Coconut Grasshopper 2

Exotic Housemates

The other morning while we were eating breakfast, we looked out the door onto our balcony and saw one of New Caledonia’s notorious HUGE grasshoppers for the first time. When we first found out about possibly moving here, we saw some photos online of these giant creatures and have been looking forward to finding one. This thing was seriously huge! This got me thinking that I should write something about the creatures that share our home with us. Being a tropical environment, New Caledonia is host to a large variety of creatures that are pretty exotic to those of us that come from more temperate climates. Insects galore, geckos scurrying along the walls, and our bird-alarm-clock are just a few.

Coconut Grasshopper 2

About the size of my hand

About the size of my hand

The one we saw on our balcony was a female coconut grasshopper, one of the largest species in the world. This thing was seriously as big as my hand. They’re generally harmless to people, but they will make you take a second look what with their clacking and giant claws and mandibles.

As for the other creatures we share our home with, the worst, as you might imagine, are the cockroaches. These guys are everywhere. Usually they are the small type but occasionally a huge one will make its way in (about the size of my thumb) and nobody wants to see one of those mammoths crawling on their kitchen counter. Keeping things tidy may marginally help keep them away (it at least helps us to find/kill them), but there’s no escaping them completely. If roaches crawling around aren’t problem enough, there are some smaller varieties that fly in the window and hang out with you when you’re reading or watching TV, occasionally falling onto your head. Blarg. We were used to seeing an occasional roach since we moved from DC, but the ones here are much more… plentiful.

The other housemates that we could do without are the mosquitoes. Dengue fever exists here in New Caledonia (although your chances of getting it are pretty low in Nouméa) so you have to be vigilant. The mosquitoes here are much larger than the little tiger-striped ones back in DC (which are actually a non-native species) and completely disgusting when you smash one and get a Dexter-esque blood spatter on the floor (or your leg). I’ve never seen such greedy mosquitoes. They gorge themselves so full that they can barely fly away. They’re easy to kill then, but the damage has been done. Surprisingly (and thankfully), there seems to be fewer here than back in DC during the summer.

gross

gross

Fortunately, we have help combating the insects. We, as well as just about every other household here, harbor collections of geckos! These guys are awesome at eating bugs. We see them crawling around the walls and ceilings and hanging out during their nightly hunts. They seem to establish some territory and protect it well (there’s one in our bathroom, one in the laundry room, a bunch in the living room/kitchen, etc.). Finding their leavings is a small price to pay for their insect slaying abilities. The geckos have a unique sound (kinda like a click-click-click) and we had no idea what it was when we first arrived. The first night we were here we heard the sound and could have sworn it was someone knocking on our door (at 2 in the morning). Needless to say, there was nobody at the door and we soon learned of the source of the noise. We may or may not talk back to them sometimes.

insecticide

insecticide

Speaking of waking up in the middle of the night, how does a 4:30AM alarm sound? That’s about the time the bird-alarm goes off just outside our bedroom window. What sounds like hundreds of birds going insane for an hour or so before the sun comes up is how we were awakened for our first few weeks here until we grew accustomed to it. I don’t know what their game is, but they’ve done an excellent job of acclimating us to the early morning hours of the island (a post on that sometime soon).

Another bad bug story involves a bag of dried black-eyed peas that had been thoroughly consumed by weevils. We didn’t notice at the store (lesson learned – always check your purchases), and once we got home there were dozens of hard black weevils crawling in our pantry. Upon closer inspection, we could see that every pea had been burrowed through and eaten. We quickly exterminated the culprits and now we keep our grains/beans/etc. in the freezer/fridge, which seems to be a pretty standard practice around here. One of our friends actually found some little worms or larvae in his new bag of rice… We don’t have any weevil pics so here’s a shiny bug.

buggin around

buggin around

We’re still searching the outdoors for some dugongs, cagou birds, and flying foxes but for now, I’ll leave it at the zoo that is our home. Luckily for us, we like animals and the wildlife and don’t mind sharing our house with them as long as they keep each other under control and stay out of our food. Although we could do without the roaches and mozzies (that’s Australian for mosquitoes)… You definitely need to be willing to share your space with nature here.

An Afternoon at Kuendu Beach

Kuendu beach is just a few minutes drive from downtown Nouméa so a few weeks ago we decided to check it out. It’s very easy to get to – from downtown, just take a left at the ‘T’ intersection near the hospital and follow Avenue James Cook. You’ll eventually see a sign and the public parking lot. There are also buses that go to the beach from Nouméa.


View Larger Map

Kuendu beach is a bit different from Anse Vata or Baie des Citrons in that it is very sheltered from waves and the sandy shallows go out quite far into the bay. There were plenty of people at the beach that day and one kind fellow was playing his music plenty loud for the entire beach to enjoy (/s). If you went on an off-day (weekday), I’d imagine it would be a good beach to bring the kids to since it is a bit smaller and more shallow and sheltered than some other beaches near the city.

Busy, sunny day at Kuendu

Busy, sunny day at Kuendu

There is a resort hotel at the northern part of the bay if that’s your thing but the public beach is the way to go for free, fun, ocean play. There were some stand-up paddlers about taking advantage of the clear, calm water.

Good day for it

Good day for it

The snorkeling here wasn’t stellar, mainly due to the shallow water. There was a lot of sea grass so I would imagine turtles may find their way in from time to time. There was some coral but not enough to justify an “epic snorkel.” We did see some small flounder laying on the bottom and plenty of smaller lizardfish and other reef dwellers.

A little reminder that there is still risk involved in playing in the ocean, even if everyone else is doing it, is evidenced by the lurking stonefish we spotted while snorkeling and the super-curious tricot rayé snakes that we’ve seen virtually EVERY SINGLE TIME we’ve been snorkeling in New Caledonia.

Don't tread on me.

Don’t tread on me.

Off to the sides of the bay you can hop out of the water and explore the rocky shores and find hundreds of snails, small crabs, and other creatures while you have a picnic away from the crowd at the beach.

Looking out from the bay

Looking out from the bay

All in all it was a nice, relaxing day (other than being chased by a curious snake).

Here’s how to buy a car:

Buying a car has been quite a learning experience here – from the laws of registration, the lack of model year designations, new vs. used from dealer vs. used from individual, insurance, etc.. All of these things are generally the same as back home, but there are some odd differences… Hopefully this post will help others in our position.

If you’re buying a used vehicle, the best classifieds website we’ve found has been automobiles.nc. It’s sort of like craigslist except a little junkier – you can’t filter by price and some people are even worse at writing succinct, concise ads than on craigslist, but it works. There are subsections for cars, motorcycles, boats, help wanted, and so forth on other parts of the site. One thing that’s different from the states is that people don’t typically post the vehicle model year – instead they post the first 3 numbers of the license plate which indicates the year it was put into service. Once a new car is plated, it keeps the tags forever rather than changing with the ownership of the vehicle like in the states. To determine the year of the vehicle based on the license plate number you’ll need a copy of L’Argus magazine (850 XPF) which is available from gas stations and some supermarkets. The magazine has a table in the back which shows which plate numbers correspond to each month of the year. The magazine also has tables that show suggested prices for used vehicles – think Kelley Blue Book except instead of an online search it’s a complicated table… yeah.

Due to our employer, we’re able to get a duty-free vehicle and considering the relatively good resale value and some other relative “simplicity” factors, we decided to go with a new car from the dealership which was also an experience. Now buying a new car isn’t going to save you money, but things do tend to hold their value here a bit better than back home so we were able to justify it to ourselves.

The car dealerships here are a bit different from the states in that there is only one for each brand of vehicle and furthermore there are only 3 or 4 companies that control all of the dealerships here on the island. The largest is CFAO which runs Almameto which sells Citroen, Great Wall, Nissan, Subaru, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru and probably some more I’m forgetting. Menard is another child of CFAO that has Peugeot, Chevrolet, Isuzu, Ssang Yong, and BMW. Royal Motors is Hyundai and I didn’t bother finding who runs Renault (haven’t been too impressed with any of the French cars, really…). I’m sure I’m forgetting some other brands but you get the idea.

The frustrating thing about the car dealerships is that they are like most other businesses and are open from about 8-11:30 then closed for lunch and then re-open from 1:30-5:30. Saturdays they are open for maybe 4 hours in the morning and Sunday not at all. This means you need to go during the day, call ahead to see if cars are available to test drive, or run out for a few minutes at a time after work.

I think the strangest thing about the dealerships is doing test drives… Depending on the place/car, one of three things will happen:

  • “sorry we dont have any you can test today. Come back next week” (lolwut?)
  • The showroom car gets pulled outside and you drive it (best case)
  • You drive one of the employee’s cars that happens to have the same model only about a year older, with cigarette smell, baby seats, and sporting gear in the back (most likely)

So that’s pretty strange and makes it hard to get a feel for the cars compared to each other. I think some dealerships in the states would be terrified of option 3.

So now you’ve chosen a car you like, you’ve bargained a bit on the price (although not much – there’s not a huge margin for bargaining here), and you know what color you want. There are a few ways your next step can go:

  • It’s on a boat and will be in Noumea in a few weeks/months
  • It’s in the warehouse and will be available in a week
  • It’s the one you and everyone else sat in in the showroom and will be available in a week

Ideally you’ll pick one that’s in stock or else you’ll be waiting months for it to arrive, clear customs, get to the dealer, etc., etc. while you continue to dump money into a rental car, bum rides, or take the bus.

As for paying, since all the bank cards issued here have a smart chip, we got lots of confused looks when we handed over our American card with the magnetic stripe. There was some gesticulating and poor translation happening as the car dealership folks tried to swipe a card for the first time ever but it all worked out in the end!

Now that you’ve paid for your car, you can drive off and be on your way…. NOT. It’ll be a few days (about a week for us) until it is prepped, registered with the proper authorities and so forth. Luckily for us, the dealership takes care of the registration.

Sounds like a good time to buy some insurance!

There are plenty of insurance agencies around Noumea, most of which are French groups. We just went with a recommendation from some friends with our insurance choice. Pretty standard operation there except you have to go to the office – doing it over the phone or email is not really an option for anything here. You’ll need the standard stuff – ID, proof of residence, the “proforma” quote from the dealership, and the temporary “carte gris” (gray card) number which corresponds to your vehicle, which is also provided by the dealer. Our insurance process was pretty straightforward – just some signing and google translating…

You can’t get your insurance card until your car is actually ready for you to drive away though… naturally. This means that when they call up and say your car is ready, you have to head to the insurance office, pay your premium (a little bit cheaper than our policy in the US surprisingly), sign some forms, and then you’ll get your insurance card that you can take to the dealership to pick up your shiny new car!

At this point you’ll have a temporary tag while the dealership takes care of the “final” gray card setup which takes another week. After that week you get to go back to the head to the dealership to get your official gray card and get some tags riveted on your car then head to the insurance agency to get your policy updated with the “real” registration number and finally be on your way.

So in typical Noumea fashion, you’ll make at least 3 trips to each office before all is said and done, but then again people are usually pretty willing to help along the process. Since it’s so sunny here and I have a feeling the nickel mining doesn’t do much good for acid rain, I’ll be spending some time keeping fresh wax and protectant on the car to keep it in good shape and to keep that shiny finish sparkling. It seems that the sun here really does a number on paint jobs judging by the cars we see driving around with peeling clear coats and faded colors. A little work washing every few weeks and making sure a fresh coat of wax stays on goes a long way!

shiny

shiny

Suddenly… THINGS!

Sorry that it’s been a while since I’ve posted but it was for good reason! Our shipment has arrived!

A perk of moving here was that our employer would cover the cost of shipping everything we could cram into a 20 foot shipping container from DC to Noumea and our container has finally arrived! We were tracking the vessel that we were told it was on via marinetraffic.com (cool website!) and watched it go from Baltimore, down to Montevideo, Uruguay (and every port in between) and then back to NYC, conveniently passing by the Panama canal both times… WTF! Our shipping company never bothered to updated the “tracking” information they provided us to let us know it got moved to a different ship. What a sales gimmick that “tracking” was…. Low and behold, after some emailing, the vessel with our container on it showed up on the radar inbound to Noumea after about 2 months at sea!

Surprisingly, our ship arrived on Saturday and by Monday the destination agent shipping folk were asking when we want them to bring our container to unload at our apartment (ASAP!). We were happy and also a little disappointed when we found that the customs seal had never even been broken until they were unloading it into our apartment. Everyone made it sound like they would go over everything with a fine-toothed comb to root out anything resembling food, chemicals, etc.. One website even said they don’t allow importing of paper products so as to not hurt the local paper manufacturers (?). Not that we really had anything to hide, but it was nice to not have our stuff violated.

Unloading

So now we’ve been diligently unpacking and fitting all of our stuff into our new home. Oh sweet jesus is it good to have our kitchen knives and my beloved cast iron skillets back.  (Dear employer, invest in some better cookware in the “survival kits” you loan to new employees! The cancerous non-stick coating is either completely worn off or flakes off into food if you try to use those useless pots!). I’m also looking forward to using our food processor to make peanut butter, which can be found here only the garbage sugary variety. And salsa. Let’s not forget salsa.

Skillet

Being me, I’m very happy to have my desktop PC back as well. Finally I can slay some orcs in my free time once again and give the old laptop a healthy respite. Unfortunately a runaway download has chewed up most of our allotted bandwidth for a few days so we’ve been throttled back to 1Mbps and are considering going with the unlimited, albeit slower, ISP but can’t decide if it’s worth the hassle quite yet.

The ever-important kegerator and homebrewing equipment made it safely. We definitely didn’t discretely ship any brewing ingredients… nope… none of those… no spices either… That might have been against the rules depending on who you ask… Now I just need to find a CO2 cylinder to get the brewing operation back up and running. For some reason we seem to make a lot of friends when the kegerator is in full swing…

kegerator

Some things I fear will not be getting much use – our bicycles are locked in the shed and I’m not convinced they will be making any appearances (except maybe in the classifieds) due to the way people drive around here, the lack of bike lanes/sidewalks, and some other reasons. We haven’t seen winter in Noumea yet, but those winter coats and flannel shirts might stay in the closet for the next few years. Maybe we’ll visit New Zealand and need them.

We’re also excited to have our flower pots back so we can grow some veggies on our balconies and admire them whilst hammocking. To start, we’ve just been growing in plastic bags. Now we can upgrade to real pots! Even if growing our own food might not help a ton with the high food prices, it may make a dent and the quality is always better. It’s fun too. Now we just need to figure out the growing seasons here (which seem to be very long according to the seed packets!). It is awesome to have our patio set back so we can eat outside again! Thankfully there aren’t nearly as many mosquitoes as there were in DC.

pots n' plants

We were told to take advantage of our shipment so we packed a lot of cleaning supplies and other staples that we were allowed (suck it, parfumé tp). Costco loved us before we left. We’ve had a hard time finding quality brooms and mops, sponges and dish rags, at reasonable prices here. Things here, by default, seem to be junky so it’s a good thing we packed some new stuff.

So Beautiful and fragrance-free

So Beautiful and fragrance-free

I’m sure I’ll have a post soon about how to register an imported motorcycle (which is currently sitting in our driveway being sad and unridden) soon…

What is up with… alcohol sales restrictions?!

So we’re adults and we like to grab a beer from time to time. Well, here in New Caledonia, you’re pretty limited as to exactly when you can grab that beer. Due to crazy laws that I don’t understand, it is illegal to buy alcohol from the store – no matter what age you are – Wednesday after noon, Friday after noon, Saturday after noon, or Sunday afternoon. There are some problems with drunk driving, underage drinking, and whatnot here, but that’s grounds to ruin it for everyone? 99% of people buying booze are responsible adults and if the goal is to keep underage kids from getting beer or keeping drunks off the road, why not enforce the bloody laws already in existance?! I have yet to see one maniacal driver get pulled over for any reason. I’ve also never been asked for ID once when buying booze. I’m all for wanting kids to stay out of trouble and keep the roads safe, but I seriously doubt a law like this is going to stop them from getting what they’re after. Now we just stock up. And if you know where to look, you can buy beer any time of any day… I think for every new law like this they should repeal 2 old, equally ineffective ones.

I hope brewing beer after 2pm on a Saturday isn’t going to land me in jail…

Hello there

Vanuatu for a week

Work (and play) recently brought us to our nearby neighboring country Vanuatu for a week and the quick synopsis is: beautiful! For those of you that don’t know, Vanuatu is an independent island nation that is just a 50 minute plane ride from Noumea. It being a former French colony, I’d expected a lot of French language but this was definitely not the case. Tons more Aussie tourists  here than in New Caledonia and most signs are in English instead of French. Although Vanuatu is not a financially rich nation by far, the people are definitely the most genuinely happy group I’ve ever encountered. For what it’s worth, some past Lonely Planet survey actually rates them as the happiest nation on earth.

People here typically speak about four languages including English, French, Bislama (the local pidgin), and their village languages – truly impressive. English being in that list means catching taxi buses, asking directions, etc., all become super easy.

We have some serious supermarket envy what with the huge selection of ethnic spices, black beans (nowhere to be found in Noumea so far…), cheap staples, and, oh yeah, the giant outdoor market with the most delicious and inexpensive fruits open 24 hours! Prices here seem much more reasonable than Noumea but maybe were just jaded…

As for activities, there’s plenty to do provided you enjoy the outdoors. While one of us was working during the week, the other got to do some exploring:

Snorkeling at Iririki

There is a small island/resort just a 5 minute boat ride across the water from downtown Port Vila where we went snorkeling, had a look around, and got some meh food. 1500 Vatu (about 15 $US) gets you the boat ticket which is redeemable for food, drinks, etc. on the island. There is a little “snorkelers cove” with a dock and gear hire if you don’t have your own. The water is very warm compare to New Caledonia due to the currents so that’s another nice thing about Vanuatu. The snorkeling here was not amazing in terms of coral or fish but still plenty relaxing and easy to get to.

Iririki Island

Exploring Port Vila

The main city in Vanuatu is Port Vila and is home to a long strip of restaurants, curio shops, junk stores, tourist info centers, dive shops, markets, and hotels. The buses are very easy – wave one down (they’re very frequent) , pay 150 VT, and let them know where you want to go. Easy. The city is small enough that you could walk across the whole thing in an hour or so. The centerpiece of Vila is the main city market. An open air pavilion houses rows and rows of people selling fresh bananas, coconuts, bundles of wriggling crabs, giant sacks of yams, tropical fruit, fish, and lots more. Definitely puts the Noumea market to shame in terms of quantity and price. A few blocks away, some more market pavilions hold rows of colorful fabrics, sarongs, hand-sewn bags, and dresses that are locally made and grabbing a fresh meal is no problem anywhere (except maybe Sunday afternoon).

Diving

Saturday morning we were up early to do 2 dives on the reef (14000 VT with gear hire). We met up at Nautilus waterspouts where we sized  our gear, hopped on the boat, and motored out for about 30 minutes where we (just us 2 and one other guy plus 2 folks from the dive shop) went in. Not a ton of huge fish or anything particularly notable, but we saw plenty of healthy, colorful coral, tropical fish, and a huge cuttlefish that was changing color for us. After our first dive we had morning tea and snacks on board while we headed to the second dive site. More of the same at the second dive but still a good day. I think this was the first time we could have foregone our wet suits – the water was so warm!

Cascade waterfalls

A city bus, will take you out about 10 minutes outside of Vila to the Mele area. It costs either 200VT or 300VT depending on the driver’s mood. This is an excellent example of tourism actually helping preserve an area rather than harm it. The 2000VT admission price seemed steep at first but after waking through the base camp with showers, a small bar and restaurant, and other amenities, climbing up the well maintained trail, and standing under a 100 ft waterfall, the price seemed totally worth it. The trail sends you first up some concrete steps then a gravel trail through the jungle. After crossing the river a few times, using the rope handholds, the river opens up into dozens of pools, crystal clear water cascading between them. From this point on it is definitely barefoot territory (or wear reef shoes). At this point the river becomes the trail with a rope handhold to guide you, a few steps carved into the riverbed for the steep spots, and smooth river stone under your feet. If you look closely you will see a variety of freshwater fish and maybe some eels. After walking up the river a few minutes, the clearing at the base of the waterfall appears and you can bask in the beautiful waterfall rolling over the lush cliff. Definitely a Kodak moment here. Your 2000VT goes to good use maintaining the land, keeping the area clean, and allowing the locals to share this natural beauty with its visitors. On our way down we spent plenty of time playing in the freshwater pools and mini waterfalls. Definitely a must-do if you visit the area.

Erakor island

Erakor island is another small island near Port Vila. 200VT to a bus gets you to the dock which works very similarly to Iririki – pay the fee (1000VT) for the boat, and then spend the voucher on food/drinks on the island. This was a nice little resort island with good snorkeling – better than Iririki by far. It was interesting to see how different the marine life was here compared to the other places we’ve been around Vanuatu. There were tons of big sea stars and snails, and even a huge jellyfish that I’d never seen before. I was in for a pretty big shock when all of a sudden the current started pulling out veeeerrry hard. Wondering what was happening, I headed to shore and got out as the current reversed and started coming in hard. Turns out there was an earthquake in the region at the time which caused a mini-tsunami here in Vanuatu! The damages were pretty minimal – some beach chairs got swamped, some folk got scared, and the dock was temporarily submerged. It’s scary how suddenly it all occurred and no warning was sounded. By the looks of it, warning signals were pretty mixed in New Caledonia too.

Hideaway Island

To end our journey, we decided to relax and stay a few nights at Hideaway Island. This is another small island off of the main island and is near the Cascade Waterfall area. The snorkeling here was some of the best we’ve ever seen anywhere – super clear water, a good mix of deep and shallow reef areas, a huge variety of fish large and small, and nice warm water. There was even an underwater post office where you can send a waterproof post card back home to make everyone even more jealous of your travels. I think the photos speak better than my words so we’ll leave it at that.

We had a good time in Vanuatu and will surely be returning in the future for more work and exploring. We definitely want to visit Tanna and see the volcano and probably some other islands for a better view of some small villages and their customs (and of course their nakamals).

P.S. – when a cruise ship is in the harbor, the town and all of these activities are completely overrun and many of the cruisers are very… umm… inconsiderate… to the locals (and seemingly each other). Also the bus fares seem to go up unless you look like a native. AVOID cruise ship days!

Big waves in Vanuatu

We were in Vanuatu last week and had a great time. There was a little scare when out of nowhere, while snorkeling, the sea started rushing out and then back in – the very depleted tsunami caused by the earthquake off of the Solomon Islands. Everyone is fine, thankfully, and only few beach chairs got pushed around.

We’ll have a post about our trip soon once we get our photos sorted…

What is up with… scented toilet paper?!

So we want to start a series of short, ranty posts about things we’re encountering that cause a response of “what is up with that?!”.

The first one is scented toilet paper.

parfume

Maybe this is typical for most of the world or something? Back in the states you’d have to seek out such a thing. But WTF? The only option at the stores is scented toilet paper? And it comes in different aromas?!  This whole scented TP thing reminds me of highschool when a smoker would sneak a cigarette in the bathroom then proceed to douse themselves with cologne so now you have someone that reeks of smoke AND cheap cologne. Get the point?! I don’t even want to know what chemicals they have to add to make it smell the way it does. If we leave the pack of rolls in our bathroom with the door shut overnight, the smell of perfume is overwhelming the next morning when we open the door…

Îlot Canard

Finally a post about something fun! And some photos too!

A few weekends ago we took a quick day-trip over to Îlot Canard to check out what the small islet had to offer. We love snorkeling (and lounging of course) so we packed up a little lunch, our snorkel gear, some sunscreen, and headed to the taxi boats at Anse Vata beach. It was a fairly slow day so we were able to buy our round-trip taxi boat tickets (about 1200 XPF each), hop on the boat, and in about 10 minutes we were hopping off at the islet. Don’t forget your reef shoes as the beach has lots of sharp dead coral and shells in some places – other places are nice soft sand.

Once we were on the island we headed down the pathway to the restaurant where we signed up for a pair of beach chairs and an umbrella. We probably could have managed with a towel on the sand under one of the small trees, but we figured we’d make a day of it and the chairs/umbrella/table were well worth it.

We had been used to snorkeling around in Baie de Citrons and having decent-but-not-amazing visibility. The water by Ilot Canard was incredibly clear and there were tons of big fish, huge corals of all different colors, and plenty to see. We were a little surprised by the strength of the current as we went around the side of the islet but managed just fine.

No post would be complete without some amount of complaining so here it goes: STAY THE HECK OFF THE CORAL YOU IGNORAMUSES! We were amazed and saddened by how many people were walking all over the coral and trashing it with their fins. Do people not realize that touching the coral kills it and it can take hundreds of years to grow back? Places like this are a natural treasure and we want people to be able to enjoy them without killing it all! WTF PEOPLE?! Do people just not know or do they not care? We need the coral police up in this place to tell people to stop standing on the coral or at least construct a sign saying as much.

IMG_0373 IMG_0336 IMG_0308 IMG_0351

Internet. Finally.

So we’ve been working on getting our internet set up for a few weeks now. Like so many other people say, things move slowly on the island (well, everything but the drivers). ADSL is the option you have here for internet and it actually isn’t so bad speed-wise if you pay enough. The difficult part is that you need to deal with both OPT (the phone company) and your ISP of choice (L@goon, autile, Can’L, MLS, etc.) and each have their own issues.

The steps to set up the internet go something like this:

1. Get a phone

For this part, we had a French speaking individual help us at the post office (OPT). You need to set an appointment for this one. You’ll have to present some verification of residence, a paper with your New Caledonia bank account info for direct withdrawal, and some ID. It costs about 1200 XPF per month plus 10000 XPF installation fee for a basic phone line. You also need to have a physical landline handset to activate your line – it isn’t possible to activate via another phone. It took a few days before our phone actually got activated. Patience.

2. Subscribe to OPTimo

OPTimo is basically signing up for the privilege of OPT to let you have ADSL on your phone line. You need to subscribe to this no matter which ISP you choose and most of them don’t really tell you that it’s going to be added on when they advertise their prices. It ends up being about 2600 XPF per month. This is a matter of filling out another OPT form and waiting for OPT to press the button on their end. It took a good 10 days from the time we sent in the request till the day the button got pressed and we had ADSL capability.

3. Subscribe to an ISP

There are several ISPs here in Noumea and most have very similar prices. The largest is L@goon which boasts unlimited data usage for all plans. The plans differ based on the maximum speed possible. As far as I can tell, all of the other providers have bandwidth caps. We went with Nautile mainly because of word-of-mouth and their website seems the most up-to-date and easy to navigate. All of their plans provide the maximum speed available on the island (16 Mbps) but have monthly bandwidth caps. The bandwidth caps don’t apply during midnight and 6am so we’ll be scheduling big downloads during those times. It’s a different experience watching our internet consumption much like it is with a non-unlimited phone plan but so far so good. Nautile also provides a web page that shows you how much data you’ve used in 4 hour chunks so that is very helpful.

All in all, things have been ok with the internet although our VoIP phone (included with Nautile with free calls to the states) seems to kill our connection when we try to make early morning calls… we’ll see if its just a glitch this morning or if its a common problem…

All in all the process took about a month… You have to deal face-to-face with pretty much every step and usually more than once for each step along the way. You need a trip/call to set your OPT appointment, show up for the appointment, go to your ISP to get the OPTimo started and fill out paperwork, and then return to them once OPT presses the button to get your modem and login info.

Patience is key when dealing with services here.