John & Leanne from the Down Under Rally (www.downunderrally.com) organized for 7 boats to clear in at Lifou in the Loyalty Islands, which was excellent and very easy. They even organized a van so we could all get a SIM card for Internet access and groceries after emptying our fridge and freezers of food for bio-security clearance. There were great supermarkets in Lifou for stocking up with fresh veg again and Brie and baguettes; yum!
We were then free to cruise the islands and reefs on our way to Noumea the main port for clearance. The Loyalty Islands are made up of 3 main Islands; Ouvéa, Lifou and Maré. We were lucky to see how special and different it was here compared to any of the French Polynesian islands we have been to. Not a lot of cruisers come this way after clearing in.
These islands still have a lot of culture and tradition alive in their everyday lives. Weaving, sculpturing, fishing all very common activities here.
Most of the population speaks French, very little English and the local language is a different dialect of Melanesian on each island. The women here wear very brightly colored long flowing dresses, which after being here in this heat with the sun beating down for a few days, I could see the benefits of. Everyone we met was very friendly.
Lifou and Maré are uplifted limestone plateaus covered in pine trees with big bays, crystal clear blue water and colorful coral close to shore. At Lifou, we walked to Notre-Damn de Lourdes chapel built in 1898 sitting high on the cliff at the entrance to the Bay near where we anchored.
The roads on both Ouvéa and Lifou were sealed and flat so perfect for getting the bikes out to see parts of the islands. A 25km plus return trip on Ouvéa to find baguettes had us passing lots of traditional homes and people coming to see what these strange folding bikes were. Shame our French is soooo bad!
Ouvéa was stunning with its long white sand beach. “Tres Jolie”. Time to relax, walk and enjoy the 25km beach with shells galore. Luc & Aline S/V Oceana1 after hearing how beautiful it was made the overnight trip from Noumea to join us and help us with our French!
The bridge between Mouli and Lekiny on Ouvéa had spectacular views within the lagoon and lots of fish, eagle rays and big turtles swimming in the current.
We’d also heard about the Lekiny Caves but it’s only possible to visit with a guide and only on certain days in conjunction with low tide. Was definitely worth the visit. Loved our transport to the caves along with friends S/V Oceana1 & Second Wind. Luc & Aline were great interpreters for all us English speaking people.
In 1953 a cyclone hit the island of Ouvéa and the local people all went to the Lekiny Caves to seek protection. They all survived even though the island suffered a lot of damage so the people built an alter in the main cave and special ceremonies have been held here since.
This has definitely been a special place to visit with very few cars, beautiful beaches, friendly locals and incredible sunsets again.
Off to see more of New Caledonia.