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Riccardo A. Andreoli

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Round the World 2005 - 4

In this part of the blog I'm in New Caledonia e a Vanuatu

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New Caledonia

In 2005 the flag of New Caledonia coincided with the French one - Since 2010 it is possible to use the flag of the Kanaka nation, on the right.

New Caledonia - April 21, 2005 - Nouméa

Been some days here in Nouméa, the capital city, more or less closed in house because of the VERY bad weather, with rains every day and harsh winds.

In any case, in the short intervals between squalls, and in the single day before them, I've been in the water of the Ile aux Canards (the Ducks Island), cloudy and sandy but anyway with snappers (Lethrinus nebulosus, Forsskal, 1775), happy, nobody eats them because of the park there, before all, and because of the ciguatera. After that, two-three sea snakes (Lauticauda colubrina, Schneider, 1799), virtually under the legs of the people on the beach, and other coral fish.

Been attacked by an ill-tempered seagull, (no traces of nests or younglings all around).

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Been before all to admire the Place des Cocotiers (Coconuts Square).

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Been in the Musée de la Ville de Nouméa (Noumea Museum), with exibits on (not so much) old  colonial times

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Been in the Musée de l'Historie Maritime (Maritime History Museum).

Exibits from the old Melanesian times through the Lapérouse expedition (1785) who received from Roi Louis XVI the assignment to explore "toutes terres ayant échappé à l'oeuil de Cook" (all lands forgotten by Cook), to modern (?) times. Look at the last picture!

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een, above all, in the Aquarium Municipal, with their unique Nautilus (endemic to New Caledonia - Nautilus macromphalus) and magnificents Fluorescent Corals.

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BUT, above all, I'm waiting for the weather to better to go to the Iles de la Loyauté (Loyalty Islands), with their incredibles Pacific feeling. And, I hope, with some really interesting fish!

New Caledonia - April 23, 2005 - Nouméa

I keep feeling like Ulysses. Certainly NOT because of his trips but because he was hated by Poseidon, God of the Sea.

Seen the in the ancient times there was not a God for the weather, in Poseidon was summed up all that concerned the Sea and the Ocean.

What I’ve done to dissatisfy him so much I do not know. Some kind of hubris, the exaggerated pride of the humans resented by the Gods?

Or perhaps is this feeling that's hubris?

So, it has to be Poseidon that keep pouring over me rain, and lashing me with howling winds that try to keep me pinned in the house (some pictures below I've been able to take anyway) but are in any case VERY effective in keeping me out of the water.

Anyway, optimism, optimism, I keep remembering myself. Even when it’s not so easy…

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Baie de la Moselle

Baie de l'Orphelinat

New Caledonia - April 24, 2005 - Nouméa

Yesterday I tried to go to the Parc Zoologique et Forestier (Zoo-Botanic Garden) but it rained so hard when I was there, before the gates, with tumbling  muddy little rivers on both sides of the hill road, that I did NOT go out of the bus and instead went to the Centre Culturel Tjibau (Tjibau Cultural Centre), named after the assassinated, ex-priest, Kanak leader Jean-Marie Tjibau.

The Centre is an exceptional architectural project by Renzo Piano, connecting in an extremely original approach, as usual, Kanak culture and innovative architecture.

Inside there are, this I fond not hugely interesting, pieces of Kanak contemporary artists and loans from other museums of old Kanak culture.

The gardens, I read, are interesting but they were off limits because of the pounding rain.

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I’ve booked for a couple of weeks in three of the Iles de la Loyauté  (Loyalty Islands), Ouvéa, Lifou and Maré. Ouvéa above all SHOULD be fantastic. I leave Monday.

Over there they told me there’s not any Internet connection, and perhaps even the cell phones are not working.

I’ve now a local phone, thanks to hugely kind Stéphanie (thanks again Stéphanie). But I think that not even those are working well.

So, all in all, be prepared for a couple of weeks of no connection and no updating of this blog.

I hope, with Poseidon’s blessing, to come back with beautiful stories and pictures to show you all.

Ciao.

New Caledonia - May 10, 2005 - Ouvéa

I've been two full weeks in Ouvéa, in the house of Pierre Kaouma, in a beautiful traditional "case".

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The island is an absolute, total wonder! It's curled around a huge lagoon and its colours and landscapes are of the stuff you cry about in the long, gray winter days at home.

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In two weeks I dived with Pierre and with Pascal, his young assistant, most of the days, whenever the weather and the wind were good.

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Pascal

Pierre

Most of the dives where in the Pleyades du Sud, sometimes Pleyades du nord, and the fabled Passe de Anemata, between them. I've  been also once in the far far away and legendary Atoll the Beautemp-Beauprés.

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In two weeks it happened too much to write here in detail, so I'm forced to reduce all to mere photos.

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The first dog-toothed tuna to reach the surface with me.

A good-sized Spanish mackerel 

What I really was searching to catch here was a beautiful Dogtooth Tuna (Gymnosarda unicolor). And I tried! But the literally dozens of sharks under our fins were almost always faster than me.

And not only the usual Grey Shark but also the big Carcharhinus albimarginatus and the occasional Tiger Shark (Galeocerdo cuvier).

Here, if you do NOT stone immediately a fish, your probabilities to catch it are almost zero. And you all know, spearfishers around the world, how easy it is to stone a tuna...

Obviously, when I was with my camera, the Tuna were friendly. The following picture, I know it does not seems, but it's a 35+ kg tuna!

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All in all were wonderful days, absolutely wondrous, packed with adventures, magnificent sea creatures and marvellous persons. Two weeks full of memories to last for years in the future!

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The only real setback was that, the last day, a big Tuna wrenched from my hands the line and managed to tangle the spear and the slip-tip of my Tuna Gun in a coral rock in 45 m of waters. Not even the deep-diving Pierre could handle its recovery. We even tried to recover it with a professional diving with bottles but he was not able to find the rock in the deep sand slope plunging to over 70 m.

Alas, by now it’s a solid part of the reef.

New Caledonia - May 15, 2005 - Lifou

I remained in Lifou for only five days, without diving because of a slight misunderstanding. But the island is the bigger of the Loyaouté and I had ample ground to explore. Even if the weather, again, was not what one can define “fine”. The island is so large that I had even to rent a car.

My "case" was this time a little one, with the usual thin mat on the ground and the colorful walls.

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Lifou has not Ouvéa's huge lagoon, but its colours and landscapes are enchanting enough even without that!

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All in all, again, something to cry about in wintertime.


Or to make friends cry about...

New Caledonia - May 19, 2005 - Maré

Maré, island savage of dramatic landscapes.

 Island of big cliffs everywhere and of scarce beaches.

 If only the sun could have shine at least some hours, the pictures could have done some justice to this spectacular and beautiful island.

Alas, as you can see in the photos, the clouds were grey and low. And often, in the too short six days stay I remained here, were delivering rain in mournful sheets.

 

And it was cold! In the nights here I warmly enjoyed a cosy blanket.

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I’ve been received like royalty by Pierre Pujapujane and his big family. And only because I was a good diver, even before they had the chance to know me.

Highly recommended by anyone interested in diving and spearfishing here:


Due to the weather conditions I had the possibility to dive only once, near Cape Roussin, the island’s north-eastern cape. Some nice coral reef fish, a huge Napoleon (Cheilinus undulatus) warily swimming out of reach. And, welcomed after Ouvéa’s frenzies, very few sharks.

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New Caledonia - May 22, 2005 - Lifou

Decisions, decisions. I've bought yesterday a ticket for Vanuatu. I should remain there for more or less ten days. After that I should leave for Western Australia.

I do not know what to expect, form a spearfishing point of view, from Vanuatu. I have mixed reports: someone telling me that by now there are few good fish left, and others instead that tell me that it's a wonderful Ocean over there...We'll see!

I'll live, they told me, in a fishermen village without even electricity so, for the next ten days, do not expect any update.


See you after Vanuatu!

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Vanuatu

New Caledonia - June 5, 2005 - Nouméa

I'm back in New Caledonia, waiting for the next flight.

I stayed in Vanuatu for ten days, in the north of the island of Efate, in the village of Emua.

Vanuatu, beautiful country of many languages. Not only because prior of the Independence it was ruled together by England and France, and you can hear people here speaking both English and French, but also because it has her own original languages, more than 100 of them.


And, (how so I’m not surprised), I was plagued by bad weather, low clouds strictly hugging the land, and strong winds.

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Waiting for conditions to improve I visited around and the jungle was fabulously rich, with huge baninan trees, creepers everywhere, clear fresh waters running to the shore.

And, still scattered here and there, remnants of the American occupation during World War II.

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I dived in the near islands but I did not found any decent drop off for the kind of fish I’m searching. NEVERTHELESS one day the fishermen returned with the news that they had hooked a Blue Marlin, but, due of the thin line that had swiftly broken, they lost it.

It was certainly a little Marlin of about twenty or little more kilos, but it WAS a Marlin. My hopes skyrocketed instantly.

The weather however was still not good, and it was impossible to dive out of Undine Bay, sheltered from the main south-easterly winds.

In the meantime I studied seriously the sea map and searched for local knowledge from the fishermen. The best place, they suggested me, was Monument Rock, or Wot Rock how it was called on the map, at 14 nautical miles from Emua, a couple of hours in good weather with their boat, a classic Pacific longboat seven meters long, with two brand new 25 HP engines.​

​Although the locals still quietly use their pirogues ...

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Moreover, after waiting and waiting, the fishermen suggested a wonderful scheme. To go to Emae Island, 30 nautical miles, and his many dropoffs. And also his well known big Cook Reef at west.

So one day we set off for the trip. The weather was NOT a good one, the driver had to drive very carefully and managed to avoid almost all the breakers that were menacing to flood the boat. In the route we passed near Monument Rock and we had the possibility to see it in all its majesty... We'll see.

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We were received by the family of one of the fishermen.

There we remained for three days, and I had the opportunity of seeing the construction and the use (yum!) of a traditional oven made with heated stones and palm leaves.


And around the village life continued placidly, with its fishermen and hunters.

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The spearfishing, in those days, was NOT good. There were, after all, no serious drop-off in the island I was able to find in all the places they were pointed to me.

In the Cook Reef, named, of course, after Captain Cook himself, also the drop-offs were absents. There were good coral fish, and I did find a school of giant parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum), giants meaning 40-50 kg, I did managed to find some shark, very rare in all the waters I dived in, but no Blue Water Fish.

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And finally we tried, coming back to Efate the last day, to let me dive at Monument Rock. It’s a nautical mile and a half away from the dramatic island of Mataso, in reality two high and very steep mounts connected by a thin sandy isthmus.

It’s, on the map, a wonderful place for fishermen and spearfishers alike. It’s a fat needle of rock reaching 155 m over the turbulent surface of the Ocean, and around there’re almost immediately deep waters.

It has been a strong emotion to take the plunge from the boat into the uncaring waiting grey waters, under a menacing low sky, with steep walls looming above me, all alone here, in the back of nowhere.

And there, in the north-west side of it, in a very strong current, I finally found fish. Beautiful dogtooth tunas (Gimnosarda unicolor), even if not giant (meaning not more than 50 kilos). And a lot of sharks meandering about.

I managed to spear a medium sized tuna one, around 20 kg, just three meters before the nose of two sharks, braked the floating line with my hand too hard for fear to let the tuna sink too far away from me and my “protection” against the sharks, but so I lost it.

After a way-too-short two hours, we had to leave the Rock because of the worsening of the wind. So I cannot really say to know the place.

With every probability, with good weather and in general in other conditions, the place can have as guests marlin and other huge ocean citizens. I had the distinct feeling of it!

I REALLY would have liked to dive it again. But it was absolutely the  last day.

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