“You go ashore for a look around darling, I will look after your curry on the stove”. This extremely rare selfless offer is made in an attempt to placate a long suffering wife, who has been putting up with a selfish surfer and know-it-all Captain for far too long. Shortly afterwards the Captain falls asleep, dreaming of perfect waves with the aroma of delicious food. Awakened by the return of the chef, and to the smell of burning curry! “Oh s**t, this is NOT going to improve crew morale!”
They say that variety is the spice of life and New Caledonia certainly has that on offer. Prony Bay is a perfect example as a place where you can find a stark contrast to the beach, reef, and ocean mode. Long walks, rivers, waterfalls, barren mars-scapes, hot springs. A chance to flirt once again with the earth element of the soul.
22 September 2015
On Thursday the 10th we had a great forecast to sail to Prony Bay in a south westerly wind. Lyn posted our latest blog with much difficulty due to the quantity of photos and poor signal, but managed to get it done by reducing their size. We had a marvelous sail along the coast, reaching along inside Ouen Island and through Woodin channel. We stopped for lunch at Casy Island in the middle of the bay, picking up a mooring on the northern side, the only boat there. This is an absolutely stunning spot, the boat is moored within a stone’s throw from the narrow beach and beautiful overhanging trees. The water is clean and inviting, there is perfect calm shelter from the wind and the only sound is the tweeting of little birds on the shore. All of which lulls a tired Captain into a pleasant afternoon sleep.
Fortunately Lyn returned from her walk on the island filled with excitement of the beauty she had seen, which made her far more forgiving on the lazy Captain than might otherwise have been the case (perhaps he will pay later). Weaving her galley magic, she rescued the curry with more sauce and a second cook. In the meantime we decided to head further into the bay for the night and sailed with headsail only into East Carenage bay, dropping anchor in this perfectly sheltered anchorage with only one other boat there. We were serenaded by the variety of bird songs from the shore as we sipped sun-downers and later enjoyed the twice-cooked curry which actually turned out to be delicious.
Next morning we took the dinghy up the river a bit to the hot springs wharf, a tricky dinghy trip to dodge the shallow areas which would have been much harder without the online guide information we had on the route. It was a pleasure to plunge into the bath-like spring and clean the crusty salt from our skin. This is a great little spot with a man-made pool with the spring water flowing through it, benches and pagoda etc. Not natural but nevertheless very nice and not a soul there apart from us. Fresh and clean we walked upstream to the nearby cascades and continued rock-hopping up the river, one of our favourite activities, and further high up the valley along a section of the renowned GR1 walking track. The river is very pretty and the surrounding countryside has an alluring, although somewhat stark charm, with low vegetation broken by bright red mud areas of eroded soil or mining damage which has been inflicted over the years.
After lunch on Jolifou we took the dinghy through East Carenage bay to the dinghy landing on the Prony blue river and walked up to the nearby swimming holes, which are large and deep and would be a great place to hang out on a hot summer’s day. We met two gorgeous puppies from the “La Cabane” camping area and Lyn was all over them, getting her dog fix in the absence of our beloved Silus.
On Saturday we moved Jolifou to West Carenage bay, which is also a great anchorage. We took the standup paddle boards up the Prony River and left them up on the banks whilst we walked to Prony village. It was a long, tiring, but interesting walk, and the village is quite charming, with convict ruins, displays and some fascinating trees with roots integral with the rocks and buildings. We had to visit the puppies again on the way back and Bruce had a quick chat with the owner and look around at the charming camping area whilst Lyn had her puppy time.
Next morning we packed a picnic lunch and set off on the walking path up the Carenage River to the waterfall. This is a gorgeous area which again we had all to ourselves, not seeing another soul the whole day. We took the opportunity to take our clothes off and bathe in the refreshing pool at the base of the falls and then warmed up in the sun on the hot rocks. As we do, we had to explore further so we climbed to the top of the waterfall and had a fun time negotiating jumps across the water between rocks and doing a bit of bouldering rock climbing. After lunch we took the direct route back down, rock-hopping all the way down the cascades and river, an excellent adventure!
On Monday the weather improved with the trade winds moderating, sunny skies and flat calm inside the anchorage. We had a vague plan to try to scuba dive the Prony Aguille, which is a really unusual pyramid shaped mound, formed by hot spring water rising up through the ocean bed. Unfortunately by the time we got out there the trades had started blowing again and the visibility would be very poor, so we changed plan and returned to the Northern mooring on Casy Island. This little island is right up there with the most beautiful we have seen. It has a huge variety of contrasting landscape and vegetation, from the many pristine white sand beaches and rocks, through green forests of a variety of trees and the stark contrast of the mars-like barren red area at the top.
Walking around the island as we passed through the area close to the abandoned resort and wharf on the Western side, we came across a large dog. Lyn, of course, tried to say hello and pet him, but unusually the dog was not interested and remained quite aloof though not unfriendly. As we continued our walk the dog trotted past us and started leading us along the pathway. We would cut across to a beach and walk along it and the dog would shadow us, mostly remaining on the path. On one occasion he entered the water and appeared to be looking to catch fish. This strange and independent dog remained close to us all the way around the island. We have since discovered that his name is “Moose” and he was left abandoned on the island some years ago, surviving by living off fish from the fishermen, but also catching his own fish and foraging for crabs in the rocks. We have heard of other cruisers having the same “guide dog” experience.
That afternoon we fired up our new L&W dive compressor for the first time and it worked really well as we topped up three tanks in a short space of time. Our NZ friends Brent and Deb from Gucci arrived with three new friends aboard and we had a great night with them on the beach, cooking dinner around an open fire. We spent the night on the mooring and next morning Gucci set off towards the Isle of Pines, in a forecast of strong trade winds on the nose which we would not choose to take on if we can avoid it. We motored up into Bonne Anse inside the eastern peninsula of Prony Bay and took shelter on a mooring in Anse Magic Bay. We were delighted to see Jim and Anne arrive on Insatiable 2 and went around to enjoy sundowners with them and catch up with the latest news and gossip.
On Wednesday morning we paddled the standups down the peninsula to the pretty little beach on the end. Lyn walked down the outer shore finding nautilus shells and spotting a reef shark in the shallows. We took the boards and snorkel gear out onto the reef to a gulley we had spotted and had a nice snorkel, stunningly beautiful variety of colours of brain and stag corals etc., saw a huge eel and lots of pretty tiny fish but not much else. We paid for our fun with a really tough paddle back against the stiff wind that had built up over the day, dodging into the little bays along the way to try and get some shelter. Jim and Anne came around for Sundowners on Jolifou, always a pleasure. That night we heard a lot of fish jumping and grabbed the big spotlight to illuminate a bay full of jumping fish, quite extraordinary!
Next morning we set off to the Isle of Pines, watch this space.