Windsurfing: Airwaves Nouméa Dream Cup 2014

With a week that started off windless, those of us who love and watch windsurfing here in New Caledonia were a little worried. We’ve known windless days at Anse Vata (Nouméa), and weeks before we’d asked our friends at Aloha Windsurfing what would happen if there were no wind for the Windsurfing World Cup, a return to the island after 19 years’ absence. “That’s not a possibility,” said Gégé, “there will be wind.”

Gégé was right. The wind kicked up last Thursday and by Saturday, at 25 knots, we’d only seen wind that strong on pre-cyclone days. Thank goodness the wind held, the sun shone, and the champions from all over the world got what they’d flown so far for. Amazing! Sunday (23 November) saw just an inkling less wind and the fans were out en masse for the spectacular finals (watch the video above to get a sense of the extraordinary sailing and excitement).

The race in Nouméa was hailed again and again by the competitors as “one of the best spots in the world for the slalom“. As the newly crowned 2014 World Cup Champion, Antoine Albeau, stated, “The conditions were incredible, proof that this course must return to the pro circuit.”

Windsurfing Finals 2014 NC

Photo Julie Harris

Chatting with Sarah Quita-Offringa of Aruba, who placed 3rd in the race, she said this was the best spot for windsurfing she’d been to all year – just incredible sailing out there! The jubilation was all over her face.

Unfortunately, after winning the semi-final with a fabulous finish well ahead of her competitors, Sarah’s wishbone broke during the final race. We’d seen her go down and struggle to keep her sail steady. She says next year she’ll be ready and better organised – instead of thinking her wishbone will hold (it had already been breaking before the final) – she’ll be ready with another one. When she said she hoped to see us next year, we were surprised. She said, “Everyone is so happy with this race. They want it to come back!”

What a success for everyone – the competitors, the local windsurfers, the organisers, and the fans. Congratulations to all the competitors, including Matthieu Blavette, our son’s windsurfing trainer. You were all breathtaking to watch!

I do so hope Nouméa will see this race again in its near future: it’s time to share this site and conditions once again with the world.

To see all of the marvelous pictures and videos from this event, see: http://www.airwaves-noumeadreamcup.nc/en/ and http://www.pwaworldtour.com/index.php?id=2075

Photo Julie Harris

Photo Julie Harris

Geocaching in New Caledonia

bann_votre_passport_en

Geocachers’ delight: Treasures on Pleasure Island – or New Caledonia, for those of you who like exact locations. Geocaching, as many of you know, has been around for years now (14 to be exact) as well as for about 5 years in New Caledonia.

What is geocaching? According to the official geocaching site, it’s “a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.” In other words: great fun, for kids and adults alike – about 6 million of us worldwide!

 

Imagine my geeky excitement when on the back page of a newspaper I recently discovered that there’s a geocaching game going on in Northern New Caledonia. Way to go, North Province Tourism! Really! What a way to get people travelling the island, discovering its gems, and learning more about the country beyond its amazing outlying island beaches. With just your GPS (or smartphone, with or without the app), you can go off on an adventure to discover North’s most incredible views and wonderful people.

What’s the general idea of the New Caledonia geocaching game?

According to the North Province Tourism’s official site:

The Passport for the North Geo Tour is made up of 20 geocaches, numbered from 1 to 20. You can attempt the full circuit, in either direction. Allow 7 to 10 days if you want to look for all the caches. You can also concentrate on a single region depending on what you fancy.

Set out to look for the best-kept secrets and the most amazing spots in Northern New Caledonia, using the 20 geocaches hidden around the province. As you find the geocaches, complete your Passport for the North, so you can win collector geotags and holidays in the North Province.

Where are the geocaches hidden on the island?

geo4_petroglyphesAll over the island, but the geocaches in the game are found in the Northern Province – in Canala, St. Thomas, Poindimie, Hienghène, Koumac, Ouaco, Foué Beach, Col de Tango, Col de Poya and more. Wow!

The full geocache list is here.

What can you win?

Holiday packages in the North and maybe even a collector geotag. I mentioned a few months ago how much I loved Poindimie. Well, in December, you can win a one-night stay for 2 adults in a beach bungalow in the Tieti hotel with breakfast. That’s just an example! The full list of prizes is here.

How do you win?

Well, you need to find at least 5 geocaches to participate in the monthly random draw (for the holiday packages) and 10 geocaches to win a collector geotag.

geo18_tangoEach geocache found will win you 1 point. When you stay, or dine, in participating hotels and restaurants in the North, you will earn 3 and 2 points each, respectively.

When you have 20 points, you can drop in your completed Passport. The first 100 forms with at least 10 completed caches will receive a collector geotag (the game started in August of this year). A random draw takes place on the first Tuesday of each month, to win holidays in the North.

Even if you don’t collect a geotag or a holiday in the draw, honestly, speaking as a geocaching lover, you’ll win a wonderful way to have discovered the North, just by participating.

And if you don’t manage to get up North soon, you can certainly start in Nouméa or wherever you are. Check out the geocaches at Ouen Toro and Fort Tereka – and elsewhere in New Caledonia (including on Ilot Canard) here!

geo9_hiengheneIf you’re new to geocaching, I recommend reading the tips and tricks and starting with a fairly large, traditional geocache. Take a pen or pencil, and something to leave behind in the cache, and have fun!

We might just see you out there.

 

Making chocolate in New Caledonia

Photo Julie Harris

Photo Julie Harris

If you had told me a year ago that not only can you make your own (healthy, yes healthy!) chocolate in expensive places like islands in the South Pacific (where much is imported and little is mass-produced locally), but that you can do so easily, I would have said, “Do you have another bridge to sell?”

I’m here to tell you that I have no bridges, and I am no salesperson, but I can attest that chocolate can not only be made easily, but that it can be made by persons as young as five. Yes, indeed. (The chocolate we made is also healthier, tastier and cheaper than what you can find in the stores – can you get better than that?)

Just yesterday we attended a specially designed chocolate-making workshop for children by two extremely experienced and knowledgeable people here in Nouméa, Kimberly Grace and Sylvain Broucke. From the beginning, we were welcomed with friendly smiles, enthusiasm and kindness. We were 5 children and 4 adults, excited and happy to be learning something new.

Cacao fruitFirst, we were introduced to the different properties of cacao, or cocoa bean, which provides the basic ingredients for chocolate. We learned about its different parts (cocoa butter, cocoa powder), the fruit it comes from, where it grows (yes, it grows even in New Caledonia, though it is not for sale). Then we learned about the other ingredients we use in chocolate and had a number of interesting taste tests of the individual ingredients (some quite wonderful, others, well, surprising).

Photo Julie Harris

Photo Julie Harris

Then onto chocolate making! We worked first in groups through all the steps (melting coconut oil and cocoa butter being more like a science experiment – so fun!), patiently measuring out the ingredients (including learning about flat tablespoon measures), whisking, tasting (tasting is very important!) and setting in the freezer and finishing up in the fridge. We then moved on to working individually, the children choosing which chocolates they wanted to make.

Most importantly, we used organic products and products as close to their natural state (our children now know what refined and unrefined are and why this is important) as could be found (all of which can be found in Nouméa). Truly a boon, when thinking about our health and the curative properties of chocolate. We made a milk chocolate without milk (substituting in almond butter instead), dark chocolate and white chocolates.

We left with our children-friendly recipes in English (including one recipe for treasure chocolate, another super-easy chocolate mousse and a great chocolate sauce), and more recipes for the adults (in English or French). We left, that is, after more conversation, a last surprise taste-test, and packing away our chocolates into our coolers.

Photo Julie Harris

Photo Julie Harris

Photo Julie Harris

Photo Julie Harris

Truly a magnificent morning well spent (especially on a rainy day) – and one that you, too, can enjoy by contacting Kimberly and Sylvain at kgbeaudoin@gmail.com. We’d be up for doing the workshop again, if anyone would like to join us (or you can contact them independently of us, of course). I believe the workshop can be done in English or French, that the minimum age for children is five, that each child should be accompanied by an adult and that the maximum number of children is five. The price is very reasonable per participant (3 500 CFP), given the workshop lasts 2.5 hours and all ingredients and equipment are provided. The price doesn’t even cover all the fun you have learning together!

You might like to check all of the above with Kimberly and Sylvain when you sign up. Do so quickly - they’re leaving New Caledonia indefinitely on further adventures in mid-October.

Photo Julie Harris

Photo Julie Harris

 

France returns skull of New Caledonian chief

This post is reproduced in full from The History Blog here: France returns skull of New Caledonian chief.

Return-ceremony-Great-Kanak-Chief-of-La-Foa-district-Berge-Kawa-150x100After 135 years, the skull of High Chief Ataï from the Pacific archipelago of New Caledonia has been returned to his homeland. In a ceremony on August 28th, France’s Overseas Territories Minister George Pau-Langevin gave the skull to Bergé Kawa, a chief in his own right and a direct descendant of Ataï. This is a righting of a wrong that has been very long in coming.

Captain Cook was the first European to encounter the main island in 1774. He named it New Caledonia because the cliffs of the east coast reminded him of the Scottish Highlands. French explorers mapped more of the archipelago, Bruni d’Entrecasteaux in 1792, Durmont d’Urville in 1827. British Protestant missionaries arrived in 1840 and with the discovery of sandalwood the next year, British merchants followed. French Catholic missionaries came in 1843. Religious conflict ensued with the Catholics ultimately coming out on top. New Caledonia was formally claimed as a French colony by Admiral Auguste Febvrier-Despointes in 1853, and two years later all land on the main island was declared property of the French state.

Outside walls of Canak prison before 1906The French used it as a penal colony for the second half of the 19th century. An estimated 20,000 prisoners were transported to New Caledonia between 1864 and 1897, including 4,000 or so deported for their involvement in the Paris Commune and 100 Algerian insurrectionists. Most of them were put to work in the nickel and copper mines. While French authorities sent foreign laborers and settlers to the archipelago, they took indigenous people out. Many of the Kanak (a general name given to people from a wide variety of different tribes and clans with almost 30 mutually unintelligible languages) were enslaved or coerced into forced labor in Australia, Fiji, Canada, India, Japan, Malaysia and Chile, to name a few.

The ones were remained were in barely better straits. In 1864, convicts who were deemed worthy were freed and given land grants. More than 100,000 hectares of the richest farmland were deeded out to former convicts. In 1868, an order was promulgated forcing the indigenous people onto reservations, moving them inland close to the mountains where the land was barely arable. Many were made to work the plantations and ranches of French settlers without pay.

Engraving of Ataï published in French magazine "Le Voleur" on October 4th, 1878Under these kinds of pressure, it’s no surprise that conflicts exploded. Small revolts began in the 1850s but were quickly suppressed by overwhelming French force. It all came to a head in 1878. A drought in 1877 had taken a huge toll on the cattle, so the governor granted ranchers grazing rights on reservation lands. The stock were let loose on fallow fields, but there weren’t any fences. The cattle just walked on over to the farmed land and ate the yam and taro crops that were all the tribes had to live on. Already displaced from lands which defined their identities and to which they had a profound religious connection, the Kanaks couldn’t tolerate having what was left of their livelihoods threatened by French cows.

High Chief Ataï of the Petit Couli tribe sought out the French governor. The chief poured out a bag of soil in front of the governor and said, “This is what we had.” Then he dumped a bag of rocks out and said, “This is what you have left us.” The governor replied that they should protect their crops by building fences. Ataï responded: “When the taro eat the cattle, I’ll build the fences.”

Violent clashes ensued, with Kanaks attacking settlers and tribal leaders being imprisoned in retaliation. Ataï realized that localized revolts would go nowhere. He created an alliance between multiple tribes to fight the French. In June of 1878, the allied tribes launched an attack on troops and settlers. Their guerilla warfare was so successful that the French commander called for reinforcements from Indochina.

In August, Ataï and 500 warriors besieged a fort the French had built in La Foa on the southwest coast. At first the siege appeared to be going well for the Kanak side, but then the French managed to make a deal with Gelina, the High Chief of the Canala tribe, dividing the Kanak forces. Then the reinforcements from Indochina arrived. At the end of the month, a motley team of French regulars, convicts, former Communards who were promised their freedom in return for fighting on the side of a government they had once fought against so passionately, former Algerian rebels in the same position, and Kanak warriors from the Canala tribe surrounded Ataï’s army.

Louise Michel, 1880On September 1st, a detachment of French military encountered the chief, his three sons and his bard (the French anthropologists called him a “sorcerer”) Andia on the way back to the Kanak encampment. A Canala warrior with the French identified the chief from his shock of white hair. Communard hero Louise Michel, aka the Red Virgin, who had taught school during her New Caledonian exile and who was one of the only Communards to side with the Kanak, seeing in them the same struggle for liberty that she and her comrades had fought for, described the scene thus in her memoirs (pdf):

The traitor Segou faltered for a moment under the look of the old chief, but then, wanting it all to be over, he threw his short spear at Ataï and it pierced the old chief’s right arm. Ataï raised his axe in his left hand as his sons were shot down around him, one killed and the others wounded.

Andia lunged forward crying out, “Tango! Tango! (Cursed! Cursed!),” but he was shot dead instantly. Then Segou moved in against the wounded Ataï, and with his own axe struck blow after blow, the way he would have chopped at a tree.

Ataï fell, and Segou grabbed at his partially severed head. He struck him several more blows, and Ataï was finally dead. Seeing Ataï fall at Segou’s hands, the Kanaks unleashed their death cry in an echo to the mountains. The Kanaks love the brave.

Engraving of the heads being given to the French, 1881The war would claim 1,000 Kanak lives and 200 French. Enslavement, disease and war took a terrible toll on the Kanak population. There were about 70,000 indigenous people living on the islands of New Caledonia when Cook arrived in 1774. By 1921, there were only 27,000 left.

The heads of Ataï, Andia and Ataï’s adolescent son were all severed, as was one of Ataï’s hands. Ship’s Lieutenant Servant received Andia’s head and Ataï’s head and hand from Segou and sold them for 200 francs to Dr. Navarre, a naval doctor. He packed the remains in tin boxes filled with phenol and shipped them to Professor Paul Broca, founder and president of the Anthropological Society of Paris (SAP). According to the minutes of SAP’s 396th meeting held on October 23, 1879 (Page 616 here), they arrived in a “perfect state of conservation. They emit no odor and we hope that the brain, even though they’re still in their skulls, will still be good for study.” Professor Broca:

Atai's skullThe magnificent head of the chief Ataï draws the most attention. It is very expressive; the forehead is especially very beautiful, very high and very wide. The hair is completely woolly, the skin completely black. The nose is very platyrrhine, as wide as it is high. The hand, broad and powerful, is very well-formed, except for one finger that is retracted due to an old injury. Palmar creases are similar to ours.

Andia’s head gets the same treatment, although it’s worse in some ways because it seems he suffered from some form of dwarfism so there’s a lot of gross talk about how savages see deformity.

Ataï death maskChief Ataï’s head was cast in bronze by Félix Flandinette, after which it was stripped of flesh and that brain they were so keen to get a look at, and the skull was kept with the SAP collection of skulls in the Faculty of Medicine in Paris. In 1951, SAP’s skull collection was transferred to the Musée de l’Homme where they’ve been kept in a cabinet for decades. Ataï’s death mask has been on display, but Ataï’s and Andia’s skulls never have been.

Nonetheless, their treatment as specimens was and is deeply offensive to the Kanak. It has played a part in the consistent tension between New Caledonia and France even after the 1998 Noumea Accord, which granted some measure of autonomy to the territory along with the promise of a referendum on independence by 2018.

“These remains bring us back to our own reality: we are two peoples, two cultures which have never ceased to clash with each other and still clash today,” Kawa said [at the return ceremony].

“We were ravaged by the French state. It is therefore up to the French state to give us back our property,” he added.

Pikinini Festival: A little fun for everyone

Photo Julie Harris

Photo Julie Harris

With a 2-week school holiday period approaching in a week, and long summer holidays in France, Nouméa appears to be emptying out. Europeans and “metros” return home to see family or travel to neighbouring countries to combat island fever during our winter (July and August, here in New Caledonia). But every other remaining family seemed to show up this weekend for 2 days of family fun at the annual Pikinini Festival at Centre Tjibaou (30 July, 2-3 August).

Photo Julie Harris

Photo Julie Harris

With our first visit to the festival we were pleasantly surprised by the wealth of activities and free shows planned for a single all-day entry of 1,500 CFP (AUD 18 or €13) per person:

  • Bingo for children as young as 3
  • A Kanak dance performance (“Wetr Kreation”)
  • Capoeira, a Brazilian martial arts show with children and adults
  • A clown duo (complete with whip, which was slightly frightening)
  • Japanese tales
  • Fable stories
  • Poetry, dance and yoga
  • A 45-minute, 3- interactive-workshop activity for children 5-12 years (on the history of LU cookies)
  • A 30-minute workshop on creating art out of recycled cans
  • A puppet show about protecting Mother Earth
  • A fun hip hop show
  • An impressive Vanuatu fire show (when night fell and people started walking on, and interacting with, fire)
Photo Julie Harris

Photo Julie Harris

Other shows and workshops were also available for just 800 CFP each (AUD 10 or €7). One could learn a bit of Capoeira or hip hop, get his/her face painted, buy lunch and coffee, watch a rendition of Snow White, hear a chorus sing Disney songs and attend a host of other shows.

The weather was stunning and just perfect for a day outside. We loved watching the Kanak dance performance as well as Capoeira with the group our son is taking classes with (it’s so fun to see young children master high kicks, handstands and controlled movement in space). There was a lot of singing, clapping, smiling and picture-taking. We learned that anyone can have fun at something new!

Photo Julie Harris

Photo Julie Harris

We also checked out the Recycl’Art and did the LU activity. Though we felt they could have been better organised, they were both interesting (I’d send older kids to Recyl’Art and stay with younger kids during the 3 ateliers for the LU activity).

Photo Julie Harris

Photo Julie Harris

All in all, it was a fun day which left us over-stimulated and tired. Although we were unable to stay for the fire show, we heard amazing things about it. So our recommendation would be to go for a whole day – and not miss the fire show. Take plenty of water, cameras and patience for when things are a little less well organised than you might have hoped. You’ll be sure to leave with smiles on your faces and happy memories of a day well spent.

New Caledonia recycles: Nearly 100 tons collected in 6 months

The following article is a translation of the original article printed in Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes, 14 July 2014. I was encouraged by this news and had to share it with you. For those of you who live in countries that have been recycling for years already, know that recycling is very new in New Caledonia.

Photo by Antoine Pecquet, LNC

Photo by Antoine Pecquet, LNC

Installed in December 2013, the 32 voluntary collection points have reached their first evaluation period. The municipality is satisfied with the collection of paper and aluminum in particular. The CaledoClean Association is less enthusiastic.

After 6 months in operation, the city of Nouméa sees its voluntary collection points more than half full. “Depending on the neighborhood, the points vary between 50% to 90% full,” says Françoise Suvé, responsible for the environment. As a reminder, each collection point has two columns. One collects newspapers and magazines, the other aluminum cans.  The programme cost 22 million CFP (€184,360 or AUD 265,472) and  its operating costs per year is estimated at 12 million CFP (€100,560 or AUD 144,802). In 6 months, Nouméens have thrown away nearly 100 tons of recyclable waste, collected by Pacific Star and processed by CSP Fidelio, under the responsibility of the Intercommunal Association of Greater Nouméa. For the CaledoClean Association, which argues in favour of a more environmentally responsible company, it’s better late than never. “The collection points represent progress,” observed Bizien Thibaut, President of CaledoClean, “but with a huge delay in the local aluminum recycling industry, which is 20 years old.” The ecologist also points to the limitation of the programme to just paper and aluminum. “Fortunately, private initiatives have already been taken, like collecting plastic bottle caps by the Association for the Protection of Nature in New Caledonia (ASNNC), and used batteries by Trecodec.”

Contributions. Even though the programme has had a variable success rate depending on neighbourhood, the city dismisses the idea that ecologically responsible behavior is related to soci0-economic background. “People are participating in Ducos and Riviere Salee as much as they are in southern Noumea,” says David Boyer, Head of the Urban Cleanliness. “We need to refine the results,” says Françoise Suvé, “to determine why some collection points work better than others.” Among the possible explanations, good habits are already in place. “Where the SIC have already established collection points, as in Tuband, people will contribute less to our collection points,” thinks Ms. Suvé. With regard to public incivility, despite three fires and graffiti, Noumea is far from the fiasco seen in Paita, where test collection points had to be removed after being turned into dumps. “Our officers check the collection points each morning. If there is garbage within 15 meters, it is removed. And we have a person responsible for the anti-graffiti campaign on the collection points. We allow no damage to get installed or remain,” says David Boyer.

Bins. For the moment, there are no plans to increase the number of collection points in Nouméa. However, new additional paper and aluminum collection points will be installed at 2 new landfills, promised to open in September, at Magenta and 6eme Kilometre. Co-financed by the city, ADEME and the Southern Province, the equipment will be modeled on the collection points at Ducos and managed, as those are, by CSP Fidelio and will receive all non-household waste. By investing more than 100 million CFP (€838,000 or AUD 1,206,689), the city hopes to improve its environmental protection. Nevertheless, for CaledoClean, the landfills will not solve everything. “Noumea lacks, above all, simple bins in public places,” laments Thibaut Bizien.

Fort Tereka: A worthy excursion

Photo Julie Harris

Photo Julie Harris

June is a beautiful month in New Caledonia. The light sparkles and the temperatures dip slightly to highs of low- to mid-20s (Centigrade). Though we love to get out, we’ve been bound to Nouméa with a broken-down car on the one hand and a new series of positive discipline classes on the other (a very exciting development!). Busy as we’ve been with activities, the 2014 World Cup, preparing classes and school holidays, we were happy to get out to Nouville yesterday and up into nature for the day.

I’ve written about Fort Tereka in the past, but I just wanted to share it briefly again with you. It has become one of our favourite, easy-to-do outings – with just a short walk up to the top of the hill overlooking Kuendu Beach. You can find more about how to get there here. I always recommend walking up, taking a picnic, and enjoying some time up there with the views – of the expanse of blues, the outlying islands, the sailboats and the parachutes.

Photo Laurent Guiader

Photo Laurent Guiader

For those who love or who are just discovering geocaching, there is also a relatively easy-to-find geocache, which is a great way to get the kids out and exploring. They may complain a little about walking up, but it will be well worth the walk up. Take along something to leave behind and a pen, along with your GPS or a phone with the app on it. You won’t be disappointed!

There is also a cave to walk through to the other side (take a torch or a phone with a strong flashlight), cannons and small holding areas or cells to explore. How in the world this was built in 1878 is a mystery to me, but intact it remains. A real treasure for anyone interested in history or the Clash of Clans.

Photo Julie Harris

Photo Julie Harris

If you walk up, you’ll really enjoy the walk down through the forest. There are several paths down (we discovered the Sentier des Legendes on this last trip, quite by mistake) and they are more than do-able for people of all ages. The pedagogical walk is well sign-posted (Sentier pedagogique), is fun for kids and is shaded (as opposed to the walk up, which requires hats and sun screen).

It’s probably 20-30 minutes up, depending on how quickly you walk and 30-60 minutes down (again, depending on how quickly you walk). I always take a camera, a phone and lots of water.

Every time I come back, I feel refreshed and nourished again. So close to Nouméa, and yet so far away in spirit, I really do recommend it for an afternoon, morning or both!

Photo Julie Harris

Photo Julie Harris