors and big ships can’t get in. Who runs the little freighters? Who crews them? Could an adventurous young person still find work as a deckhand on a tramp freighter in the South Pacific?
Today, we have another halcyon day at sea, with nothing but blue horizon and fleecy white clouds to view. There is a zen-like timelessness to it, and we find ourselves much given to serene contemplation of stillness. I may become the dolly lamba.