Homebrewing in the South Pacific

When we moved here from the states, we were fortunate enough to be able to bring a lot of our “stuff” with us. Fortunately, this “stuff” included my homebrewing equipment and, arguably more importantly, the ingredients for a few batches of beer. Now that we’ve been here for more than a year (!), we’re starting to run low on supplies. Thus begins the search for suppliers…

What’s this now?

As a quick crash course in beermaking, I’ll lay out what’s involved. Basically, you add some hot water to some malted barley (think tea) to convert the starches in the grain into sugars. This is called the mash. Next, you separate this sugary water (wort) from the spent grains, boil the wort for a while, and add some hops (a plant that imparts the bitterness to balance the sweetness of the malt). Next you cool the mixture down, throw in some yeast, and forget about it for a few weeks. During this time the yeast will consume most of the sugars and produce alcohol and CO2 (the bubbles). Put this in some bottles or a keg and you have beer.

 

So really, beer is made up of 4 ingredients: water, malted barley, hops, and yeast.  In my case, I’m on the hunt for malted barley or its extract (a syrup) and hops.

The great hunt

We’ve learned not to take for granted a lot of comforts we’re used to back home such as going to the market for tomatoes and having them actually be there, going to exchange a butane cylinder and not having to wait a week because of a strike that happened months ago, and planning your alcohol purchases a few days in advance, so I figured it was time to start the ingredient search. Armed with my repertoire of flawless French (ha!), I headed around town to seek out some beermaking components.

After making sure there were no homebrewing shops listed in the phonebook or on the web (not many businesses have a web presence here), I figured I’d start at the places that make beer themselves – the breweries. I hopped on my bike and rang the buzzer of GBNC, one of the two big breweries here and makers of the “award winning” Number 1 beer. Turns out they can’t sell their stuff and even if they could, I’d have to come home with a pallet of it – a little too much for a small timer like myself. Bummer.

Next I stopped by a restaurant supply shop. They were friendly enough to call GBNC on my behalf but got the same “nope”. The had suggested I swing by the local (chain) brewpub Les 3 Brasseurs. Ihad attempted to ask the 3B’s in the past without success, but figured I’d try again. No dice. It’s especially sad considering they have sacks of grain sitting in a display case as part of the decor…

I’ve emailed with a few Australian homebrew shops and, unsurprisingly, it’s way too expensive to get stuff shipped here unless it’s really lightweight (malt is big and heavy, hops are light) so I figured I’d ask around for some malt.

At this point, I had given up and figured I’d have to stick to having people mule in ingredients when they visit or go on duty travel via New Zealand.

But then…

…whisperings of homebrew supplies? A shop? Do what now?

It turns out that there’s a relatively new shop in La Foa, a small town a little less than 2 hours drive, that was rumored to sell brewing kits. Awesome! Even crazier for this island, they even have a website! Beer isn’t their main product so it evaded our phonebook/web searches at first. Word of mouth dominated this hunt.

We were in the area camping a few days ago and stopped by the shop and sweet jesus, it was true! Apis Diffusion is the place to go for brewing ingredients. Strangely enough, their other specialty is beekeeping equipment (we came home with some fresh honey as well as beer ingredients). They have a decent selection of beer kits, although mostly Belgian styles so IPAs are still going to be rough. Unfortunately there are no “raw” ingredients like grains or hops, but I’ll settle for kits!

The owner was kind enough to crack open a few samples of his creations – we had some of his Framboise and Pils (both quite good) while we chatted about brewing and importing ingredients. I’ll definitely be taking a ride back to La Foa with some of my own creations to share with the Apis Diffusion folk!

PVF

Learning French

Many travel guides and publications about New Caledonia claim that English is “widely spoken” but I beg to differ. To get by here in New Caledonia, you definitely need to know a bit of French – especially if you intend to go anywhere outside of Nouméa. If you’re just here for a little vacation you’ll be able to manage, but living here is a different story. Here in town, you will probably get a few words in English if you find the right person, but most of the time you need to have some basic idea of what’s being said. Since I’m not working at a “proper” job here at the time, I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to learn French.

I’ve got to give props to the Croix Rouge (Red Cross) here in Nouméa and their Learning French Program. I’m definitely NOT a fluent french speaker (yet), but I’ve come quite a way. If you know me personally, I’m not much of a talker to begin with, so speaking in another language is a challenge.

The Red Cross program here is very flexible. They have ongoing “classroom” type lessons (twice a week for me) and several less formal “conversation” groups during the week and weekends. The classroom lessons are with the same volunteer instructor each time so you get to progress and get some good feedback while you’re learning the structure and grammar of the language. The conversation groups are a bit more of a free forum where you go when you can and do activities like describe photos or articles in magazines, fill in chat bubbles on a comic with the class, play some other games, or just talk about what you ate for breakfast. If you need some specialized one-on-one tutoring, that is also no problem – they’ll match you up with a volunteer teacher and you can set up weekly meeting times wherever works for everyone.

The French classes are also great places to meet people and find some fun stuff to do around the island like where to get some good food or where to go on a hike. I’ve met people from Austria, Spain, New Zealand, Australia, and Philippines just to name a few. Having a beer or coffee after class or hanging out with some fellow students or instructors is always a good time – especially when they don’t speak English so your only way to communicate is in French!  The Croix Rouge often sets up trips to the (French) movies, museums, TV stations, and other activities as well. You can see some more here on their blog.

It’s a good feeling when you hear an announcement over the supermarket intercom and you can understand what they’re saying or go to a shop and be able to ask for something and understand their response. I’m not about to write a novel in French, and I certainly couldn’t name all the parts to a computer or car, but making steady progress is good. I’m sure I would have picked it up faster if I forced myself to speak French all day every day for a few weeks, but this will do! The best way to learn for sure is to get a French girlfriend or boyfriend but that’s not going to work in my situation… It’s all about putting yourself in situations where you have to speak it to survive and asking “Parlez-vous anglais?” isn’t an option.

The learning french program registration fee is 5000 CFP (a little more than $50 US) for a year of basically unlimited lessons so it’s a really good deal. If you want more information on the Red Cross Learning French program, you can send an email to illettrisme.crf@mls.nc, call +687-27.28.35, or best of all do the New Caledonian thing and stop by the office. It’s located in Centre-Ville at 32 rue de Sébastopol, across the street from the Best Western.

Hiking Pic Malaoui

Since we’ve moved here, most of our outdoor activities have been in the water. With the weather still being a little chilly for snorkeling and swimming, a hike (randonée or just rando in French) is just the thing to get out of the “big city”. We take for granted how close we are to outdoor activities here in Nouméa. With just a 30 minute or so drive, you can be out in the forest climbing up a mountain for some stunning views of the island and getting some fresh air.

The other week, I joined up with my French class doing just that. We met in the morning in Nouméa and drove out on RT1 towards Dumbéa. There are several signs for Mont Koghi which lead you up into the mountains on a small road full of switchbacks and sharp turns (it was fine with our little Ford Fiesta). You’ll end up in a visitor parking area at a restaurant/inn called L’Auberge. From here, head on foot up the road and bear right to follow the footpath into the forest. You will pass a kid’s treetop playland thing on your right and then be on the trail.

Partway up you can see the parking lot

Partway up, you can see the parking lot below

For our hike, we followed the signs up to Pic Malaoui, a nice peak that provides a great view of Nouméa, the mountains, and the blue lagoon surrounding our island. Along the way it was very cool to transition between tropical forest (humid, shady, damp, muddy) and sunny, scrubby, hot sections within a few steps as you change which side of the mountains you’re on.

Climbing the path in the tropical forest

Climbing the path in the tropical forest

The sunny side of the mountain

The sunny side of the mountain

There are lots of indigenous plants and wildlife along the way and plenty of photo ops. I think I’ll have to pick up a book of the local plants and animals next time I go to the library.

Cool moss on some of the trees

Cool moss on some of the trees

The final push up the peak itself is pretty rough – very steep and rocky, you’ll likely be crawling more than hiking at the end. Definitely be prepared with some comfortable shoes (and plenty of water).

Almost to the pik...

Almost to the pic…

Once you get to the top, you’re rewarded with a great view of the entire Nouméa peninsula and the lagoon around the island. You can see some of the smaller islands in the distance including Phare Amédée, Îlot Maître, and Îlot Canard, but it’s difficult to make them out in the photos… It was a little hazy that day.

Your reward for scaling the mountain

Your reward for scaling the mountain

We had a lunch on the peak, took a little rest, and then headed back down the mountain. The entire walk took about 4 hours with a few breaks and a relaxed lunch. I’ll definitely be doing some more randos in the future since there are so many places to see just a quick drive away!

Panoramic shot of Nouméa

Panoramic shot of Nouméa

La vie chère

La vie chère

Let me start by apologizing for the lack of updates. I’m not much of a writer and as a computer guy, I’ve been finding myself focusing on the sort of stuff behind the blog rather than the content… sorry about that. I’ve been trying my hand a learning ruby and rails with some online classes from edx.org and they’re quite challenging, fun, and time consuming (and free too boot). I’ll try to keep up a better pace of posting content in the future…

La vie chère

La vie chère

Alors… Life is expensive here. When we first moved here I didn’t quite realize the scope of “la vie chère” (the expensive life). The most difficult thing is the price of food. One learns quite quickly to stop converting prices to your native currency or you’ll never buy any food. Even at the market it is pretty typical to end up paying 700 CFP for a kilo of tomatoes or 300 CFP for one bell pepper. We thought maybe local fruits would be less expensive but that’s really not the case either, although they are usually very tasty. A medium sized pineapple may run you 600 CFP. A bunch of bananas can be 500. A big grapefruit is 550. Thinking back to the times of being able to buy $0.20 bananas makes one go a bit crazy. At least the local fruit here is “normal sized” as opposed to some of those monster bananas back in the states that taste like styrofoam…

Fruits and vegetables aren’t the only expensive thing of course. Most of the groceries are on the high side. A lot of that I can understand – we import tons of our food but other stuff is made or grown here locally. The local eggs, for example, will cost you about 550 CFP for a dozen. At least they are high quality and fresh… The milk is all imported UHT stuff (man oh man do we miss fresh milk). A 1L box of milk is about 150 normally. Candy is insane. We really only buy candy from duty free shops or when we’re out of the country because we just cant bring ourselves to pay more than 800 CFP for a bag of M&Ms.

About $9.90 USD or 0.3 Kg

About $9.90 USD for 0.3 Kg

To try to combat la vie chère, the government here has begun to put price controls on lots of products.

<rant> Without getting too political, the government setting controls like this is something that drives my American brain crazy. The main reason things are so expensive is because we live on an island and have to import everything. I think it is counterproductive, however, to impose ridiculous tariffs and difficult trade laws, which make it hard to get inexpensive goods while at the same time mandating what the (low) price of a box of milk should be. For example, most of our food comes from Europe – specifically France, even though Australia and New Zealand are right next door geographically. Because of these laws, France gets to send stuff literally around the entire planet and get it into New Caledonia for a lower cost than for, say, Australia to do the same thing. Instead of setting the price of a can of coke, why not allow a little competition to drive down prices rather than forcing them down? Let us buy stuff from some of the closer countries! Making the milk cost 129 CFP just makes the non-price-controlled things cost a little more. And if we are price fixing stuff, why are coca-cola and tim-tams on the list? Shouldn’t we incentivize vegetables and fruits? </rant>

I mean... tim-tams are ok i guess... but why do they get special treatment?

I mean… tim-tams are ok i guess… but why do they get special treatment?

We’re fortunate enough to have a well paying job, but the price of things still hurts. It’s hard to image how those less fortunate can get by. Maybe the key is to live outside of Nouméa. Some deals are out there if you know where to look. Some stores are cheaper than others for different things. If you’re willing to climb the grapefruit tree in your neighbors yard (with their permission of course), you may be able to save some money at the market…

IMG_1542

îlot Canard II

It’s been a cloudy, windy, rainy winter here in New Caledonia. Sure, the sun still makes it way out some days, but it almost seems like we’re in the US Pacific Northwest sometimes… Since it’s our first year, we weren’t exactly sure what to expect. The trees are green and the birds don’t seem to mind, but there’s something strange about wearing jackets and flannel shirts while you walk amongst palm trees.

With the cooler weather we’ve been doing more around the house instead of venturing around New Caledonia, but we have a bit of a backlog of activities from our summer to write about. Maybe some photos of sunnier days, tropical fish, etc. will help coax the sun out today. So, without further adieu, here are some photos that we took a few months ago from our second trip to Îlot Canard, just a quick boat ride from Anse Vata in Nouméa.

Nom

Nom

Slippery

Slippery

This was a big guy

This was a big grouper

BFF

BFFs

Crawling along the coral

Crawling along the coral…

...trying to run...

…trying to run…

Trying to hide

… and trying to hide

And what do you know… the sun just came out.

Map Data (c) Google

Let’s swap notes

So after being here for about 6 months, I took a trip back home to the USA for a friend’s wedding, family visit, and some shopping. This trip is the main reason why I haven’t been updating the blog for a while… While I was there, some of the small differences between the USA became pretty apparent. Now there are definitely some huge differences like the culture, climate, language, food, etc., but I wanted to focus on the little things in this post. I should mention that I enjoy discovering new cultures and experiencing different ways of life, but there are some things that everyone would benefit from, especially considering Nouméa is rather developed.

I think these two countries could both improve if they adopted some of these things from each other.

Things the USA needs to adopt:

1. Traffic circles.

Seriously, guys. Americans hate traffic circles and I’m not sure why. Ok, they might be confusing at first for 30 seconds if you’ve never learned how to navigate them, but once you understand the rules (in general, those already in the circle have priority and furthermore, those on the inside track have priority) it’s simple. Using traffic circles instead of stoplights could save everyone lots of time and hassle. The main reason I thought of this was when I was moving along a chain of 4-way intersections with red lights in the DC suburbs and realized how stupid it was that nobody was moving (there weren’t even any vehicles on the cross streets). I was just sitting there burning fuel doing nothing. All of this could have been easily remedied by a few circles. It doesn’t make sense to tear out the existing stuff to put in circles, but they should really be considered during new construction. And those of you thinking of the “circles” in downtown DC, those are not traffic circles. They’re full of stoplights, turn lanes, and god knows what else. I’d wager that they’d work exponentially better if they pulled out all the lights. Seriously.

2. Real prices.

Having grown up with false prices being advertised everywhere (read: taxes and tip not included), I got used to never really knowing exactly how much I was going to have to pay at the cash register. Here in New Caledonia (and many other places in the world), the taxes are built into the price and tipping is not necessary. The receipts usually tell you how much tax you’ve actually paid so you can still see how much the govies get, but building it into the price makes perfect sense while you’re shopping. Tipping is another big thing. I’m still not used to the fact that when you pay for your meal you pay the price listed on the menu and that’s it!

P.S.: Here’s a really good Freakonomics Radio Podcast that goes into some of the implications of tipping and some other interesting correlations.

3. Shopping cart technology.

This one isn’t that big a deal, but it’s simple and beneficial. If you’ve been to Aldi in the states you’ll understand this one. They have a little quarter deposit slot on the carts. You put in your quarter, your cart is unlocked, and you do your business. When you’re done, you return the cart to the cart corral and get your quarter back. This keeps wild carts from hitting peoples cars, keeps the carts with the store, and saves someone from having to gather them up every few hours. Easy. Also, having 4 swivel casters on the carts instead of the American 2 in front, 2 stationary wheels in back makes them a lot more fun to push around…

4. Two-wheeled vehicles.

(C’mon, I gotta be a little bike-centric here). There are tons more motorcycles and scooters here than back in the USA. Sure the weather is great for riding year round here and the USA is really really big, but it would be really cool to see more bikes and bike awareness back home. At in New Caledonia people generally know to look twice for bikes when they pull out, Nouméa lets bikes park pretty much anywhere they want (read: the sidewalk), and we don’t have to pay for parking – although I’m not sure if they ever enforce the paid parking for anyone…

Things New Caledonia needs to adopt:

1. Beer.

The beer selection here is awful. Don’t even get me started on the Aussie beers we get here. America has such an awesome beer scene nowadays (and seriously, people here, stop making fun of American beer as sucking. Yeah, BudMillerCoors is crap but there’s such a huge world beyond that). There are a few Belgian and other European beers available here, but they’re all just macro brews (AB InBev) anyway. The local brews “Number One” and “Manta” are fine for a hot tropical day, but y’all seriously need to step it up.  If I had a little more motivation I’d look into starting a proper craft brewery here… Any NC business-type people reading this? I guess we’ll have to stick to Fancy French Wines (which I know nothing about…) and homebrew. (Also, I think I must be a genius).

2. Internet presence.

So maybe I’m a bit spoiled, but being able to look up a business online is something I now realize I’d been taking for granted back in the states. Here in Nouméa, the vast majority of businesses and restaurants have no online presence. A website these days is the first thing I’d think you’d want as a business owner (or at least a dot on the google map). It doesn’t even cost anything to put your enterprise on the map! I guess we’ll stick to the phone book for now, but I sure do love being able to see a restaurant’s hours and menu online, or see what a business is in the business of doing before I make the trip. You don’t need anything fancy (and for the love of god don’t play music on your business webpage…). Just tell me where you are, when you’re open, how to call you, and what you do. And don’t even get me started on our local banking website…

3. The “quality” option.

Nouméa is a developed city with all the modern amenities you could want. So why is everything so junky? I’m not asking for luxury, just a quality option. If you buy, for example, a mop for the floor or a toilet brush, be prepared to pay 3x what you’d pay in the states and get something that is the quality equivalent to something from a “dollar store.” I’m not one to invest in top of the line cleaning products or anything, but having an option one step up from “junk” would be nice. Maybe I haven’t looked hard enough, but a $20 mop should last longer than a month… This also goes for “durable goods” like washing machines, dishwashers, and stoves. You’ll pay the same hundreds of dollars you’d pay in the states for a washing machine, but the one you get here will be a no-name piece of junk. I’m just glad I brought that big roll of duct tape.

4. Recycling.

There’s so much garbage downtown it is a shame and most of it is aluminum beer cans, plastic bottles, and glass. It’s strange how there are no recycling bins downtown at least for metal cans. I would imagine there could be quite a lucrative business for some waste management folk if they got people to recycle some stuff or at least provide the option. It’s really strange to go from living in DC where they (allegedly) recycle most all plastic, paper, metal, and glass to here where we are throwing everything in the dumpster.

5. Mexican food.

Enough said.

Still alive

I’ve been away for a few weeks and tied up with some other things, but rest assured the website is still alive. Until I finish the next few posts, here’s a picture of a star fish…

Found at Baie des Citrons

Found at Baie des Citrons

Moto in “le Grand Sud”

In case you’re wondering what the (motorcycle) riding is like here in New Caledonia, I figured I’d post about a little day trip I took through the southern part of the island. This was the 2nd time I attempted this route – the first time was raining most of the way so not so conducive to photos. But last time the weather was….

Perfect

Perfect

Thanks to the nickel mining industry, New Caledonia has good paved roads and even better dirt roads all throughout the south. The mining companies actually paid for most of the roads (there’s a huge operation near Goro complete with dormitories) since many workers commute hours to and from the mines and processing plants in Noumea and Goro. The landscape provides plenty of fun, twisty roads and if the weather is good, it’s a great temperature up in the mountains – warm enough to be comfortable and cool enough to wear riding gear comfortably.

For this ride I headed from Nouméa towards Mont Dore and continued on the (one and only) “Rue du Sud” which makes its way around the southern side of the island staying relatively near the coast. This ride takes you through some small water crossings, plenty of trees, and up and down the mountains. One section is entirely made up of pine trees – the logging companies are to thank for this. Thankfully they left behind some nice dirt roads as well. One amazing thing is just how red the soil is here. They typically refer to it as “terre rouge” (red earth) here and you can tell whenever anyone’s vehicle has been anywhere near it because it is bright red and sticks like glue.

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I wish I had some knobbier tires, but the majority of riding is on paved roads so it all works out… what’s riding on the dirt if you don’t slip around a little?

Eventually the road goes through the mining area of Goro (photographie interdit) and then on to the Southeastern coast. Following the coast up through Goro village and some other tribal areas, you eventually come to Yaté and then can head back up the mountain onto the “main” road back to Noumeá.

looking back towards Yaté

looking back towards Yaté

Don’t get me wrong, driving through Noumea is almost as bad as DC in terms of maniacal cagers that seem to be out to kill you (seriously people, it’s a one-lane road and in 10 feet you have a red light. whats the rush?!) but it’s easy enough to escape for a few hours. I should also mention that plenty of my fellow bikers can ride like jerks too, often moreso… Especially those little punks on the 100cc 2-stroke noisemakers that rip down the road at 5am for no good reason, waking up the entire neighborhood. But I digress.

I’m very fortunate to be able to do this kind of stuff…

Importing a Motorcycle

tl;dr – Don’t bother. Just buy one here.

When we suddenly found out we were moving to the other side of the world, one of the first things I looked into was how good (or bad) the riding would be in New Caledonia. I love my motorcycle and would ride it to work most of the year back in DC. When I did a little research and talked to some friends that had friends in NC (thanks, Reggie!), it turns out that NC is a perfect place to ride. The roads are in (relatively) great shape, there are huge stretches of paved and unpaved roads, and the weather is beautiful the majority of the year. What more could you ask for?

Since our employer covered the cost of shipping all of our stuff in a 20-foot shipping container, we were able to fit in my bike as well (for a nominal crating fee of course). Awesome, I thought! I don’t have to sell my bike and go bike shopping again since I can just bring along my old one! Piece of cake!

Now, we knew that it wouldn’t be as easy as uncrating the thing and riding off into the sunset, but we had no idea how many steps would be involved to get it registered, licensed, insured, and so forth. It has been more than a month since our stuff arrived and just recently I was able to hit the road

The process is sort-of explained on the DITTT website (DITTT is like the US DMV except it is nationalized instead of by state) but it’s in French and a little convoluted… So, without further adieu, here’s what you’ll have to do to register an imported vehicle. This is for a motorcycle, but it should be similar for any vehicle…

1. Get an RTI

In NC, an RTI is “Réception à Titre Isolé”. It is a document that, as far as I can understand, says what your vehicle is (make, model, weight, fuel type, etc.). The stamp of the approving authority is what makes it official (they really like their stamping here in NC).These should be available from a dealership, but in our case, since the bike is from the North American market, The Suzuki shop here refused to give us any paperwork about it even though it is the same bike found in the rest of the world other than the speedometer having both miles and kilometers. For this part, we had to hire a 3rd party’s services to come look at the bike (and go on the internet) to get it’s specs. After paying some money (a common theme here), you get a shiny, stamped, RTI paper describing your vehicle-as-imported.

We were recommended Alain Services (ass@lagoon.nc) (heh) and Alain was very helpful throughout the process (and speaks a bit of English as well).

This process took a few days – Alain put together a dossier with all of the info I provided and added the RTI to it. You’ll need to provide:

  • Import Certificate (provided by NC customs)
  • The Title for the vehicle (or some other document proving ownership)
  • A bill of sale for when you bought the vehicle
  • Proof of previous insurance
  • A document describing any insurance claims you may have made or stating you didn’t make any
  • Driver’s License
  • Passport
  • Proof of residence (electric bill, etc.)

2. Get the Technical Book

This is another part that should be available from the dealership which provides the manufacturers specifications of the vehicle like its weight, how loud it is, regulations it conforms to, top speed info, etc. etc.. Again, we couldn’t get Suzuki to give us one so the same company that helped with the RTI also provided this book. Great. Seems really official.

3. Visit “Control Technique”

This was a fun one. At this point, you need to make an appointment with and bring along the RTI, tech book, and other documents to the Contrôl Technique center. This involved driving through town (without plates or insurance – nobody will insure an unregistered bike), having some official-looking individuals look at the VIN, see that the turn signals work, and that’s about it. That’ll be 3000XPF, s’il vous plaît.

This was pretty easy and just took one morning. Alain set up an appointment for us and walked us through the process.

Side-note: Some of our friends that are leaving soon discovered that, depending on the age of your vehicle, you may need to go to Contrôl Technique before you sell a car so the sucker buying it gets a good deal. Now I like the idea of making sure the buyer doesn’t get ripped off in theory, but what ever happened to buyer-beware? Surely the buyer of a vehicle who knows to at least check that the brakes work and the lights turn on?! Or if he can’t then it should be on him to do the research and make sure he’s getting a good deal. Mandatory, seller-provided, faux safety checks for the perceived benefit of the buyer… Ooh la la…


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4. Carte Grise

Ok, your vehicle has passed the rigorous safety checks. It has brake lights. It has a horn. It tells you your speed in Km/H (even if the numbers are tiny compared to the MPH gauge…). Now you get to apply for the Carte Grise (grey card). This is the French version of a Title and Registration all in one. This is the sheet of paper that signifies victory. With this baby you can prove to anyone in the French Republic that you own the vehicle. So… Take all your documents from the previous steps plus a copy of your passport, the completed grey card form, and some cash/check (my bike was on the low end at 10600XPF – the price depends on the power of the engine) to the office.


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This office is a standard take-a-ticket-and-wait-your-turn ordeal. Easy enough – just drop off your paperwork and come back tomorrow (of course – we can’t be giving you your grey piece of paper today, can we? That wouldn’t be very Nouméa-y at all… Gotta have at least 2 trips!). The next afternoon you can come back and claim your card, fork over the fees, and be on your way! – to the license plate printing shop…

5. License Plate

I find it odd that every other part of the process seems pretty regulated and bureaucratic, but the issuing of the actual license plate that gets bolted to your ride comes from any old graphics/signage/printing/key-copying/watch-repair/engraving shop of your choice. At least this way you get to pick out your colors and font, pay about 2500XPF, and come back in a few days (a reoccurring theme). I ended up going to Kiscal which is right pretty close to the Grey Card office just at the roundabout next door to Meca Moto. In retrospect, I could probably have hand-painted my numbers on an old piece of metal myself and saved the money. I just assumed it would be some official looking thing, but it really is just a square of metal with numbers printed on it.

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6. Insurance

Like the US, insurance is mandatory here (and you’d be crazy not to get it with the way people drive around here – sure to have a post about that soon). Some friends and the NC motorcycle forum all recommend Assurance Mutuelle des Motards which is located downtown near the city market. They seem to have the best coverage specifically for motorcycles (although you need to have insurance coverage for something from their parent company AGPM – same office). This was easy enough – just bring your grey card, drivers license, and some documentation stating if you had any claims on your previous moto/auto insurance (a phone call back to our old ensurer in the states was all it took to get these emailed to me), and your bank account info. Moto insurance is a bit pricey here – in the neighborhood of $1K per year for full coverage… It was about $700 for the lesser coverage – both a bit more than back in the states… C’est la vie… Some other riders got better pricing but I think this has to do with them having a French license as opposed to an “agreement” that the US license is valid here. Thankfully, the insurance company provides you a 30-day temporary policy until your real sticker arrives in the mail (from France) so as long as you have your plates, you can, finally, cruise off over the horizon!

So if I knew then what I know now would I have imported my bike? HECK NO! (Sorry, bike) I thought bikes here would be really expensive but they are pretty comparable to prices in the states and there are plenty of them (and lots of nice ones that are pretty pricey back home – KTM, BMWs, sweet adventure bikes, …). By buying here you’d avoid all the RTI, control technique, etc. etc. and just have to do a standard grey card sign-over and get some insurance.

Maybe it was worth it after all

Maybe it was worth it after all…

Ride reports soon to come…