A hardship post



Sunrise over New Caledonia

For a time I was in a business partnership with a Frenchman, who lived in Tahiti and later moved to New Caledonia before finally moving to Sydney.

I can remember him saying that for a Frenchman working for the French government and being posted to one of the French colonies in the Pacific, which includes Tahiti and New Caledonia, as a ‘Hardship’ posting, which entitled them to extra allowances and benefits to make life that little bit easier.


During our recent cruise in Ruby Princess we visited New Caledonia and in particular Noumea, originally called Port-de France until 1866 when it was changed, I took the above picture to show what French’ hardship positing’ personnel have to put up with during their time in Noumea. The above only shows the smaller ‘hardships’.


Ken must have had the same ‘hardship’ thoughts because his picture shows a different set of moorings, and the exotic apartments overlooking the water.

Maureen and I had visited Noumea about twenty three years ago – we enjoyed our few days (it was a business trip for me) and we stayed in the beach area. We didn’t find the city centre to be an attractive place for visitors but overall, we enjoyed our visit.

This time the cruise company offered a hop on hop off bus service for AUD $15 per person, so we thought we’d have another look around. The ship’s buses had colour stickers in the front window to differential them from the normal hop on hop off buses.  The system worked well – we boarded the bus at the ship’s gangway, and our first stop was the market, which was our choice.


The market area with the distinctive roofs


There were stalls outside and inside was a fruit and veg market.


Much of the outside area was under a tent like structure which helped to keep one out of the hot sun.


At first glance I thought this stall was offering hub caps for sale, until I got closer.


They were a type of wind chimes or sun reflectors for BBQ / garden areas.


I like to wonder round food markets to see what is different and to compare prices with the same item back home, which is more Maureen’s domain than mine.


The shaped roof was a landmark that could be seen along the waterfront. The market is known as the Port Moselle Market –


Picture from New Caledonia Travel

We were too late for the fish display, which had closed, and of the baked cakes etc there were only a couple of stalls still open, but we still experienced the ‘feel’ of the place.

We waited for one of the buses with the correct colour displayed in the window because we had decided to go to the ‘end of the line’ or the place were bus start its return journey. The full trip from the ship to the return was about 45 to 60 minutes.


Transport was a modern air-conditioned vehicle. Each passenger had a coloured wrist band so the driver could refuse those without the correct colour.


There are also ‘Tchou Tchou’ road trains, which run around the town and beach areas.



Which colour would you like?


These trains have been going for years – when Maureen and I visited in 2000 I can remember using the yellow one from the beach area (where we stayed) to the city centre.

DSC06289rWe crossed the road from where the bus stopped, and this brought back memories of twenty years ago. We’d stayed at the hotel were the bus waited, can’t remember the name of the hotel at that time, but it was the same hotel, now called the Nouvata Hotel.


Along the beach at various points they had shelters, which contained benches and long tables. On our first visit I even went swimming at this point, and that wasn’t a ‘hardship.’


Once back in the city we had a walk around Coconut Palm Square.

DSC06281rcEight meters (26 feet) high with a semi-nude lady on the top – and known as the Celestial Fountain.  Inaugurated on the 24th September 1893.


Same park, but not a coconut in sight.

New Caledonia was named as such, thanks to Captain Cook, in 1774  because the island reminded him of Scotland. In 1788 the island was approached by Jean François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse shortly before he went missing, presumed killed in the Solomon Is.

There is a suburb in Sydney named after Lapérouse, who arrived in Australia on the 26th January 1788 (Australia Day), he was on a scientific expedition under instructions from King Louis XVI of France.

A number of people in France applied to join Lapérouse’s expedition, and one sixteen-year-old second lieutenant applied, but was turned down, he was Napoleon Bonaparte- how history might have been different.

The Coconut Palm Square was part of a military facility, and named as such, due to the French soldiers planting coconuts in the area, and the locals would refer to the area  as   “Place des Cocotiers”. (Coconut Tree Square).

It was in 1855 that Paul Coffyn, a brilliant engineer, was put in charge of drawing the first urban plans for what the future city of Port-de France (now called Noumea) would look like. At that time ‘Place des Cocotiers’ was part of the ocean.

Embankments were built to stop the sea coming in and the new land area was called “jardin de l’infanterie marine” (the marine infantry gardens), until they planted the coconut trees.

The day was interesting and enjoyable and well worth the $15 . .. . .



Farewell Noumea, what a ‘hardship’ location . . . .



Islands in the sun


Island in the sun

Approaching Noumea, New Caledonia



Local yacht club – last time we visited New Cal we had lunch in this club and I can recommend their lunchtime pudding, which was a large bowl of ice cream floating in a sea of Tia Maria th– very more-ish if you were staying the night. . . . .


Being welcomed by a local dance troop.


Golden Princess berthed at the container port – launched 2001 at 109,000 gt compared to Pacific Jewel, launched 1990 at 70,300 gt. Being that much smaller we were allowed to berth at the cruise terminal.



 Views of the city.


Passenger road trains run around the city and the beach area. I think the colour of the train denotes the area.
Maureen & I didn’t go ashore because we’d been to Noumea a few years earlier and I doubted that it would have change all that much. Being on an ‘empty’ ship is a pleasure – smaller crowds, easy to find a seat anywhere are just two of the advantages of not going ashore.
As we sailed we had a small boat following us, which was the pilot boat. On our arrival, it was very sedate, but as we left in blew its whistle and started to do turns on the spot.

It never went forward or backwards just round and round on the same spot until the pilot was ready to disembark – it got a large round of applause when it stopped spinning and made its way to the side of the ship for the pilot.
Our next stop Lifou, the largest island in the Loyalty Islands.

The name Loyalty island was bestowed on the island by European merchants towards the end of the 18th century to acknowledge the cooperation of the local people. Whaling and timber were the main trade in the 19th century. Today it is copra, and now tourism.

If you have every carried copra, before containerisation, it is not a ‘friendly’ cargo with all the black bugs that infest the ship from the copra.

We anchored off the shore and the ship’s boats ran a service back and forth for most of the day.

dsc07249rThis craft could carry about 140 people.


Maureen and I were on one of the early boats because we had been warned by our daughter that the prime spots were under palm trees because of the heat. Our daughter’s family had  visited this island last year on another cruise, so we were the advance party to secure the correct area for when the grandchildren and their parents arrived an hour or so later.


It was a very nice beach and the water was shallow for quite a way out. The coral out crops forced the swimmer to swim instead of wading in the shallow waters because the coral was very sharp. I found it easier to swim out on my back, which of course caused my front to get sun burned, which I paid for over the next few days. Not painful, just peeling.

dsc07236rAs Pacific Jewel swung on her anchor she appeared to be quite close at times. The motto on the stern is ‘Like no Place on Earth’. The swimmers in the water were from the ship.

The coral went out quite a long way – but Australia has some of the best beaches in the world, with little risk of being shredded on coral, yet we all swam in waters that unless you were careful, would give you a nasty wound. More and more passengers came ashore – the beach was only used by the passengers; the locals didn’t bother.

dsc07237r– the black pier is where our boats tied up to take on or drop off passengers.

dsc07234rYou know who, cast a drift on a desert island.

Back on board the theme of the evening was “WHITE”, so one had to make an effort.


For the Conway readers I must brag a little here – the shorts that I am wearing are at least fifty years old – part of my BI uniform when I was at sea, and I can still get in to them with a little movement of the top button. It surprised me as well . . . . . .As you see with my white hair, I went a little further in to whiteness than Maureen.

dsc07258rGrand-daughters joined in the fun.

dsc07263rThe ship’s children’s dance team helped to get the children in to the swing of things.

dsc07259rSome of us just watched . . . Maureen & Sara (our daughter)

New Caledonia


Tomorrow (Monday) we board our cruise ship the ‘Pacific Jewel’, older than the other cruise ships in which we’ve sailed, so it’ll be an education. She might be ‘old’ (launched 1989), but she does look more like a ship than a block of flats.

Maureen & I sail, with our daughter, son in law and three grandchildren, for a family holiday afloat, so communication might not be as efficient – or as cheap!

An eight night cruise to New Caledonia, so named by Captain Cook in 1774, because the southern tip reminded him of Scotland.

New Caledonia is now French, but they don’t use the Euro currency, but Central Pacific Franc CFP – I wonder if I have the price of an ice cream left in the tin I use for odd coins from our travels. . .

The last time Maureen & I were in Noumea (the capital of New Caledonia), was in 2002, so it’ll be interesting to see the changes – if any. The Pacific islands work to ‘island time’ . . .and we will have to learn to slooow dooowwwnnn and to enjoy the experience.

jewel-032The Pacific Jewel seem s to have a focus on family fun from ‘rock climbing’ to flying fox from fore to aft, or it could be the other way around.

p_and_o_edgee_2The wire is the flying fox . . . .at my age I might give it a miss.


Noumea – New Caledonia

From Noumea we sail to the Isle of Pines – see below


and then on to Lifou Island, again below


and finally Mare Island before sailing back to Sydney.


As you see, I plan that nothing will be too strenuous – except in the pool with the grandchildren – a nice break before the madness of Christmas / New Year, and I thought the above pictures would be a gentle reminder for those in a northern hemisphere November. . . . . I can be cruel :-o)

If anyone is interested in the South Pacific try James Michener’s books such as Tales of the South Pacific, The Return to Paradise, and Rascals in Paradise – all three are factual.

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