Monday, June 1, 2015

Two Days At Turtle Bay

1 June 2015

 We woke up at our B&B in Bouluparis, to find the bay as smooth as a lake, like silk, like a mirror, like glass.  Just flat and smooth, without a ripple whatsoever.  Truly gorgeous.

So that was our view as we had a lovely French breakfast.  Toasted baguette with cheese, butter, and/or jam (confiture).  Orange juice, and a giant cup for tea or coffee.  Because many French people have a bowl of café au lait in the morning, so morning coffee cups tend to be huge.  Of course, I'm a tea drinker, and I'm perfectly happy with the giant cup.

We chatted with Madame, played with the dog, and then left mid-morning, heading north.  

I can't get over how blue the sky.  I know, there should be another verb in there, but somehow, it just sounds so complete, so e. e. cummings, without the "is."  How green the green and blue the sky.  Doesn't that sound like our friend e. e.?

It definitely describes the scenery here!

We headed northward, stopping in the town of La Foa.  Some of the towns have traditional Kanak names, others have Francophone versions of the traditional names.  Same for the rivers, which have signs giving both names.  Most of the towns have both names posted as one enters the town, but the maps seem to have only the Francophone names.  

Anyway, La Foa was quiet, because it was Sunday, when many shops close early.  Plus the last Sunday in May is Mother's Day here, La Fete des Mamans - families seemed to be gathered in restaurants and cafés, having the traditional Mother's Day brunch, just like we do everywhere in the world.

We stopped at a branch of our one and only bank that accepts our card, and got a little more cash.  Browsed the supermarket, and bought a few things.  Enjoyed the brightly colored houses against the blue blue sky.  And yes, that solid blue photo is a picture of the sky.  Just the sky with a wisp of cloud.  Because it really is that blue.  (Our little car is almost the same color.)

I especially liked the posts for the street signs - sort of like totem poles but with South Pacific Tiki type faces - aren't they wonderful??

We headed off again, our destination being Bourail (pronounced boo-RAY in French).  We had a wonderful lunch in Bourail, tres French - we both had the duck confit (meaning anything but the breast of duck) with potatoes forestieres - I think in the style of foresters, or loggers, or woodsmen, or something - diced and sauteed potatoes with lots of onions, mushrooms, and bits of French bacon.  Delicieux!  (One of the tricks of budget travellers is to have a big lunch at a fancy restaurant, because lunch prices tend to be lower.  Then have a lighter dinner, from a café or even the supermarket.  Probably healthier way to do it, too.)

The restaurant owners also have a hotel upstairs, but they agreed that it's nicer down by the beach, in the village of Poé (POE-ay).  They gave us directions to one hotel, and we managed to find it - but the place was more posh and pricey than we enjoy.  The lady there was very nice and looked through the tourism booklet with us, advising us of her personal favorite (not even the hotel where she works! - how nice is that!!!).  She gave us directions, and we headed off.  Found Poé, which is on Plage Roche Percée (Broken Rock or Pierced Rock Beach) and right on Turtle Bay - Baie de Gouaro, named for the Gouaro people who originally inhabited this area - but called Turtle Bay because this is a major nesting area for turtles!!! 

There are signs all along the shore road, telling people (in French) all about sea turtles, things not to do to help protect nests, how to help injured turtles, the life cycle of sea turtles, etc.  We're thrilled!  Sea turtles are just wonderful to see when swimming or diving, and they're amazing up close - we helped nesting turtles in Costa Rica, and would love to meet up with nesting turtles here!  Of course, this isn't turtle nesting season in the Southern Hemisphere, so even though it's nearly the full moon we aren't likely to find nesting turtles.  

So, the name of the beach - Broken Rock or Pierced Rock Beach - at the northwestern end of the beach, there's a huge cliff with a couple of caves at the base.  The rock of the cliff isn't solid, it seems to be comprised of compacted, fractured rock and thus is rather unstable.  Part has eroded away, creating a wonderful free-standing sculptural sea stack, which can be reached if someone is willing to climb over the broken bits of rock that have fallen from the cliffs.  Including some really big rocks, and near boulders.  (As well as ignoring the sign, in three languages, saying "Entrance Prohibited - Risk of Death!!!")

But of course I had to get a little close, so that Dad's hat could enjoy this sight.  (The hat was practically jumping up and down in excitement!)  It really was gorgeous, one of those natural phenomena that doesn't look real or earthly, that looks like either a stage set or moon scape.

The sand on the beach is fairly coarse, almost like small pebbles or smooth gravel in places, between the packed sand.  And there were wonderful shells, mostly white or beige but some in bright fuchsia or purples, and one in a bright bright orange!  Love the color of the shells!

So we decided to spend two days here and enjoy the beach.  The water is cold, so we're not swimming, but we've had two days of walking on the beach, climbing on the rocks, and of course enjoying the lovely food in Bourail.  (Today's lunch was takeaway - salad with big slices of duck, along with Parmesan cheese, and a crusty roll on the side.)  We took our food over to the town park by the river, and shared a picnic table with two women.  They were curious about where we were from, and what we're doing in this small town in New Caledonia.  I'm not sure exactly where they live, but they're Caledonians, and they were on their way to the next large town, Koné, to join the union workers who are on strike up there.  The striking workers are members of the Labor Party, and I guess they needed some extra people, or extra support, or something.

Anyway, we talked about our experiences on strike, and how important unions are, and all that.  And wished the women good luck on the picket line.  

They insisted on giving us an orange, and I got a half-hug from the woman who spoke more English.  I think union workers feel solidarity with anyone who supports their cause, whether they all belong to the same union or another union - there's a brotherhood/sisterhood amongst unions, a feeling of unity.  We're all the "us," regardless of nationality or color, versus the "them" of management, administration, bosses, owners.

I never realized that my time on the picket lines in St. Thomas would have such far-reaching effects!

Tomorrow we'll head on up the road, and see how far we get, what we find.

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