I didn’t have very long in Noumea, but I knew I wanted to hang out at the Baie des Citrons, or Lemon Bay as it’s called in English. We spent the morning on a bus tour around the city and finding the Place des Cocotiers. In the evening, we took the bus to Baie des Citrons.
The sheltered beach was dotted with New Caledonian children splashing around in the gentle waves. We went into a bar across the road, Barca, because we our bus ticket came with a free drink voucher for the bar.
Taking advantage of New Caledonia’s French-inspired cuisine, I ordered a Croque Monsieur, one of my favourite French comfort foods. A Croque Monsieur (or Mr Crunch) is like a toasted ham & cheese sandwich, but even better because the cheese is on top of the sandwich as well as inside it.
When I was standing at the bar, it really hit me that I was overseas. In a foreign country. It was a surreal feeling because I hadn’t boarded a single plane – this is a rare experience for an Australian. I’d never been on a cruise out of the country before and it was weird (but awesome) to have the reward of being in a foreign country without sitting through nearly thirty hours in transit.
Back at the table, my friends were either connected to WiFi or trying to connect to WiFi, so I sat in silence just enjoying the different sights and sounds around me while we ate. It didn’t bother me that I couldn’t connect to the Internet because we were only onshore for a limited amount of time and I didn’t want to waste a minute of it. I do enough of that at home.
An hour before we’d received news of the Sydney siege and I felt sick to my stomach, but I refused to get lost in my iPhone just to distract myself. Feeling shocked and sad, I got up and went across the road to the beach, just in time for the sunset. I’m so glad I did.
Sometimes it’s a blessing to be forced off the Internet. Forced off the smartphone, forced off social media, forced to be in the present moment instead of lost in a small screen. I felt myself relax because my brain didn’t need to remind me every few minutes to check my phone. I could be fully present, rather than anxiously consulting the deadweight in my pocket.
The others eventually joined me and we sat through the entire sunset. We didn’t have to be back on the ship till 8pm, so our agenda was cleared for the prettiest minutes of the day. I’ll never forget how beautiful the sky was when it glowed bright yellow and orange like sunshine had exploded across the sky. Moments later, it was saccharine shades of lilac, apricot and fairy floss.
It was only the second time I’d see the sun set over the ocean and it couldn’t have been more different to the inky indigo skies contrasting against the red glow of the sun in Levanto.
Sunsets are one of my favourite things, but I rarely
have the time make the time to give them my full attention. Being momentarily disconnected from the Internet was like being spat out of a black hole and made me re-evaluate how much time I spend on things I don’t really care about, and how little time I spend dedicated to the things that put a smile on my face.
The things that make my jaw drop and my mind be still and feel lucky to be in that moment. Lucky to be sitting on a beach in Noumea.
Travel pushes me to be present, even when the present moment is uncomfortable. I learn something every time I travel because I’m pushed to let go of my crutches and to engage with the world around me.
You know what? It feels better than anything else.
But why do we wait till we travel to sit and watch the sunset?
I didn’t need to go to Noumea for that.
The #1 resolution on my list this year is to see more sunsets, and I have travel to thank for it.