Day 63, Grand Asia 2018
Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, Easo, Lifou, New Caledonia:
This is the kind of port that leaves me in a quandary. It’s a small island whose attractions are mainly swimming and snorkeling. The ship charges $60 each for some excursions around the island, which seems a lot to me for a two-hour drive in a local van.
I am torn between doing what I want to do and doing what I think I ought to do. I hear a voice saying, “you’ve come a long way to see this place, you should take every advantage.” I think this is the voice of my father, or at least the voice I remember from him during my childhood.
Our family generally spent summer vacations camping in the Rockies, packing every day full of hiking, backpacking and sightseeing.
As a young adult, a friend and I once spent a week in the Grand Tetons, and we only “did” things every other day. On our off days we sat around camp and read. That just didn’t seem right to me, even though I enjoyed those days tremendously.
I’ve written before that during the 1990s I cruised several times between Portugal and Barbados, with no stops during the 14-day passages. My traveling companion Daisy once said, as we sat reading on a hillside in Madeira waiting to board the Windstar, “we are practicing doing nothing so we will be better at it once we are on the ship.” I just felt guilty I wasn’t seeing more of Madeira.
So here I am visiting South Pacific islands, trying to drum up more enthusiasm about enjoying them to the fullest.
Today I loaded up my backpack with snorkel gear, swim shoes, a beach towel, water and sun block and took the tender ashore to this small island. A few buildings and houses are scattered about where we docked, and local people have set up tables to sell fabrics, magnets, tote bags and other crafts.
Once ashore, I headed up the short hill and down the road that wound along its crest, heading for a popular snorkeling spot. You have to pay about $15 to snorkel there and take a rickety ladder to get to the water, as there are rocks but no beach. People returning reported that the snorkeling was only so-so.
That was all it took for me to abandon my snorkeling plans. I had bought a mask and snorkel in Mooloolaba, having failed to bring mine, so I had to use them – right? In reality, I think I like the idea of snorkeling more than the actual activity. I’ve had some great snorkeling experiences in the Caribbean, and they are hard to top.
Instead, I sat in the shade and sketched one of the traditional thatched huts, where locals sometimes sleep. I thought about walking to a church on the edge of the island. But when I saw the many steps leading up, I changed my mind again. I was just too hot and my backpack too heavy. In short, I was lazy.
At my age, I should have outgrown this urge to follow my father’s advice from long ago. Heck, he spent many a cruise in his later years doing not much of anything and enjoying every minute.
So what if I had to face the challenge of writing today about not exploring the whole island or trying every challenge. This isn’t a travel guide. But my days as a journalist make it more difficult for me to abandon the need to report back.
Later on the ship, I enjoyed an afternoon doze on my balcony, in the shade and high enough to catch a breeze. At happy hour, I had a long conversation with fellow passengers who will be on the 2020 world cruise with me. I ate a small dinner at the Lido buffet, catching up on some recent New York Times crossword puzzles.
All in all, it was a nice, lazy way to pass an early December day in the tropics.