Day 32 – The Isle of Pines, New Caledonia. I’m not sure why it’s called Isle and not Isles. There are lots of little islands very close together. And pines aren’t the only trees.
Even though we awoke to rain (surprise!), wind, and nippy temps, it was easy to see that this place is beautiful. In the late 1700’s, English Captain James Cook became the first European to reach the islands. He supposedly named the Isle of Pines without ever stepping foot on its shores. It has been nicknamed “I’ile la plus proche du paradis”, or the closest island to paradise.
Around noon the rain let up and it was warmer, so we decided to make a run for it. We were anchored offshore, so that meant tender boats. Tender boats = long line to get on one. We finally made it over there. I was aghast. Paradise barely describes this beauty. I had no idea what a day we were in for. I started snapping picture after picture, each outdoing the one before. For its unbelievable beauty, I was thinking this could become my favorite island.
And then it happened. Every Eden must have its serpent. And I saw it!! A crowd was gathered around it so I went to see what they were all looking at. It was a big blue-banded sea snake – among the most venomous in the world – and it was on LAND!!! Anyone who knows me at all knows that I get hysterical when I see a snake. I snapped a quick picture (zoomed from a safe distance) and FLED from there. Suddenly this Paradise had lost its charm. I figure where there’s one there are likely hundreds. Now I was staring at the ground to make sure I didn’t step on one, and cringing at the sight of people haphazardly sitting on rocks or other places where snakes could be lurking.The sand was even softer than the sand in Aruba. It’s like powder. The water was the perfect aquamarine color. It’s the perfect beach in very sense. It was very shallow and lots of people were wading or swimming. But all I could think about were the snakes that were probably in there waiting to get them. I’m already terrified of jelly fish. I didn’t know I should have also been worrying about sea snakes, too! No way am I setting one big toe in that water. Bruce, on the other hand, dove right in. He waded across to this large limestone outcropping with grottos. He’s investigating the rock formation – and I’m freaking out thinking about all the snakes that are probably all over that rock. Luckily he didn’t find any. But doesn’t this just look like Snake Heaven?
A lady at Happy Hour was telling about standing by that same rock and having a black and white sea snake drop from the rock into the water right next to her. She looked up and they were all over the rock above her. She screamed and ran back to the beach. OMG – I would have died right there on the spot!
The locals are Melanesians, descendants of the French. There were a few little boutiques that we browsed through. Mostly it was wood carvings of turtles, fish, and SNAKES. There were a lot of hand-painted pareos and such. I found a magnet and got a little something for my sister’s birthday. By this time I was weary from all my snake avoidance tactics and ready to return to the ship. Another long line for the tender, but we were back on board by 3:00. We cleaned up, had dinner, and enjoyed a pleasant evening.
The captain reported that we’re in for another rainy, bumpy sea day into Suva, Fiji. This has been the norm for this trip, so we’re ready. Seatbelts are fastened, trays are in their upright and locked position… bring it on Neptune!